My mother saved money by cutting hair for the family. My father, at one point, began cutting his own hair, as well. I had sisters who were interested in learning to cut hair, in practicing at doing so. It was never, ever something that grabbed my interest.
I was the one standing there with twin sharpened blades held close to head, to neck, to eyes, to spine. He was the one with all the power.
In many ways, looking back at it, I see that our hair type strangely parallels the type of person each of us was. His hair was dark black with the occasional glint of red. Extraordinarily glossy. Straight and sharp as a razor. I’d never before encountered hair of such strength and rigidity—I’d awake to find his rare loose hair literally pierced through the bedding, sharp and straight as a needle woven through the cloth. I learned the hard way how dangerous it was to try to brush up loose clippings from his trims with my bare hands—plucking out hairs that pierced like pins into my skin.
Rigidity defined him—effortless in demands upon him, but extraordinary in demands upon me to care for him. He never needed any special product, any conditioning, any styling effort whatsoever—all he needed to do to keep his hair in perfect order, when it was kept well-trimmed, was to wash it now and then. Maintaining that perfection, however—my role to play—was an entirely different story. His hair, as with his every expectation of me, demanded perfection—even the slightest mistake made in cutting it would show, and any flaw was unforgivable. I carefully tried to sculpt the correct shape to his specifications and still, still, always fell short.
He was all the things his hair was: demanding, perfectionist, dark, cuttingly sharp, deceptively soft—beautiful, but dangerous.
On the other hand, my hair is a messy mass of curls. Soft, easily tangled, loose and easily lost to stress. Curly hair is starved for moisture—thirsty for any sort of positive attention and care. Then, with him, when I was beaten for so much as using a basic conditioner—or even expressing a desire to do so, my hair was snarled and coarse, dry and brittle. Now, on my own and thus allowed to care for it, my hair has thrived with daily, thoughtful upkeep; even so, it is a carefully-cultivated mess, never precisely the same from day to day or even hour to hour. There is something untamed—and untamable—about my curls which he could never, ever accept or understand. Certainly because he refused to allow for any time or expense solely for my benefit, and perhaps because there is a spirit equally untamable, unconquerable, which he did not want me to recognize within myself.