I didn’t know that until this past Tuesday. I knew she hated the color—fixed!—and the length—off to the salon!—but I didn’t know about the curly bit until I was sitting in the stylist’s chair. I said that Sunshine is in charge. She can pick the length, and I lose six inches. It’s just hair. She’s already colored it, and I love it. I’m sure the cut will be great, too. And if I don’t like it, it will grow. No matter.
And then she tells the stylist to straighten it.
And I am faced with a choice. Do I assert my own preferences, or do I lay them down for the preferences of another?
It’s my body, really. My call.
And I choose to remain quiet. And I allow my hair to be straightened. It doesn’t really matter to me. It’s temporary, and fun for her. Where’s the harm?
Then I remember. We are doing family portraits that afternoon. I do NOT want straight hair in a portrait that will hang on my wall. This hair is weird and different. Somehow I feel not myself. And even there in the chair, I am plotting out how long is long enough for it to be straight to please her and when I can go wash it out.
She can tell I don’t like it. She can read it on me. I don’t DIS-like it, really, I tell her. It’s just not me I am seeing. I don’t know about this new me.
And we drive home and she tells me a million times how much she likes it. No buts. No now-change-this. She just likes.
But I won’t keep it for the picture, I think. It’s not me. And darn it all, but I like me. I want a good family picture. Maybe I can’t change a lot of things I don’t like about myself, but I certainly can control my hair choices. Maybe I should assert myself. Maybe she needs to know that I am in charge. Time to wash the hair.
And then I don’t.
Somewhere in the course of the day, I realized that it matters. All of this. It matters.
It matters that I hear her opinions, even if they are different than my own.
It matters that I respect her enough to try it her way.
It matters that I choose to lay down my ability to assert my authority.
It matters that I act on the words I speak.
It matters that I model family and the give and take you find there.
And suddenly, I want my hair to be straight in this picture if that’s what she wants. And I want her to go through my closet and choose my clothing, too. And I want her to decide on Little Man’s wardrobe as well.
I want her mark to be on us both. That’s the picture I want to hang on my wall. That’s what already hangs in my heart.
She has changed me.
And we arrive for the shoot, and she takes off her coat for the picture, and I see she is wearing the necklace I gave her for Christmas. Two hearts linked together.
I know I have changed her, too.
She smiles for the camera when I know she doesn’t really like it. I can read it on her. She is handing control of her image over to someone else.
I know she does it because she loves me and I asked her to. And it’s her body and she can refuse or be miserable. But she’s not. She doesn’t DIS-like it. It just isn’t her preference. But she stays quiet about it.
And she turns to me and touches my hair. “I like very much,” she says. “You like?”
“Yes,” I say. “Well, no. But I like change.”
And I think of all the things she has already changed. Intangible things. Important things.
Our very essences, knit together into family.
And now it’s going onto the third day since we went to the salon. My hair is still straight because I can’t bring myself to wash it out. I think I will cry when I do.