growing up

When I was small, my mother routinely washed my hair in the kitchen sink. I had to lay upon the shortened counter, and she used the spray attachment. I hated this ritual. All I could think of was my long hair falling down the goopy drain and getting even dirtier!! My mother remarried when I was 5, and my new stepfather declared that until I could care for my own hair properly (washing, brushing, putting it up in pony-tails), I had to cut it all off. I cried for days. Even my mother's hairstylist questioned the edict. So off came the long locks and on came the dutch boy bowl cut I sported until I was 8 or 9. No wonder hair is such an 'issue' for women, eh?

by Julia Alvarez

She washed my hair whenever I misbehaved,
ducking my head into a sink of water,
lathering up a head of old man's hair,
short quills, soft fur-
her porcupine, her bear,
her bad bad girl.
"Hold still!" she yelled.

I couldn't. I was growing up
even as she scrubbed for dirt,
horns, anything that looked like sin.
She could not clean inside the bowing head
tidy the messy loves to come.
She could not set a quarantine on Eden
till she had found the serpent there.
She could not wring desire from my body
or take the curl out of my hair.



gz said...

I had that treatment- the washing and the haircut-from my mother

goatman said...

Dad would haircut my 3 brothers and me at the beginning of each summer. Not shaved, but might as well have been . . . Didn't think boys could cry did you?

red dirt girl said...

Maybe this is a more widely experienced phenomenon than I thought. What were our mums thinking ??? pinching pennies no doubt.

red dirt girl said...


crying boys??? well i never .... I've seen more than my share of the summer buzz cuts. How humiliating (I would think ...)


goatman said...

Tell me about it!