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LAce Posted Monday, December 27th, 2004
Splitting Hairs
Elaine Drennon Little

“Be sure it’s what you want,” I’d said at first.

“Of course it’s what I want, why would I be saying it if it wasn’t what I wanted! You’re just saying you don’t want me to, you think it’s stupid!”

“I never said I didn’t like the idea, or that it was stupid.” I explained. “What’s the girl’s name, the one in Parent Trap and Mean Girls? I saw her picture in a magazine at the orthodonist’s. She has the same haircut. I’ll bet you’d look really cute with it.”

“You’re just saying that because I have the same color hair as her. Just because we have the same color hair doesn’t mean we look alike!” She has such a hard time explaining things to her slow-witted, senile mother.

She wrestled with the idea for weeks, asking for opinions and then lashing out at any I gave. I tried to say the right things, but my track record told me I was probably incapable. She was fourteen, and I was her mother.

The haircut might indeed look good, though I’d personally thought the idea of cutting 80’s style “wings” in her thick, gorgeous, near-waist length auburn hair was a sacrilege. But sacrilege or not, it was out of my hands.

After two days of angry deliberation, the morning of the haircut arrived. She was delivered, with torn-from-Seventeen photographs in hand, to the stylist’s lair. The hairdresser’s blue buzz cut glowed an iridescent warning as she was shampooed combed, raised up, sectioned off, trimmed, cut, treated, blow-dried, and straightened.

My baby girl came out looking exactly the way she’d gone in except for the side-parted fringes of mini-bangs stopping midway of her cheekbones. The five other hairdressers and all the girls and women in their chairs complimented the stylist on a great job.

As if she’d given birth to the fire-haired, adolescent beauty standing before them.

I came out relieved of $47.50.

“I hate it,” she wailed as soon as we were in the car. “It’s not straight, she said she was drying it straight, and there’re already waves in it. It looks stupid! Why did you let me do this?” she accused, then answering herself, “You probably wanted me to look stupid!”

“I think it’s beautiful. You look older, too,” I’d said. “And everyone there liked it, didn’t you hear them?”

“That’s what you do when things are ugly and you want to be nice, like telling fat people they’ve lost weight. It’s horrible, and in two weeks, I have to go back to school! This is gonna be the worst year ever!”

She turned her head and pretended to look out the window.

I swore I could feel my heart beat in the pit of my stomach: I knew she was crying, and she didn’t want me to know.

Those are the times when I know we’re connected. The few and far betweens that make me totally sure I didn’t get the wrong baby at the hospital.

Because the sniffle she sucked back in her throat, I swallowed too.

The burning eyes and blurred vision that made me wince to see the highway, she was fighting, too.

And she was winning.

I was not so resilient.

As soon as I pulled in the driveway, she ran inside, seeking the privacy of a locked room.

She would emerge hours later with swollen eyes. Her hair would be shinier than ever from being combed, tousled, parted, and changed at least a hundred times.

And the war would rage on.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by Sabena Stark on Monday, December 27th, 2004 at 2:56 PM
Great close-up of life with adolescents, or, as I've called it, the abducted-by-aliens stage. I feel your pain. I loved this: "Those are the times when I know we’re connected. The few and far betweens that make me totally sure I didn’t get the wrong baby at the hospital." Congratulations on this wonderful piece.

Posted by Maryanne Stahl on Monday, December 27th, 2004 at 10:25 PM
Oh yes, you've got it down. And those connected moments: had one last week, and mine is 30 now and lives in NY. Well done, Elaine.

Posted by Katrina Denza on Wednesday, December 29th, 2004 at 9:40 AM
Yes, you've nailed it. Great story, Elaine!

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