Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ah, the curls of my youth . . .

Enough hemming and hawing. Here's another Curlylocks post . . .

A commenter on this post (thanks Brenda!) asked me what products I use to manage my extroverted  hair. . . and perhaps answering this question might allow me to circle back, somehow, to the link I postulated some time ago between my curls and my introversion. Two separate posts so far, in fact, in which I've alluded to such a link, and I still haven't convincingly argued my point. Probably won't manage it in this post either, but perhaps I'll nudge my thinking a bit closer to doing so. . . . And I promise that I will at least tell you how I manage my extroverted curls. . .



When I was about the age pictured in this long-ago black-and-white school photo, I spent a year or two, maybe even three, in Brownies. Except for the absence of the boys, and a wider range of ages, Brownies replicated much of the social politics of the classroom. Yet I remember generally feeling comfortable there, looking forward to each Tuesday night with its Tu-whit-tu-whit-tu-whoos. I vaguely remember being a Pixie (rather than an Imp or a Fairy), and I'm sure I advanced to a position called a "sixer" -- those with more experience in the Guiding movement feel free to correct.

If you've spent time in Brownies or other similar organizations, you might know that there is an opportunity to earn "badges" which reflect the emphasis on skill development, social competencies. I have no idea how these have changed through the years, but the badge I most clearly recollect was one that signalled mastery over one's personal grooming: at perhaps 7 or 8 years old, this meant washing one's face and hands, brushing teeth, and being able to cajole one's hair into a controlled and presentable state.







I'm not sure how obvious to you is the frizz that haloes my ringlets in this picture. My own perception of the photo is clouded by the overlapping screens through which I view it: memories of so many adults complimenting me on my ringlets, often reaching out to pat them, even to stretch them out so as to chuckle as they bounced back into their corkscrewed tightness . . . and the competing voices of those girls in grades 6 and 7 making jokes that echoed TV commercials for new hair products. In the late 50s, a big container of bargain shampoo was what our family budget could stretch to, although my mother's vanity always held a can of the oh-so-glamourous hair spray. Every so often, in the early 60s I remember, a bottle of something called Creme Rinse would be added to the bathroom shelf -- I was always happy at its appearance, trying to make it last, as it was the only way to get the tangles out of my curls, although my mother did her best -- ouch! -- with comb and brush.

But whether or not she could get the tangles out, my hair would generally work its way into a state similar to that in the photos simply through the effects of time and gravity and the genetics that govern hair follicles. The only real nudge toward the ringlets was when we twisted my wet hair, post-shampoo, around our fingers, leaving the coiled spring around the emptiness of that withdrawn pointer.  In fact, when I came home and told Mom that one of the badges I could earn for Brownies only needed me to demonstrate basic self-care, she jokingly said something whose truth, and humour, we both perceived at that moment: she said that I only need ask my Brownie leader (Tawny Owl?) for two minutes' freedom to run around the gym, at the end of which time my hair would have settled into its usual arrangement of willful ringlets emphasized by a wooly aura.

She was 28 or 29 then, my mother, and just at that stage of motherhood when she would still have known me as well as I knew myself. I was still, but only just still, an extension of her, her style, her styling, her attitudes and aesthetics.  Young as she was, and completely inexperienced at what would come next in the parenting of daughters, she had no inkling of how much I would come to have my own relationship with, say, my hair, never mind my desire for short skirts in the late 60s. She couldn't known that classmate Martha Marcuzzi's comparison of my hair to the "before" portion of a Hair Conditioner commercial would humiliate my 12-year-old self; she'd be stunned, at 29, to know that I'd be furious only a few years later at her monitoring of my skirt length. And surely, she could never have guessed that her casually thrown out joke, quickly recognized and adopted by me, would lodge so deeply in my memory that I would rehearse it to others, pass the story along, over five decades later. . .

But she was right. I was happy with my hair when I was 7. And I still loved and laughed with and trusted my mother, more than anyone else except my Dad. It's the last tangible moment I can remember feeling that way, so clearly, so easily. I think of it sometimes, especially now that she's gone, when I luxuriously lather up with my Aveda Colour-protecting shampoo, following up with the matching Conditioner, each container a price that my mother could have fed us on for a week. And then when I've blotted out the water with a towel turbanned around my head, I bend over, shaking my wet hair toward the ground before rubbing a dollop of T&G's Curls Rock curl enhancer through my mop. Tousle, tousle, tousle. And then for good measure, I twist the longer layers into ringlets around my finger, just as my mom used to do so long ago.

