Girl Knitting, by Alfred Anker
Girl one is possessive about her hair. All trips to the hairdresser for a trim of any kind involve very vocal resistance and occasionally foot stomping. Which is why it took me by surprise when Girl one’s chief adorer, asked for a hair cut a few weeks ago.
I want my hair short, said Girl two.
Ok, but why? I asked.
I want to be like you, she said.
I did not think this was possible and so I stalled. A few days. A week. Reminders that one cannot have a pony tail and be like sister if one does not have long hair.
I don’t care. I want it short.
Three weeks later she was still asking . . . I thought you said I was going to get my hair cut. When are we going?
And so we went. And she looks adorable and perfect and more like herself than ever.
Do you like it? I asked.
I love it, she said. I look like my sister looked in the pictures of when she was little.
For the three long days and short interrupted nights that my sick son needed me, I was not really all that tired. I took some short naps, but mostly I was on ultra focus, watching, waiting, praying, and paying attention to every everything that nurses or doctors said or that Boy two did. They said he didn’t have a fever, I felt him and had them take it again. Second reading confirmed a definite fever. After the surgery, he had some kind of mild allergic reaction. His face went very red with white raccoon markings around his mouth and nose and eyebrows. He was very hot to the touch. Well, no fever, the night nurse said. Could you take it again, I asked. Still no fever, she said triumphant. Touch him please, I said. With her hand on his head, there was no argument. He was one hot little boy. I wiped him with a cool cloth and melted ice cubes on his face, she got him some medicine, and in an hour he was resting more peacefully without all the red hot glowing.
We arrived home to unmowed lawn and unmopped floors. It seemed like heaven. An hour at most (with bucket) away from perfect. The first afternoon, I noted the other children were a bit testy. To be expected, I smiled. No frazzlement here. Later it was obvious the husband was out of sorts. Interrupted routine and processing constant foreign stimulus (like covering for me) makes him crazy after awhile but I felt almost affectionate observing it. Hugs and smiles all around. I went to bed that night wondering if maybe the tired would never hit.
I awoke to a horrible house, an unbearable lawn, an inexcusably cranky husband, and three uncooperative children who should know better. The only one without blemish was Boy two, resting on soft chairs, walking slightly bent and slowly to get from place to place. But the most frustrating thing about my current life . . . lived so far from the ladders and loops that used to make up my days . . . is that there are so many fewer things to decide to quit when things are rotten. The best I could do was to tell my husband that I was never typing another word. In fact, I was selling my computer. As usual, he was unphased.
I said my prayers, went to bed, and in the morning, I got my hair cut. I found a picture of Maggie Gyllenhaal with approximately the hair I wanted. It said, “Maggie in a bold pixie cut.” The bold settled it.
The house and family seem ok again. I now have a new three step treatment plan to suggest to myself for future melt downs: say prayers, go to bed, get hair cut.
Girl Two and I decided that this growing out your bangs thing was for the birds. We were sick of hair falling in our eyes and we were tired of barrettes. Off to the hair dresser we trooped.
What do you want done? she wanted to know.
If I knew the answer to that question, I would have been here weeks ago, I thought. “I was thinking of growing my hair but I can’t stand hair in my eyes. I am wondering about having my whole head shaved,” I said.
Oh dear, she said. From here she began picking. It is a thing hair dressers do after I try to explain myself. Their fingers go in and out of my hair, pulling it out here and there. Hmm, they say.
You know, she said finally. (They always say, you know, even thought it is extremely clear that I do not. Another cause for long suffering. Now that I’m Catholic, we’re supposed to practice that kind of thing, so I guess it’s ok.)
You know, you have a very long face. Pause.
So I’ve heard, I thought. But I said nothing.
I never noticed it before. But now that your hair is longer, I really see it. You have a really long face.
What does this mean? I ask myself. Is this how the famous are discovered? One day they are sitting there all round and unnoticed and then someone sees them at just the right angle, realizes they have a long face, and wala?
Then again, there are horses. All the, “why the long face?” jokes don’t seem to point in the right direction.
I have a long face too, she says. I think I detect wistfulness, but I’m not sure. She pulls at my hair a few more times. See? She points to herself in the mirror. I nod wisely, still trying to decipher if we are linking in sorrow or greatness.
That’s why I keep my hair up. My face is too long. She sighs and laughs.
I relax. The code has been inadvertently shared. A long face is something you are supposed to work to minimize.
Of course, mother’s former model acquaintance had said so when I was ten, but that was when leg warmers were in style. Now that it has been a bad thing twice, I am assuming that long faces are like warts and permanently out of style. I hope so. It would be rather frustrating to think that they’d been all the rage three times over the last thirty years while mine was busy flying under the radar of my traditionally shorter hair.