Idiosyncracies: hair

Behind the normalcy of every home lie the quirks, the secrets, the idiosyncracies: the small things that add personality and character (some would say oddness) to each household. Every household has its own taboos, its requirements of family members, and they're impossible to discern from the exterior behavior of the occupants.

In my parents' house, there are two bathrooms. The main bathroom, nicknamed the "girls' bathroom," was off the main hallway, and available for public use. It had a toilet, a tub, and a sink. My mother used it to put on her makeup and get ready for work, and it was a natural progression for my sister and I to use that bathroom as well.

It did not, however, have a shower.The second bathroom lay, hidden, in the back of the house. It connected my parents' bedroom with the utility room. It was blue, with a smaller mirror and a shower, and my father was the only one that used it.

Why? I am not certain, but I know that growing up, it was understood that my sister and I would use the other bathroom in the hallway. Even when the three of us were attempting to crowd one another in our attempts to brush teeth or hair and straighten clothing, it never occurred to any of us to use the other bathroom. It just wasn't our space to use.

The problem, of course, was that the bathroom we were expected not to use was the only bathroom that had a shower in it. I picked up my solution from my mother: we both used the industrial-sized sink in the utility room to wash our hair. My mother's hair (normal thickness, short length) was well-suited to this idea, but mine was not.

From childhood on, the woman who cut my hair good-naturedly threatened to charge my mother double for the extra time spent cutting my hair, which I have worn long for most of my life. She would thrust her hand into the mass of brownish-blondish-reddish waves, lift up a hank of hair, and mutter, "Thick hair strands, and enough of them for two people," before beginning the long process of pinning up my hair in hanks to prepare for trimming.

By the time I was a junior in high school, my hair was more than halfway to my waist. Then, as now, it was enough of a riotous mass that it grew out as much as it grew down, thus giving my hair a particular triangular shape that it still has today. It was, to say the least, difficult to wash in the sink. But I did it, because the alternative honestly never occurred to me.

When we went home for Christmas, I counted up the days we planned to stay (five) and realized that there was no way I could avoid washing my hair during the time we were visiting. I found myself dreading the task, since I've not attempted to wash my hair in such fashion in several years. It requires a lot of flexibility under the best of circumstances, and not having performed the feat in several years does not qualify as 'best of circumstances.'

I mentioned having to wash my hair in the sink, and Jeff gave me one of his "oh, this must be one of those odd family things" looks. I tried to explain to him what was so obvious to me, and realized how utterly ridiculous I sounded. Why not just use the other bathroom? I found myself asking. What was it about the blue bathroom with the small mirror and shower that made it so obviously (to me) unavailable for my use, despite the fact that the alternative was not a very desirable one?

I don't have a concrete answer to give you. All I know is that despite all reasoning and evidence to the contrary, the thought of my using that other bathroom just wasn't an acceptable one. Instead, I grabbed the towel and headed to the sink. In the end, the hair got washed, and I suppose that's the most important thing.

But not, I think, the most curious.