And that's it. After that it air-dries with as little handling as possible. When it's dry, I give it some volume with a large-toothed pick. Really, not so far off in simplicity from running around the gym and waiting for the curls to reassemble.

That's the story about my curls, then. Or a story, at least. Still working on getting to what I mean about the connection between curls and introversion, but it's coming. Not sure why any of it matters, but somehow it does, to me. More urgently, now that I'm an old orphan. . . . and a Nana with crazy hair, as Nola tells me. . . .

Comments? You know I love them . . . .

50 comments:

  1. Ah, mothers and hair. My mother for the sake of ease kept ours cut in varying length pixies for most of my childhood. I dreamed of braids. But she told me that my hair was too fine and would look "stringy" if long. I grew it out to just below shoulder length in my early teens, which was as long as it would ever go. I did have my braids periodically, and they were only about as thick as pencils due to my fine hair. And it frequently matted. (our shampoo was Prell, which according to a hairdresser friend, might just as well have been liquid Ajax dish detergent for as harsh as it was.)

    It's a good place to get to, to quit fighting with our hair. And some lovely shampoo and conditioner doesn't hurt either.

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  2. And I also wanted to say what a lovely child you were. I see lots of you in Nola and Harriet too.

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    1. Thank you, Sue. I sometimes think I can glimpse a bit of our little ones in that face, but it's so elusive. . . Hearing others' stories about mothers and style and grooming, etc., I increasingly recognize how much freedom and encouragement mine gave me, although I did eventually end up with a pixie cut for a few years as well. Perhaps because there were so many of us, she didn't invest herself as much in our appearance as much and I always knew she thought I was perfect. Even if my hair was frizzy! (;-)
      And I remember Prell. . . .so happy for the products of today!

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  3. You and I had the same hair. My mother, also young and inexperienced, had not a clue about what to do with my hair.She used a bar of soap and scrubbed it until it was squeaky clean. People did remark about my beautiful curls but I was embarrassed by any attention. Introverts! When I grew a little older my best friend had waist-length straight blonde hair and my mother used to say that she always looked like "she
    had just stepped out of a bandbox". It seems that mothers, daughters and hair were all part of a long ago and slightly awkward time.

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    1. I know soap got used occasionally with mine as well. Just as occasionally she'd try a home concoction (baking soda? yuck!) when the toothpaste ran out before the paycheque got cashed. . . .
      I must admit that I generally liked the attention to my curls, but then I was usually quite comfortable with adults, not overly shy depending on the environment. Ah yes, that long, straight blonde hair that I used to dream of . . . I can still name the girl who had that in Grades 6 and 7, although I haven't heard or seen of her for decades. . . she probably had her awkward moments as well, no?

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  4. What a lovely post - you reminisce so well. And you are adorable in that photo. I can see your extroverted hair getting all ready to pop! My own child goes through a bottle of conditioner a week - she has a ridiculous amount of (straight/wavy) hair. The hair of my dreams that I so did not get. But I can barely afford to keep her in soft hair. :-)

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    1. Thanks, K -- yep, it had energy, that hair! As for the expense of our kids' hair, it's crazy, especially if you count the cost of hot water! One of mine has the craziest thick hair -- folks would practically cross the street to check it out when she was little. Titian curls. She claims it causes headaches when she puts it in ponytails for long because of the weight. Mine? not so thick and I'm glad there's enough curl to disguise the thinning that seems to be another charming part of aging. . . ;-)

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  5. Yes! So adorable!

    And my hair parent was my father. He cut my bangs. Your story is very sweet, despite any sorrows it hides.

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    1. Sorrow and sweet -- they do so often go together when we look back, don't they? I love the designation, "hair parent"!

