Wednesday, September 29, 2010


For as long as you can remember, your hair has demonstrated strange, idiosyncratic behavior.  Segments of it have risen like an impatient audience at the conclusion of a boring lecture.  Entire patches of it seem to grow with no regard for its neighbors.  Brushes and gels have been recruited to serve as disciplinarians, but they all took early retirement.  Keeping your hair short helps, but as so many things connected with hair, shortness is transitory, leaving unruliness as a resident squatter.

As you careened into what at first seemed the apex of being adult and consequently "of age," which is to say the need for shaving daily, you discovered similar insurrection on your lower left cheek, just above the jaw line.  With a day's growth of beard in place, you are able to trace an anomaly lurking in the grain, like a beginning writer at a writers' conference,wanting to know how to get an agent.  It is the same anomalous behavior you note on your head, a complete willingness to boldly grow where more compliant hair had grown before.

"Some mess of cowlick you've got there," a favored barber named Roy observed as you sat in his Santa Monica Boulevard emporium, appropriately swathed in neckband and cover sheet.  You'd heard the word before, even experienced that splendid visual sense of a cow, licking a patch of stubborn hair into submission with an endless tongue.  Indeed, your mother had used a splash of water from the kitchen faucet in loco bovinis to accomplish that very task.  Before Roy's diagnosis, Mrs. Forthman, the administrative assistant of Hancock Park Elementary School 408 S. Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles CA, 90036, upon seeing you, would snort, say that single word as though attempting to dislodge a strawberry seed from between her teeth, "cowlick," then repair to her desk for a bobby pin which she would thrust into place in the mass of anarchistic hair you bore as a matador thrusts the sword into the neck of the fighting bull, at precisely the right place.  Wisdom would have dictated you avoid contact with Mrs. Forthman, but she was the then equivalent of Rahm Emanuel to Ruth Angelo, the principal, to whose personal library you had unrestricted access.  A bobby pin was a small price to pay.

You have been with Maryelle, your present stylist--as though you had sufficient quantities of hair to style, for the best part of twenty years.  "You are a living display of cowlick," she observes each time she settles me into the chair at Salon du Mont, from which I can see the mall below and the stately Santa Ynez mountains in the distance.  This leads me, now that I have achieved almost simultaneously with male pattern baldness the tendency to reach for connections, to an inevitable equation.

Does your prose have cowlicks?  Are there anarchists dwelling within its murky syntax, eager to spring forth, all fustian and verbal Molotov cocktails?

You search early drafts nervously, perhaps even as alert for some mischief in order and control over chaos as Mrs. Forthman's concern for your appearance.  Or perhaps with the same exasperation your mother experienced when she remanded you to the custody of the kitchen sink tap, her last resort in keeping you neat.


Storm Dweller said...

If cowlicks had been the least of my worries in the art of styling one's own hair, I might have been grateful. Unfortunately, unruly natural curls made school life miserable, as one side would curl up and poof out in imitation of Shirley Temple, and of course the side I slept on was dull and lifeless, refusing tender any more than a cursory wave to the persuasion of the hairbrush.

Sometimes my prose has that problem, full of life and delicate intricacies on one side, flat and boring on the other, and what happens in between is usually some sort of deflating experience to the main character.

Querulous Squirrel said...

In revising my long stories from three years ago, I have discovered such enormous cowlicks that I've had to shave them off completely and be left with a flash fiction, also known as a Mohawk. My younger son had something like a cowlick when he was younger. It was this haze of fuzzy hair, impossible to get a comb through, that stuck out in the back of his head while the hair on the front and sides were beautifully straight. I don't even know what to call it, but thank goodness he grew out of it.