How to Rag Curl Hair

Start with a cloth: an old T-shirt, a ripped pillowcase. Scissors, the good ones you hide in your sewing chest to keep them from being dulled on construction paper and those plastic packages that make you cry with frustration.

Cut the cloth into longish strips.

Wash and comb your daughter’s hair. Use no-tears shampoo and a wide-toothed comb. They won’t keep her hair from snarling or prevent the wailing that follows, but denial is as important in this endeavor as in all things.

She has your grandmother’s hair, identical to the locks that nestle between the pages of the old books packed into the cedar chest your father made you. It cracked when your husband moved you out West. Things break sometimes, but it doesn’t mean you love them any less.

While the hair is still damp, grasp a small section. Slide a strip of cloth to the very ends and roll the hair up into a tight curl. Knot the ends of the strip together in a single, simple twist. Make it tight, so that it can’t easily be undone. There are things you wish you could undo, but this isn’t one of them.

When you have curled all her hair, let the child sleep. Kiss her. Sing her a lullaby. Tell her a story where everyone winds up happy. There’s no need to alarm her.

In the morning, release everything and shake out the curls. Admire your hard work.

It will be undone again by evening.


- Lisa Péré is a freelance writer and editor with too many pets and not enough time. Her specialties are mortifying teenagers and indulging in hyperbole. She is uniquely bad at housekeeping. She lives happily in Colorado, with her two children and a plethora of Oxford commas.


How to Comb an Old Lady's Hair

            It changes with age, hair: thins, brittles, refines. This is what she says.  

            Use large-toothed combs. And patient fingers.

            Oiling the hair is important. Massage the scalp. Pay attention: oldladyskin grows silken, just like oldladyhair. Separate a clump. Loosen the knots with your fingers; run them through, quiver the strands apart, while pulling down with the comb. Sometimes she impedes by clasping your hand.

            Remember: Impatient hands are useless.

                                                                                              (from Life, on Old Indian Photos)

                                                                                             (from Life, on Old Indian Photos)

            Untangling hair takes time. Why waste it? Ask about her husband’s portrait which hangs so she can see him from her bed. Place your fingers—all ten—at the midpoint of her hairline, and scuttle them to the base of her skull parting her hair. Listen. Come sun, come rain, he stealth-waited by the pond where she went for water. Push the parted hair to either side twisting lightly to keep them divided. Brush one segment toward yourself and separate it into three as she laughs her way through their first wedding-night kiss. You’ve forgotten hair-ties. Do not worry about her impatience. She tells you where they are before resuming. He has been dead for decades; but her body still yearns for his. Blush when she touches your naked waist. Usually demurely hidden by your sari, it was bared when you crouched to get the hair-ties from a drawer. Begin the other braid and pretend you’re unembarrassed by her comment about your curviness.  

          Above all, do not worry about pulling her hair too hard. “Sometimes hurt is good,” she chuckles, “hasn’t your husband taught you that yet?”

- Shabnam Nadiya