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  6. Hair and mothers indeed. My mother has always had fabulous curls and was disappointed by my mud-brown (her words) wavy hair (it does grow ringlets, but only at the back!) ... I am now growing out my grey, which she wouldn't approve of either. Happily, although both my kids missed out on curls (odd, with 3 out of 4 grandparents curly-tops), they have thick, wavy hair that I really envy - from my MIL. I have finally resigned myself to the fact that my hair will never be lovely - I'm aiming for emphatic and unashamed, instead :)

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    1. I'm so glad you've been able to see how wrong your mother is/was although I'm sad that her influence is still undeniably there. Your own relationship with your two sounds so very different! I always think your hair suits you well -- I love that gamine look! But you could always add the indulgence of a single long ringlet growing at the back! ;-)))))

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  7. This is a lovely reminiscence of your relationship with your mother accompanied by that charming photo.
    Your post brings to mind a memory of my own mother and my hair. I had long, thick, slightly wavy hair that reached to the middle of my back. In the mornings, my mother usually put it into a pony tail, where it curled itself neatly into one lock. For Sunday, I wore it down, after sleeping with foam curlers on Saturday night. I loved my hair. When I was 8, I went to summer camp for the first time, for just a week. Before leaving, my mother took me to the hairdresser and had my hair cut into a pixie cut. She didn't think I could care for it and that no one else would. I missed my hair and grew it long again in high school, although it never reached beyond my shoulders.
    And now, I'm trying to figure out what this all means.

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    1. Thanks, Lorrie. It's a powerful way back to our mothers somehow, the tangible memory of hair. I begin to wonder who would have brushed my mother's, 8th of 10 children . . . I love your memory of consciously loving your own hair, and of your mother helping to get you ready for a world where she knew others couldn't care for you as she could. . . When you get it all figured out, let me know, eh? I could use the wisdom! (kidding, almost . . . )

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  8. Introversion/extroversion/self absorption/attention seeking/needyness.....we are all strange mixtures.And the issue of resenting our mothers/ handling of childhood scenes complicates the present.
    I am also prone to over analysing ,& a combination of life & soul & needing privacy.But I have no understanding of why you would feel the need to expose so much of yourself in photo &tale for comment, even if none of it is ever critical.
    Dare I ask----can you say "something whose truth"-------surely of which is needed.

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    1. Something the truth of which is needed? Seems awkward to me. Not keen on privileging correct grammar over smoothness, and I think my phrasing doesn't sacrifice clarity. But then my doctorate is in literature, not in grammar.

      Sorry, but I find your passive-aggression really draws out some asperity in me. Perhaps you genuinely are asking to be led to understanding, but I'm not sure I can help you get there -- the gap between us seems rather wide at the moment. The anonymity doesn't help. Should you sincerely want me to explain my desire to write about my past, I would welcome that opportunity, but I'd want to see you frame your request differently. Slyly accusing me of seeking attention and being self-absorbed? Doesn't quite work.

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  9. Sue B @highheelsinthewilderness.blogspot.caJanuary 31, 2014 at 7:01 AM

    Cream rinse...now there's a term I haven't heard in years (and years.) And as I recall it would just make my hair limp and kind of greasy. Of course maybe a big handful was too much?! I worked under the principle that more was better, obviously.
    When I was a child, my mum always scraped my long, heavy, curly hair back into a ponytail. Ouch! In early school photos I looked bald ...except for the 1'2 inch bangs!

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    1. Yes, sometimes we would get the really sophisticated kind, French, you know, as testified to by the spelling Creme rinse!! Limp, slightly greasy, and dull. You couldn't really get a handful of the kind we used because it was runny, though viscous! Yuck!
      And ouch indeed! I love your use of the verb "scrape" to describe your mom's hairstyling technique.

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  10. I am amazed at the calm and measured responses to this post in contrast to the welling-up of feeling it has prompted in me. My mother is in the middle stages of Alzheimer's and bears little resemblance to the mother of my seven year old self. I spent my early childhood with painfully French-braided hair, and when I was about eight it was all cut off in the old-fashioned 'Buster Brown' style because my mother was ill (terrible post-partum depression that wasn't spoken of in those days) and no one could braid my hair. Over the years my hair was variously described, by my mother, as 'wild' or 'ugly' or 'uncontrollable'. When I look at pictures I see a little girl with thick, straight, black hair, but I guess it suffered in comparison to my sister's very blonde curls. I remember being anxious that my outward appearance seemed to be so very much at odds with my inner reality.
    Now it's just my hair. Cut in a bob. Greying and thinning but pleasing to me.
    Really, Mater, you have opened up a can of worms!!!!

