Listening to a podcast on the impact of hair on our personality; the colour, the lack of it, the cultural influences (e.g. Afro-American style), which side you part it, and whether its straight or curly, was fascinating. Beyoncé Knowle’s mother, who is a hair dresser, was interviewed. She talked about the history of African-American women constantly straightening their hair, rather than leaving it natural. It certainly reminded me of my years of curly, unruly hair.
The youngest of a large Irish Catholic clan, my mother and I rarely saw eye to eye on many things. I was strong, opinionated and independent. Many times, as I left for school or went to a social function, she’d look at me sternly and sigh, “For Gods sake Judith, do something with that hair of yours!” It was her way of having some power over me. But the more she said it, the more I’d leave my curly mane unravel. This was long before curling irons, gels and straighteners. Plastering it with hair lacquer was the only solution.
In the 1970s, my hair became a personification of the Hippy era. And while she went regularly for her blue rinse and set, I was tying feathers and beads in mine.
Two decades later, when her mind succumbed to Alzheimer and she lost her ability to speak, I went to see her one day. She no longer remembered me or my name. But she looked at me intensely and lifted her feeble fingers, pointed to my head and whispered, “hair”. It was the last word she ever said to me.