Once upon a time, there was a king and a queen who desperately wanted a child. It seemed like an eternity, but then one perfect day, the queen became pregnant. During the height of her term, she craved a particular kind of vegetable that happened to be growing in their neighbor’s yard. (Do kings and queens have neighbors? Never you mind that for now.)
The neighbor was an old lady or a witch which is pretty much the same thing. (If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?) The queen became green with vegetable envy and ordered her husband, the king, to fetch her some rampion. The king was none too pleased about this executive order, but there was little else he could do since it was considered bad form to deny a pregnant woman what she wanted.
So instead of asking the witch, or getting a boot-licking lackey to do the deed, he decided to get some fresh air, and climb over this insanely high wall to fetch those tantalizing greens for his wife, the queen.
The first time I tried to do something with my hair was around 11 or 12 years old. I must have pleaded with my mom to take me to a salon because that’s exactly what she did, which is not like her, especially given the fact that she left me alone in the hairdresser’s chair.
Before this, I simply combed my long straight hair once in the morning, and ran around with my younger brother like a wild animal until the sun decided to call it a day.
But on this special day, I was determined to get my hair feathered. I grew up on TV shows like Charlie’s Angeles, Dukes of Hazards, and Dallas, all of which promised beauty and glamour from hairspray and feathered fringe.
“I don’t know,” the hairstylist said as she looked at me in the mirror, “your hair is pretty straight.”
The look of crushed hope was all she needed to give it a try. After she cut it, the salon, it seemed, held its breath as she combed it back, and when it stayed like a raven’s wing, tears formed in my eyes.
The king was successful (duhhh!), but once the queen, his wife, got that sweet taste of rampion on her lips, she had to have more, more, and more, until one not-so-fine day, the king was caught stems in hand. The witch, who never had a child of her own, and probably drove men away with her strong ways, made a bargain with the king.
“Give me your daughter.”
“I don’t have a daughter.”
“The child your wife is pregnant with, you nitwit!”
“I’d rather not.”
“Give her to me!”
“Me,” ended the king lamely.
We do not know how long (or short) the king and crone argued, as this is an old tale that spans back to the 1800s, but eventually, the king shrugged and said, “Suit yourself, woman. I’ve got a beheading to attend to.”
In high school, I decided to stop envying my friends’ purple or red-hued locks, and learned to dye my hair from a box. Since then, I’ve dyed my hair many times throughout the years. I even did blond streaks (but at a salon), but I researched the color carefully since I didn’t want it to look like a yellow highlighter. What I learned was, for Asians, a wheat color looks best. It gave me an instant tan, magically, flattering my skin color, and I loved how it turned out.
Another time my friend Jen and I decided to dye our hair together. We went to the drugstore, picked out our colors, and returned to her house.
After our heads were full of tacky dye, and as we were waiting our 20 minutes before rinsing the color out, Jen picked up one of the boxes, “Hmmm. My color’s Crystal Brown that sounds like a porn name.”
“What’s your color?”
After the queen gave birth, they named their beautiful child, the child they always wanted, Rapunzel. (Oddly, they named her after the vegetable the queen craved as Rapunzel means rampion.) The witch didn’t waste any time and showed up in the queen’s bed-chamber to take Rapunzel away. The queen and king cried and suffered for both of their stupidity.
The witch, on the other hand, was over the moon. She raised Rapunzel as if she were her own, and like the deranged old bird that she was, locked Rapunzel in a tower. Rapunzel never saw another single soul, so she never knew that her hair was longer than most.
She had some pipes on her though, and sang to keep herself company. It was her voice that attracted a handsome Prince who was riding through the woods, one bright day. But as much as he tried, he couldn’t find his sweet lark. Until! He heard…
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!”
Through the hedges, he spied a beautiful blond throw her long, long hair out of a tower window – and then (ta-dum!) an old woman climbed up her hair! Who’s to say if this was the strangest thing he had ever seen, because he seemed alright about it and waited until the old bat had left the tower so that he might try the same trick.