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    1. While many of the responses can seem calm and measured, I also note that some are moved by the memories. It's such a tactile, kinetic, and generally daily connection, and the memories are often really visceral and take us back to a time when we were so dependent on our mother's view of us. Looking back now, our view of them is skewed by our protectiveness, often, of their move into old age but it's also coloured by hurts we still feel, somewhere. As Virginia Woolf famously said, If we are women, we think back through our mothers. . . sometimes I shudder to wonder what my daughters are thinking back about me! But oh, what a rich conversation we could have about this topic -- are having, in fact, virtually . . .

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  11. Love this, Materfamilas. The politics -- and class issues -- of hair are a genuine, and still despite everything -- often unspoken undercurrent in feminine/feminist formations of subjectivity. I never think of you as an introvert, but I get that introversion is an interior affect that sometimes but doesn't always manifest in social cues. This is a thoughtful examination of your childhood experience of difference, as lovingly reinforced by your mother, and as a precursor to some of the roiling feelings of adolescence. And it's lovely and smart.

    Now -- if you will allow it -- I shall address the comments from "Anonymous." Dear Anonymous, have you read a blog before? If not, let me enlighten you a bit, as you seem quite confused. Blogs are emerging genres in which people write about topics of their own choosing which are sometimes personal and sometimes critical. While comments are open, there is an unwritten rule about commenting on a blog that aligns with the ancient rules of hospitality. Just as you would not criticize the fact that your host for the evening invites you to play billiards, or bocce, or lawn darts before the meal, or serves chicken when you prefer beef, you are under a similar social obligation when you read a blog. When you read Materfam's blog, she is the host; as the visitor, you may play bocce on her lawn or sit at her dinner table and express gratitude for the invitation (that is, read the blog and offer a comment) by commenting on the warm welcome and good conversation. Like this: "What a classic bocce set -- it was your father's that he brought from Italy? Tell me about that!" What is impolite, Anonymous, is to question the host's offer of bocce ("Why do you want me to play bocce? Are you Italian? I'm not Italian. I find your Italianness really odd and will now question your Italianness as not really being honest. And this bocce set is kind of beat-up; don't you have another one?" This kind of faux-naive questioning suggests that you have never been to dinner at someone's house before, or to follow my analogy, that you have never read a blog before. In other words, Anonymous, as a fellow guest at this table, I find your "observations" to our host out of line. The damage is done this time, as I think our host was restrained in her comments to you, but I suggest, visitor to visitor, that you amend your behaviour in the future. And a final note -- it's cowardly not to sign your name to critical comments, and perverse to suggest that our host has not been forthcoming in a way that would meet your standards when you don't even sign your posts.

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    1. I think it would unseemly for me to say much here, T, but thank you . . .

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  12. Bravo! However I suspect that anonymous would criticize a host for serving chicken, etc but quietly, as the host would know who was complaining. There can be great cruelty and bravery when allowed to hide in anonymity.

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    1. I'll just repeat what I responded to Tanis, above. Thank you, Jennifer. . .

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  13. Hair is a minefield. We are in constant struggle with it if we fight it's natural tendencies.
    I remember mother cutting our bangs short and straight on our bobbed haircuts. She used a few Tonette perms in an attempt to give us controlled curly locks! They stank like ammonia and we had to wear these silly curlers for several hours.
    One year I begged to go to the hairdresser and get my hair cut like Twiggy...Mother said Oh I can give you a Tiggy do...get a towel and sit here in the chair....OMG she had NO IDEA WHAT SHE WAS DOING and I was 13 and imagine how it affected me at school when my classmates stared at me...I felt so ashamed.
    Now I am happy with my hair...I am grey and enjoying a new found freedom which is rather exciting for a change.

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    1. Luckily, I never suffered a Tonette perm, coals to Newcastle and all that. . . I did, if you can believe it, give my daughter one, when she pestered me for it in about Grade 2 when her best friend had one (the 80s version was less smelly than the 50/60s, I'm quite sure).
      I can, yes, imagine the horrors of a homemade do at 13. . . you did survive and your newly grey hair is fabulous! Do you and your mom laugh about that old haircut now?

