There are two things I have grappled with most of my life.
One: I have always had hair angst. If it is long, I want it short. If it is short, I can’t wait for it to grow out. And, I have always wanted bangs. That thick fringe that sets off your eyes or the side swept bangs that frame your face.
The second, and one that is most shocking, is I have always typically done the complete opposite of what my Mama has wanted me to do. Pretty much every big decision – from marrying the first husband to not going to law school– has been the polar opposite of what she has wanted and demanded of me.
Both – the bangs and the Mama – have given me fits throughout my life.
And the horror of both is that Mama has always tried to dictate what she thinks I should do with my hair.
There was nothing quite like going to the salon as a teenage girl, with dreams of how you wanted your hair only to have your mother standing behind the chair telling the stylist, “Just give her a perm. And she’s growing out her bangs, so don’t cut them again.”
“I don’t know why I can’t do what I want to my hair,” I would protest.
“Because I know better,” she said.
In a moment of desperation, I once cut my own bangs the night before going to a school competition at the state level.
I think I placed out of pity.
“Why did you do that to your hair?” she
“You wouldn’t let me get bangs. I needed bangs!”
“You didn’t need that!”
I had cut them so short and unevenly, they were a jagged line about an inch below my hairline and would curl up like corkscrew pasta. It was a wretched mess and there was no way to fix it.
Granny took me to get a pair of shoes.
“Shoes?” I asked. I never turned down shoes but thought it was an odd outing.
“There’s nothing we can do with your hair, but you may as well have some cute shoes as a consolation prize.”
Of course, this probably set me up with the belief that when all goes wrong, buy shoes.
Mama just used this as a multi-purpose example of what goes wrong when I don’t listen to her.
She never lets me live down anything, either, so for the longest anytime I didn’t heed her warnings, she would remind me: “Don’t let this be another cutting your own bangs incident.”
Mama has been quite outspoken and vocal about all my mistakes.
“I don’t know why you married your first
husband,” she said one day. “I never could stand him.”
“Maybe if you had, I wouldn’t have,” I replied dryly.
Granny snorted at this comment. In all of her infinite wisdom, Granny never uttered one bad word about my first husband while we were dating or married. She waited until the divorce was final before she expressed her utter disdain of him.
“Well, Jean, you knew how we felt about her daddy, and you married him anyway. Reckon that’s the only thing the old gal got that was like you,” Granny stated.
Mama reminded me every chance she got about what a mistake I had made by marrying him. She recited every time she had warned me and had been right.
I did like I always had and tuned her out.
“You aren’t listening because you know I am right!” she would say.
She urged me to go to law school and I didn’t.
Every time I have complained about my career – or lack thereof – her immediate response has been: “Well, if you had gone on to law school like I told you, you would have had a better career. But you don’t listen to me. Even when I am telling you something that will help you.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” I asked. “You would have absolutely nothing to hold over my head.”
Granny once told me to not pay her any attention.
“She ain’t never listened to me so I don’t know why she expects you to listen to her,” she said. “Bobby listens to me; Cole will listen to you. That’s what a son does. But a daughter is made to not listen to her mother.”
Maybe she was right.
I was needing a change recently, tired of my chin length bangs and sent Mama a photo I found of the hair I wanted with soft, long bangs.
“Cute!” she texted back.
I called her the day of the appointment. “What do you think about that cut I sent you?”
“I thought it was precious! You would look so pretty with your hair cut like that!”
“Really?” Did she see something different than the one I had sent?
“You saw the photo of Emma Stone, right? With bangs?”
“I don’t know who Emma Stone is, but I saw the girl with the red hair and bangs and loved it. Are you getting your hair that color, too, or just the bangs?”
“Just the bangs.” What was going on? She always fussed about me coloring my hair.
“Well, it will look good on you. I can’t wait to see it.”
“So, you think I should get bangs?”
“It’s your hair. You should get what you want, and I think that will be adorable. So, if you want it, get it!”
I walked into the salon in shock. Had we finally, after 46 years of existence, turned a corner?
And then it hit me: she was reverse psychology-ing me.
Not only did she reverse psychology me; it worked.
I didn’t get the bangs I wanted, but I will.
Even if I have to cut them myself.