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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