Mei Fa Hairstyx have been with
me for my entire adult life.
If an article of clothing (which these are, as they adorn the hair) can be imbued with one’s personality, they are a huge part of who I have been for almost as long as I knew what it meant to me to be feminine, pretty, and sexy.
I collected them, and Mitchell gave me my last pair, the lovely Chinese red fish, just a few years ago.
At a time when I was discovering myself sexually and professionally,
I found them on a business trip in a tiny shop in Haight-Asbury.
The woman who has grown a business around them was just starting out, and we grew together, though I don’t think she was the one selling them behind the counter.
I still have the first pair I bought, a silver bauble atop black wooden sticks.
I dressed conservatively during my first years as a young architect,
and certainly had not found my sense of style. Mei Fa sticks were my secret,
as I put my long (then permed) curly curls hair up with just two sticks.
I knew I could take it down in that world of men and that secret held power.
I never looked at why it held power, just that it did;
some things do not need exploring. Either you get it or not.
Years later other items of clothing would be added to my list of
secret power items in a world of men, but this was my first.
Everyday a couple of sticks went into my hair,
and by the end of the day they might come out and be put into my purse
as I made my way to play at Spago or West Beach Cafe or
72 Market Street or Marina Charthouse or all the way out to the Palomino.
This happened until most of my sticks were in my purse
and I’d have to fish them out to start all over again.
I knew that someday a man would come along and take my hair down
by tugging gently on the sticks, and he would know all about this side of me.
I never met him in a bar or at a party with my friends.
That man was not my first husband, always in a rush for sex,
but Mitchell, who understood and knew, and I recognized him as my kind of man,
who I’d waited for my whole life for understanding about the sticks.
Mitchell is with me as I grow into the last part of my life.
My already fine hair has been thinning, a family trait, and greying.
I don’t mind the grey that much, though I wish it was a prettier grey.
I have minded that I can’t wear some of my larger sticks.
Then the last year happened and I have lost a LOT of hair.
Putting my hair up has meant I looked a bit like a boy, and frankly,
every damn time I looked in the mirror I was tempted to simply shave it off.
At least then I’d be exotic — I could tattoo my shaved head!
I’d be the wild woman still!
But wait, too many people would think me a cancer patient.
So finally I cut my hair shoulder length.
I don’t think Mitchell knows how much I cried on the way home.
I felt like Sampson, losing a bit of her sexual self.
Shit we lose a lot getting older;
I never considered that I would lose my hair.
I was prepared for sagging, chubby, and grey, but not the family hair!
The hair cut is nice.
I have some tendrils and can still get it up, so to speak,
but not with my sticks, and the new cut looks softer around my face.
I will be giving myself some highlights.
My hairdresser says perhaps my hair will grow back in to where it was before the surgery, to give it six months. At any rate, I am not ready to give my sticks away.
I have hope that my hair will grow in thick enough for me to use them again,
even if I have to have a bobby pin to help them along.
Moleskin 8×11 watercolor journal, Pentalic HB woodless pencil,
De Artramentis Document and Super5 ink and Daniel Smith watercolors.
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Your story & art moves me so. I have an arch/engrg background & I used to love shopping in Haight-Ashbury when visiting SF. My beautiful hairstyx, a few Meifa & some I made myself in my jewelry making phase, permanently adorn my dresser now. I’m working up the courage to get my long hair cut as soon as I can handle it. Lots of changes & obstacles in these so-called golden years. Thank you so much for your honesty & for sharing. I’m Sherry & it’s nice to “meet” you, DKatiePowell.
Thank you Sherry. It was a vulnerable bit of writing. Nice to meet you too.
Beautiful work, and I enjoyed your story as well. 💛
Thank Laura; near and dear to my heart. . .
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What a wonderful post!!! It is so interesting to see your thought process about these hairstyx as a young businesswoman and through your recent horrible illness. I’m so glad you had Mitchell come along to take down your hair and be with you through thick and thin (no pun intended).
Thank you Joan. Pun is fine — smiles are always good!
Beautiful post, Katie. Loss is hard, illness is such a difficult journey. I’m glad you’ve taken time to honor what you’ve lost — and the strength that you’ve gained (and given) by honoring it. Something new always grows to replace what we lose — a deeper sense of sexuality will bloom, it already has, I’m sure of it.
Thanks for reading it Joy. It was hard to write but I wrote it before the New Moon and already feel something shifting!
So many things we lose. I try to find things that are gained to even out the loss. Sometimes I can, sometimes, I can’t. I hope this is a time you can. You’ve written a brave post!
Yes. Thank you for that. It was not an easy share.
I have been missing posts — Yours are among them. Dan Antion’s too. Must find out why!
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I’ve been away at conferences, vacation, and getting stories ready of conferences, so I’m very far behind in my posting. I just returned, so I’ll be getting back into the swing of things for fall.
Cool — I look forward to them!
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Katie, I love how close you write and paint to yourself, and especially how you’re able to talk about your grief.
I believe the thing about eldering, year by year, is, as Jilanne says, “[trying] to find things that are gained to even out the loss.” You transformed your Mei Fa Hairstyx into lovely watercolors and writing. You also cut your hair, acknowledging your continuing, but changed beauty and that you, too are a work of art. Arting is a delightful way of continuing to gain as we age. Another is, for me and many other women, plunging deeply into nature, becoming a forest dweller, opening your senses up to the Mystery that waits in the woods, at the edge of the sea, in the clouds, our feathered and finned creatures, mosses and fungi, and so on. Our Mother Nature is waiting for us…we just have to step into her or paddle out into her, the Lady of the Lake. Blessings, and thank you for your faithful posts.
Emaho, Susanissima! _/\_
I love the way you write and express yourself. Stunning drawings and a wonderful sharing of your life… As to the hair… It may just surprise you. Mine has changed and gone through so many changes in this process of growing it back and so don’t discount the power of your body to restore it to where it was… Xx
Oh lordy Tracey that gives me hope! Thank you!
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