Thelma takes you and Em to the barbershop. The barber gives you a boy’s haircut. Afterwards he gives you a Bazooka Joe bubblegum and you stare at the comic on the wrapper that you can’t yet read.
In Kindergarten, your friend Sakura takes a scissor and cuts off a snippet of her braid. Ms. Thurm calls her parents and Sakura gets sent home from school. Twenty-five years later, Sakura still doesn’t understand why she got in so much trouble for this.
“A rat’s nest”—your mom’s review of your hair.
At school, the other kids are always surprised when they find out you and Em are sisters because Em’s hair is so red and your hair is so black.
You hold back tears whenever Thelma brushes the knots out of your hair. “Beauty is pain,” she says.
In fourth grade, half the class gets lice. The teacher tells your mom that you in particular are “crawling with them.” You worry that you are the one who gave the lice to everyone else.
You read an Archie Comic where Betty and Veronica switch hairstyles and all of a sudden their friends can’t tell who is who.
Your mom has a habit of pulling out her hair, strand by strand. Then she rolls up all the hair into a clump and puts it in an ashtray and sets it on fire and the whole apartment smells like burnt hair. She says she’s got trichotillomania and she can’t help herself.
You use your allowance to buy a hair-dye kit at the drugstore. You tell no one. In the middle of the night you sneak into the bathroom to dye your hair red. It doesn’t work. You desperately scrub the blotchy, red stains off the bathroom sink so your mom doesn’t see.
A year later, you try again. You hope for a silky curtain of ash blonde hair like the model has on the box. Your damp hair emerges from under the towel still black but with patches of brassy orange.
In high school, more and more girls start to wear bangs. Your friend Beryl is livid. “I had bangs before everyone else,” she says. You think this is a stupid thing to be upset about. Still, you kind of understand.