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  14. yes, it is truly amazing how "charged" hair is. It is far far from superficial and insignificant! In writing a character it is what we almost always sketch out first, to create a quick picture of the person (go to the novels on your shelf and check for yourself!). The biologist in me wonders if it isn't (along with skin and teeth) the quickest subconscious reference we make in others to assess "fitness."

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    1. What an interesting insight from an artist-writer-biologist! I do believe that hair is what people read me from, much of the time. Anytime I've had it temporarily straightened, I've had close friends and/or family walk past me, not recognizing me. I'd love to hear you compare the way you approach literally sketching a person's hair--as you did for the portrait you did of me -- and the way you begin to write it for your fiction. . .

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    2. a late reply to your reply--and more thoughts about hair:
      I LOVED painting your hair in the portrait I did of you. It was such fun! And, such an important part of the portrait--I would say, next to the eyes--that green/blue--the essence of "you."
      On a personal note--as you know, I am thinking a lot about hair these days myself, having 1. cut my hair short (for the first time in my life) and 2. started to let the grey grow out. This has been a profound step--not just about hair, but about aging (moving into a new self image, letting go of my long dark hair).

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  15. What a lovely photo Mater. I admire your hair!

    Thank you for sharing your sweet story about your hair and your Mom. It's always a pleasure visiting.

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    1. You're welcome, Susan and thank you! I know you've worked through some of this terrain (domestic memories, family et al) in an earlier blog -- it can be a minefield, but it can also be gold one mines. . . .

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  16. Oh you were a precious little girl, which such sensitivity in your face. a sweetness but a solemnity, too around the eyes. Sounds like you did not go through fighting your curls as I did in high school: sleeping on beer-can rollers (how did I do that?), ironing it. Not till I was 24 did I finally walk into a hairdresser and say, "Cut it so I can wear it curly", and never looked back.

    Thank you for writing about how a young girl's identity shaped the young woman's.

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    1. She is/I was rather sweetly, thoughtfully, sensitive, wasn't it? ;-)
      I did, indeed, fight the silly fight for quite some years, high school and beyond. There was the pixie cut, so short that there was little room for curls to manifest. Then there were orange-can rollers to sleep on (we didn't have beer cans much yet, still those stubby brown bottles on the Coast). And I developed a technique which involved pulling the wet hair very tightly into a pony tail and then pinning the tail itself down as firmly as could be around and into the hair of the sides. . . .like you, there was a moment in my early 20s with a fabulous hairdresser at Shape Unisex on Robson Street in Vancouver -- long gone, but well-known in the 70s -- I went for a cut one lunch hour and when I got back to work, co-workers came over to admire all the "pretty curls," the ones I'd been squashing for years. Like you, I really haven't looked back, although I did flirt with a change a couple of years ago, bought the straightening iron, etc.
      And you're welcome. Thanks for the gracious encouragement.

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    2. At 21 had a boyfriend break up with me because he took me to a rock concert where it rained and my carefully-ironed hair went all curly. Even then I knew he was way too demanding, but it still hurt. Yes, slept on OJ cans too.

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    3. Seriously! Ouch! but what a jerk. Daren't use more exclamation marks but my jaw is on the floor. Wonder who ended up putting up with him, and for how long. . . .

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  17. Thank you for this lovely post Mater. Like other commenters, it brought back many memories of childhood hair - both good and bad. You were certainly an adorable child that turned into a beautiful women. I appreciate the mention of your hair routine and will certainly try the Curls that Rock product on my curls. The name alone gave me a chuckle. I for one love that bloggers give us a small glimpse into their lives. Isn't that truly what helps us all to understand each other a little more regardless of economic status, race, religion and geographical locations. Self absorbed- I think not!! Thank you again for your thoughtful posts.

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    1. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the post, Brenda, and I'm sorry it took so long to let you know about my hair routine. Let me know what you think of the Curls Rock -- it does have a crunch component, but the best articulation and hold I've found yet. I believe Duchesse uses it and recommends it as well.
      As for sharing bits of ourselves, even the supposedly superficial and quotidian, I have certainly found that worthwhile in my own life. I miss the days when I had more time with girlfriends to chat like this IRL, but the blog community adds a breadth to the conversation that those intense coffee sessions with a few "besties" just couldn't.

