Between each of my fingers ribbons of my daughter’s hair trellis down over my forearms. My daughter, now twelve sits between my thighs, resting her arms over my legs. The vulnerability of her with me and I with her is potent. I can smell her. I can feel her breath enter and leave her body. My hands map and divide regions of hair on her head. We make small talk while the motion of my hands move one over the other.Finger over finger, weaving tendrils together to form a rope that divides her back between her shoulder blades. Her body shifts from between my thighs to move about in the world and she gets on with her day. She came from my womb just as she came to me wanting to have her braided. With innocence and expectance, we all can claim the womb as our first home, knowing she is not mine to make mine or keep forever in my home.
The habitual movements of my fingers seem ingrained in my muscle’s memory from a deep, marrowed place. The same place of connection for thousands of people everyday across the arc of time. Our hair is the part of our outward self that grows from inside us. Touching, caressing, stroking, pulling, shaving, cutting, locking, medicalizing, and tending the outer garment of our hair translates into deep communion of souls. Not just with our own, but with everyone else’s. Hair is a powerful medium for how we communicate the way we view the world and our place in it. Hair is not just personal, it is political, it is social, and thus, ritualized.
But do the rituals re-enchant us to intimate understanding of ourselves, our daughters, and the womb of our ancestors or serve to civilize one another?