Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hair excerpt

From my book, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a delightful passage about long hair. . .

p. 373-374, the setting is city of Brooklyn, New York (duh) in the year 1912 or so.

Sissy went shopping with Francie and helped her buy a grown-up dress and her first pair of high-heeled pumps. When she tried on her new outfit, Mama and Sissy swore that she looked sixteen except for her hair. Her braids made her look very kiddish.

"Mama, please let me get it bobbed," begged Francie.

"It took you fourteen years to grow that hair" said Mama, "and I'll not let you have it cut off."

"Gee, Mama, you're way behind the time."

"Why do you want short hair like a boy?"

"It would be easier to care for."

"Taking care of her hair should be a woman's pleasure."

"But Katie," protested Sissy, "all the girls are bobbing their hair nowadays."

"They're fools, then. A woman's hair is her mystery. Daytimes, it's pinned up. But at night, alone with her man, the pins come out and it hangs loose like a shining cape. It makes her a special secret woman for the man."

"At night all cats are gray," said Sissy wickedly.

"None of your remarks," said Katie sharply."

"I'd look just like Irene Castle if I had short hair," persisted Francie.

"They make Jew women cut off their hair when they marry, so no other man will look at them. Nuns get their hair cut off to prove they're done with men. Why should any young girl do it when she doesn't have to?" Francie was about to reply when Mama said, "We'll have to more arguments."

"All right," said Francie. "But when I'm eighteen, I'll be my own boss. Then you'll see."

"When you're eighteen, you can shave your scalp for all I care. In the meantime . . ." She wound Francie's two heavy braids around her head and pinned them in place with bone hairpins which she took from her own hair. "There!" She stepped back and surveyed her daughter. "It looks just like a shining crown," she announced dramatically.

"It does make her look at least eighteen," conceded Sissy.

Francie looked in the mirror. She was pleased that she looked so old the way Mama had fixed her hair. But she wouldn't give in and say so."

"All my life I'll have headaches carrying this load of hair around," she complained.

"Lucky you, if that's all gives you a life of headaches," said Mama.

No comments: