I won “Best Hair” in my high school class of 683 students. My hair was like the little girl’s on “The Incredibles,” one cartoon that I willingly watched. Like a flat sheet of black silk was sewn into my scalp. People often accused me of getting a straight perm on the ‘low when I didn’t even own a blowdryer. I didn’t think I deserved the title because what Asian girl doesn’t have stick straight, slippery seaweed herr. Typical! Bo-ring.
I wanted to win the more meaningful category I was up for, Best Sense of Humor, something I must earn. I think I subconsciously campaigned by being more “on” the week we cast our ballots for Senior Superlatives. I bet many of the candidates were campaigning in some way, trying to sound extra smart or run extra fast that week.
I ended up losing to a white girl named Megan or Meghan and I was a gracious loser, not even thinking about demanding a recount. And it’s not like the loss was the first thing I ever mentioned to the then-stranger, now babies’ daddy, nearly a decade later. (It just happened to come up in the first email, that’s all).
After the ballots were counted, someone said they didn’t know I was funny because I didn’t look it. Megan or Meghan, on the other hand, was loud, super sarcastic, and sported crispy, tight dirty blonde spiral curls. I think it also helped that she was in the Performing Arts Magnet, not in the unfunny Math/Science Magnet.
Come to think of it, my second o.b. was also surprised by how funny I was. Maybe folks really don’t expect it from an Asian gal? Que lastima.
I had heard that your hair starts to fall out after giving birth, at the same time your baby’s does. I braced myself for it and even asked my doctor when it might happen because I became nervous to look down at the drain each time I took a shower. He said, “If it hasn’t happened yet, Jihee, it ain’t happening!” Sure enough, I never shed after both my sons were born. My sons didn’t either. I was extra blessed that THAT was hereditary while my mom’s extremely difficult pregnancies were not.
Around the holidays last month, I got dreadlocks. No, I didn’t go get them done in Brooklyn – they just appeared. Not even dreadlock extensions which would have been cool but at the roots. A few bird’s nests that I couldn’t brush out when I bothered to brush my hair. Then some more at the nape of my neck where I tie my unstylish, purely functional ponytail.
I couldn’t stand it any more and went for a chop.
My hair guy told me that he did the best he could but that even after the long overdue haircut, I have new growth: some major ggohp-sul-muh-ree (“wavy/kinky hair” in Korean) right at the part I was always ponytailing. He prescibed, as predicted, the ubiquitous Magic Straight Perm that ironically, my straight-haired people love to subject themselves to – for straightER hair. No thanks.
My once comically straight hair, something I always took for granted, was working itself into dreadlocks and getting called kinky. The way Koreans treat “kinky,” I thought he was going to stick a “Do Not Resuscitate” sign onto my neck. They gasp when handling Kevin’s atypical Korean ‘fro.
I told my hair guy that it was probably due to aging and also that the birth of my second kid resulted in additional hormonal changes. He shared that his colleague went through hair transformation after hair transformation after the birth of each of her three kids. She was styling another client next to us, looking as lovely as ever with her hairdo of celeb proportions. “She only has a fraction of her hair left, though,” he told me.
The idea of my New Dreads reminded me of when I was talking to Micah’s teacher after school.
“Miss B, you would think that I’d have accepted the fact that of course, my boy at age three can’t be compared to the sweet, gentle, shy, angel baby he was as an infant. But Miss B, when Micah gets so mischievous and doesn’t listen to me, I can’t believe how much my baby boy has changed.”
“Yes, I understand. But you have to look at him with New Eyes. He is growing up.”
New Eyes. I liked that.
In fact, I need to look at lots of things with New Eyes.
My relationship with Facebook. Definitely can be a way to connect with folks but also deserves a big fat demotion in how much time it can suck up, even when I think I’mma just check real quick. My friend Jisun was agreeing with me last week via email: How we were just SO OVER a lot of things we used to be into. She said that with Facebook, her new style is “just random flyovers, dusting the back 40 acres.” Such a perfect way to put it. No need to constantly check because I don’t want to think about something I have to do for the kids or because I just have to read each article on my Newsfeed to escape the mundanity of these holed up winter days, while my kids lose me to that evil little screen I hold in my hands.
My marriage. Of course, it can’t be the marriage of our honeymoon period, Double Income No Kids years, or even when we had just the one son. It’s been tough and it doesn’t help to compare now to how it used to be.
My friendships. Even though I love and cherish my ride-or-die chicks, talking on the phone has become nearly extinct or at least to the level of “endangered” these days and at first, that saddened me – that thumbtyping to your loved ones had become the norm, but frankly, even this chatterbox just wants to exhale and unwind when I have a block of uninterrupted time. Even uninterrupted time will surely get interrupted these days by a certain bedtime resister.
My priorities/dreams/values. I can’t beat myself up for not being the same type of “ambitious” I was when I was in sixth grade, with my yearbook page stating, “Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court” under “future goals.” Or even more recently when I thought I had no choice but to practice law or just be at home. Still trying to figure things out.
My kids. I do grieve the ending of their delectable babyhoods. I can only look at pictures and video clips and try to recall every facial expression and mannerism when they were so new. When they were more like new puppies than humans. When they would peer into my eyes, clenched fist around my finger, as I nursed their warm bodies.
But they’re also going to be delectable in some form at each new stage, except maybe as deep-voiced, facial hair sprouting, hormonal teenagers, oh Lord help me…
But like now…no longer babies but still as juicy as ever, in a different way. Like when the 15 month-old runs full force into my arms for a hug, ever since he learned to run 25 hours ago, but ackin’ like he been born running. And when my three year-old, on his 17th excuse for not going to bed at a decent toddler-like hour, yells, “Yes, I know Mommy, I can’t leave my bed but I have to tell you something. I love you, my Mommy, OK? That’s right.”
My hair. I actually don’t care about my hair despite devoting most of this post to it, but I just wanted to bring it back full circle, to tie up the loose ends. In a dreadlocked-ponytail.