We were living in Chico, California, a college town known for its big trees and parties. During a lunch break, I decided to check out a new hair salon. All seemed normal until the stylist disappeared. My wet hair was dripping on the floor as I sat staring at my self in an otherwise empty salon.
From the back room, I could hear noises. I shifted in my seat, using my hands to billow out the plastic barber’s cape. I was young and polite enough not to yell, “Is everything alright?” because these days, I probably would have walked back there to see what was going on.
Then, as if it was my birthday, the stylist came out with a large bowl of popcorn with red Twizzlers sticking out.
“I hope you like popcorn!”
She was so elated that I didn’t want to admit that I hated both popcorn and licorice. Instead, it sat between us and my reflection like the awkward gift that I never wanted or expected. We made small talk skirting around the mound of food. I felt bad, but I also was annoyed to be put in a position to eat a massive bowl of (salty and sticky) snacks while someone tried to cut my hair?!
The ordeal ended with her curling my ends as if it were the 1960s rather than 40 years into the future.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” The confident Prince cried.
Rapunzel, not recognizing that her mother’s voice had deepened, let down her hair. To be sure, she looked away, possibly filing her nails or playing cat’s in the cradle, ignoring the heavier pull on her hair, for when the Prince entered, Rapunzel was shocked. She had never seen a man before!
If you are under 18, then Rapunzel and the Prince did nothing but talk, fall in love, and plan a future together. This plan entailed Rapunzel secretly fashioning a ladder so that when the time came, they could both climb out of the tower.
Time passed and Rapunzel became too contented because one day when the old crone climbed up her hair, she foolishly said,“Why can’t you climb up as fast as the Prince?”
The old bird was quick to pounce, “What Prince?”
“Oh! Oh, no!”
So, she cut off Rapunzel’s golden locks and kicked her out of the tower. (Heartless!)
If you’re over 18, the old witch noticed Rapunzel’s baby bump and booted her out of the tower. Regardless of which version, the old woman waited with Rapunzel’s hair. She didn’t have to wait long.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!”
The witch let down Rapunzel’s hair and the Prince, not knowing any better, climbed up his true love’s hair to discover the witch on the other end.
Was it attempted suicide that made the Prince jump out of the very tall tower? Or did the witch push him? Whatever happened, the Prince fell upon thorns that blinded him. He wandered, then, for years trying to find his true love.
I was only 9 years old, so how could I be blamed? I remember hiding in my friend Angela’s bathroom while she cut chewing gum out of my hair. She might have playfully stuck it in or it might have been an accident. I thought that was the end of it, until mom found out. She was furious, so angry that she cut my long hair that ran down my back into a chin-length bob. I cried while she cut it, and so did she.
I guess she was mad that I let someone else cut my hair. I thought the cut was well-hidden, but apparently not. Later, after her madness was spent, she apologized profusely, encouraging me to shampoo my hair often to bring my long hair back.
Strangely, snipping long hair became something I would do to not only Barbie dolls, but myself. I understood that my hair grew back relatively quickly. I started to mark turning points with dramatic haircuts: my first heartbreak in college, my second year of teacher training, and at the end of a long term relationship. Perhaps this was my way of saying, I’ve changed.
The Prince wandered for years. Rapunzel gave birth to twins in the desert. Thankfully, the Prince found his way to the desert, where he was reunited with Rapunzel. However, she was horrified to learn that her dear prince was blind. She held him in her lap and wept, but miraculously her tears fell upon his eyes, restored his sight, and they lived happily ever after.
These days, I know what looks good on me. I’ve experimented with my hair enough to know that below the shoulders is a good length. I’ve learned to not fight with what I’ve got, but go with it. Straight bangs have become my signature look. My hair is graying. I don’t dye it, but I pluck out the renegade strands from time to time. I’ve learned to cut my hair. Despite living in an Asian country, most Thai hairdressers are too old-fashioned for my tastes. I like a messier look, not the iron curtain that is coveted here. I’ve also grown sick of taking care of it. Every day I clean it up off the floors and from the shower drain. It’s my humidifier, too, swampy, in a tropical climate, after I’ve washed it, but I’m lucky to have a good head of hair.
What’s your hair story?