My tools are out, drafted for duty into the unjust Hair War: shampoo, conditioner (wash-out and leave-in), combs, various brushes, and the blow dryer—silent, they stand ready to perform with grim obedience. I’m the villain again, a fascist dictating curls must be tamed, dominating strands, while supporting a coercive attempt to bring order and style to unruly strands. My teenage girl and I square off across the master bathroom.
It all started on the eve of our Independence Day trip down south. The wildness of her hair led me to cross into her territory. And by that, I mean I went into her room.
“Do you know how you look?” I ask (ever the empathic, thoughtful mama).
“I’ll just put it in pigtails,” she counters.
“That’s not going to work,” I say, remembering all the times I’ve washed it between blowouts and heated straightening, only to watch the coil of her hair grow tighter and tighter.”
“Well, what am I going to do?” she says. I sense imminent surrender to my weapons of mass tangle destruction.
“Well, if we had time this morning I would wash your hair myself and flat iron—”
“Mom, you do my hair!” The white flag.
This isn’t the only armed conflict in which my oldest daughter and I have engaged: there are the Makeup Struggles and the Boys Who Are Only Friends Hostilities. Many times I’ve offered advice and counsel on those fronts only to find myself in hand-to-hand combat.
“How come I can’t have a friend who’s a boy? You did!” she said during our standoff.
“You can! You just can’t be in each other’s bedrooms alone. That’s the rule, like it or not,” I replied.
Now, as then, I do not back down. “I can help you not look like a clown.” These are the first shots fired in yet another bout of our seemingly endless war.