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    2. Yes, mater introduced me to it and I thank her for it. It's technically a "volumizer" so get ready for extra spoing. And a very little goes a long way. Have not found anything quite like it.

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  18. First time commenter. Curls defy the power of changing hair trends, because they insist on doing their own thing. I think this is why makeover artists often straighten them. Have the odd experience of going curly (from mildly wavy) as an adult, after the birth of my first child. No childhood curl memories, just a few negative pixie cut ones. I have only felt positively towards the curls, perhaps because of their arrival after being settled as an adult, rather than having them through the insecurity of adolescence. So hooray for keeping curls, especially as we age. Use a curly hair product whose motto is "Iron clothes, not curls." Adorable photo, and thank you for sharing.

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  19. Hi, Patricia, and thanks for commenting! Interesting thoughts about curls -- it's very true that I've never been able to make mine conform to trends. Even when curls have been in the fashion spotlight, they're always in a different shape that mine are willing to assume. So glad you were able to embrace your "surprise" curls (I've known a number of women who either acquire or lose curls thanks to pregnancy -- odd, isn't it?!) and I love the motto of your hair product!

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  20. Hi mater,
    yes, hair is such an important part of social and gender identity, and it is all rolled up with mother/daughter relationships and adolescence. So every one of us has her own story and at the same time we can easily see the paralleles in the stories of others. Yours is very touching, the way you recall your own feeling and give credit to your mother and her (lack of) experience.
    I am at the opposite end of the curly-straight continuum. "Chives' curls" as we say in German. Always wanted big braids or at least a pony tail, but my hair was too thin. So my mother insisted on very short pixie cuts for my sister and me. She was thinking of Jean Seberg, I suppose, but we just hated it. It's not nice for a ten-year-old girl to be mistaken for a boy all the time because her hair is so short...

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    1. So true -- even though our stories are individual and quite different, it's easy to identify parallels. From this perspective, I can see much similarity between you and Une Femme, above -- but I also see that many did not love the pixie cut -- it seems to have been quite widely despised by 10-year-old girls who didn't share their mothers' admiration for Ms. Seberg!
      Oh, and I quite like the imagery that "chives curls" evokes!

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  21. Late to post, submerged under sproglets, but I am wondering in the persona of the 'mother' in the 'hair saga', how I am giving my little girls complexes of their own - their hair is beauteous ebony blue-black, long, thick, lustrous, silky, with a natural wave running through it. It is the hair of deep sea mermaids and heart of the forest dryads. They like it below the shoulder, for bunches, plaits, clips, but in my deepest self I can see why mothers of yore were 'cruel' and just chopped it all off into androgynous sensible bobs.
    The wailing and gnashing of teeth (mainly mine) at bath time, 'shampoo in my eyes, sob, wail', the combing out of cots ("you're hurrrrting me," more sobs), the brushing every morning before school "owwww...it hurrrrts..." and yet I am carefully holding the lock so it does not pull At All at the roots). I am exhausted with the cosseting required and it all seems so Painful and Annoying to my girls even though they love tossing the resultant silkiness over one shoulder in a copy cat of the Duchess of Cambridge, strutting their stuff at ages 2, 5 and 8. Sigh. Plus even the 2 year old has eschewed their own baby shampoo and wants my Kloraine cost-of-a-small-mortgage shampoo, which stings if it goes in the eye, 'but it smells so boooootifull mummy..' I don't know about my daughters in 20 years time, I need therapy Right Now to cope with the sense of never doing or being exactly what is required of me as a mother by them, especially in the preening arena. and another sigh....
    Lettys

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    1. Glad to hear from you, from someone currently grooming her daughters' hair. It's a powerful visual chain we can construct, stretching backwards and forwards. My strongest memory from that period is of the morning my 9 or 10-year-old daughter slumped to the floor from the kneeling position she'd assumed so that I could French-braid her hair. My first experience with fainting and I was absolutely terrified. When it became clear she wasn't teasing, it wasn't yet clear she wasn't dead or dying. Seconds only, but horrific ones, and all tied up with hair. I'll have to ask -- do I dare? -- what she remembers of this. I do know that anytime I let myself think I was doing a better job than my own mother (and in many important ways I know that I had the resources and did achieve that goal), I was probably also just making different mistakes. We just do the best we can, right?
      Love your comment for its gesture at the primordial. And the image of your daughters' hair-tossing. Smiling . . . .

