My first instinct when I got this week's topic was, Oh boy, is this one ever in the bag. See, if there's one thing I know about, it's hair. I come from a very hairy family. And I don't mean that in the traditional way. We're Irish, not Italian. We don't, for the most part, display dark hairy forearms (or hairy backs), and only my father and I sport the infamous Marty Scorsese eyebrow-toupee look. (You're laughing, but it's true. Brooke Shields circa 1982 ain't got nothin' on me.) When she was a child, my uncles used to call my mom "Hairy Mary." Beauty salons have love-hate relationships with us, especially me with the uncontrollable blond wad with the Bonnie Raitt skunk-stripe at my left temple, and my father with his Sean-Connery-Medicine-Man white ponytail. Which, it's worth adding, drives the Bishop absolutely batshit.
That was going to be what this post was about, but then I realised it's funny how hair is coming to represent all I have had and lost in the past two years: Juno, my husband, my marriage. (In some places in India widows shave their heads--as opposed to throwing themselves on funeral pyres, I guess, this is a humane way to deal with the impossibility of grief--and I truly understand the compulsion that began this tradition, even if I didn't practice it quite so literally as my poor, shorn husband.) Our children. We already knew, sight unseen, that Jocelyn was going to be known in our neighbourhood as "the baby with the hair." If you've ever met either of us, you know exactly why this is. Let's just say that our wedding day was 95 degrees, the church was unairconditioned, the reception was outside in the meadow, and my husband and I were, with each passing moment, one golder, longer, and curlier than the other in ringlets of uncontrollable humidity. I at least had the advantage of a gallon of hairspray, six hundred bobby pins, and a two-piece veil. My husband would not release his pony-tail for fear of sporting a two-foot deep Afro.
In some ways it was not only a wedding of our families, our bodies, and our souls, it was also very much a wedding of our hair. The bathroom at our house was a haven for blond, corkscrewing strands, more than you would think possible to be in the sink, on the floor, slithered down the shower drain trying to escape, or trapped in our hairbrushes, and us to still have some on our head. Out in public, we often looked like chimpanzees engaged in grooming behaviour, reaching over and plucking long golden strands off the other's sweater, then pulling and pulling and pulling until it was finally free, then commenting on whose it might have been. Long, grey, and wavy, most likely mine. Long blond and tightly sprung, most likely his. Long, blond, and wavy--anybody's guess. Short blond and wavy, probably our friend Robin's, though how his hair ended up on our clothes as often as our own is to this day a mystery. I mean, we were at each other's houses all the time, but it's not like we were over there head-butting each other.
And then there were the cats. Two black-and-white cats and one grey cat can generate quite a bit of fur, and ever notice how they shed the white and grey fur on the black bathrobe and the black fur on the off-white bathrobe? That's a trick I'd like to master. We went through three vacuum cleaners in our relationship, mostly because of the nasty pea-green shag carpet in our rental living room. Final score: cats 3, vacuum cleaner 0. I'm going to have to buy another new one when I move again.
Lastly, I'd like to add Juno to the equation. Juno was Robin's beloved malamute. Juno was the hairiest creature known to science. Ever seen a malamute during her spring blowout? The spring she was with us for this event, we had piles of fur the size of canned hams and cocker spaniels. Tumble-fur blew on the slightest breeze, sometimes large enough to spook the cats. Paws down the most heard comment in the household we shared was, "Oh, look honey....dog hair." Robin lost Juno close to 28 months ago, and I'm still finding clots of her fur in the nooks and crannies of my belongings. Robin was right. She truly is the gift that keeps on giving.
The last time I saw my husband, his hair was the shortest I have ever seen it in the years I've known him. When we first met, he was growing it out, recovering from a conservative haircut in honour of his brother's wedding. I could still see a few golden ringlets under his hat, ringlets I wanted to take around my fingers and kiss one by one, but the length of the curls that had grown to midback during our years together had been sheared away, as if removing the weight from his scalp could erase the images of us from his mind; as if cutting it off at the root could deny its existence; as if by denuding himself of his body's most shining beauty, one of his secret powers, he could ease the passage of mourning.
Yes, I understand the urge.