In the days before mousse and gel and other hair care products, I prayed to G-d to make my horrible curls go away.
Each night, I slathered my hair with V-05 — a greasy, grayish paste — and went to bed with a red bandana tied around my head.
All the popular girls had straight, shiny hair — parted at the center and held back by painted barrettes with whales or hearts on them.
My frizzy hair looked stupid when I tried to do that.
Rainy days were the enemy; humidity was my undoing. I learned to stay away from boys at water fountains.
Once, an old woman stuck her fat finger inside one of my corkscrew curls. She muttered words in Yiddish that I didn’t understand. Her translator told me the woman had said she’d had hair like mine when she was young. I didn’t know if that was a compliment or not. Her head was covered with a plastic rain bonnet.
People often told me my hair matched my personality.
*I assumed this meant they thought I was surly and uncooperative.
And then my friend was diagnosed with cancer.
And I watched her lose the soft, dark locks that framed her face. Soon, another friend was diagnosed with something else. And I watched her hair come out in clumps as she brushed it. One day, she brought out the clippers that — until that moment — she’d only used on her son, and she used them on herself. Leaving pieces of herself on the kitchen floor, she hopped in her truck and went off to buy wigs. When another friend lost her hair, she bought hats. Another bought do-rags. Another friend preferred bald. She said wigs went lopsided and scarves itched.
I stopped complaining about my hair.
Because I have hair.
And having hair means that my cells are not behaving badly. That I am not facing chemotherapy or radiation. That I am not making videos for my children to see when they are older because I might not be here. That I am not battling cancer — that goddamn monster — that takes people too young.
I’ve stopped wasting my prayers on hair. G-d has other things to do.
The instructions were to write about hair. Use it as a vehicle to tell us something about your character, a situation, you and/or your life. I tried.