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    2. Yikes! your poor daughter and poor you when she fainted...

      at least I have the comfort that I am definitely doing better than my own mother, no matter how inept I am. She was a sadist who mainly used the hairbrush for smacking me around the head with it. When I was deep in psychosis in my 20s, my favourite means of self castigation was, surprise surprise, thwacking myself around the head with a hair brush, until the blood ran rny down my face, just as in childhood. 20 years of therapy later, I am genuinely at peace with the The Hairbrush, and it has resumed its humble guise of an ordinary household grooming device!! :-)
      Lettys

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    3. Thanks so much for sharing this, Lettys. How much work you've had to do, moving past so much pain, but what a reward to be able to brush your daughters' hair, knowing how meaningful your gentle grooming is. At the considerable risk of appearing to be taking any credit at all for your brave honesty, I would suggest to yesterday's Anonymous that we write and share these childhood memories and family insights not because we are attention-seeking or needy or self-absorbed but because sometimes the sharing and the honesty help us heal and help us put our individual experiences in a broader context. To have been part of making a space that lets you share such a powerful transformation is an honour -- thanks!

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    4. You see, ruminating about your curls and introversion/extroversion does have a place in your blog, and by extension a relevance to your reader, even if you struggle to unpick the issues post by post. Nothing worthwhile was achieved in an instant, things take shape layer by layer.
      I have great anxiety around grooming my girls in case I am reprising my mother's behaviour but my husband says, with great love yet candour, that our small beans are just a load of Drama Llamas and that they revel in amping up the attention!
      I put off having children for so long in fear that I would become my monster mother but it transpires that I am not, could not be, her. My children are my healing, my means to express all the care that little me never received but now does now do so by proxy, via my care for my offspring.
      Louise Bourgeois was in therapy (I think) until she died aged nearly 90, so I'm still a lightweight in terms of the years I've clocked up so far with my shrink! Bourgeois's work is so very powerful with regard to examining issues of family, don't know if you've seen her arachnid installation 'Maman' at a location somewhere on your travels.
      Lettys

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    5. We saw a wonderful Bourgeois exhibit a few years ago -- I think it was at the Paris Beaubourg/Pompidou, although it might have been at Tate Modern. Besides her wonderful Maman -- a Canadian citizen now, after all, residing outside our National Art Gallery -- I love some of the domestic-psychoanalytic rooms she did. Stunning stuff, so powerful.

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  22. Just found your blog via K-Line and your post struck a chord with me. While I have had my share of moments with my dear mother about various parts of my being, clothing and choices made, my hair was thankfully never one of those issues. During childhood in a very dry Australian city (Canberra) I had quite straight hair, long, thick and a light red colour - it attracted lots of adult compliments and lots of kid teasing. During teenage years, I lamented that I always had flyaways in a halo, when others seemed to have smooth palmolive hair effortlessly pulled in a pony. My mum was not one for hair product so we generally had the same types of options you describe (whatever was on special and in bulk).

    When I moved interstate to a humid coastal city as an adult, I discovered that I actually have properly curly hair (almost the same as yours) and then proceeded to fight it with irons and product for 15 years.

    When I was about 40, I gave up on the fight and my hairdresser started cutting my hair in a style that worked curly or straight (layers!) and now I have almost the same routine as you in the morning (huh, I thought I had discovered it!) - do as little as possible to my very wet hair, turban in a towel, spray on some product (always on the hunt for the holy grail here) and walk away from the bathroom with quite wet hair. Took me 40 years, but I now accept my hair, including the "highlights" that seem to be naturally weaving their way through the curls… Loved your post :)

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    1. First of all, Jo, welcome! and thanks so much for taking time to leave such an interesting comment -- adding to a rich conversation, I think. We learn so much about ourselves and others by thinking through our hair, it seems, whole biographies tangled up in our locks.
      As for the holy grail of hair products, what are you working with. Not sure I'll ever give up my Curls Rock, though . . . ;-)

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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