My hair
gets so knotted I snip off each little rat’s nest, in order
to drag a brush through it and make myself look presentable. I don’t
regret my expedient solution, the quick snip, though I do admonish
myself for my carelessness in letting my hair knot-up. See, I don’t
often brush my hair. Most of the time because I don’t think I look good
when I’m too tidy, but also because I don’t always own a brush. Well,
I own a brush, but I can’t often find it, or I don’t remember to look
for it, which is pretty much the same as not owning something. I know
a woman who brushes her hair throughout the day, who prefers to look
sleek, in a way I never could. I had a roommate in college who demanded
I brush my hair; she had been a ballerina and could not bear to look
at my messy head. I wonder what she would say if she knew I have begun
to snip away the knots instead of worrying them into submission.

My mother
worked Tame into my tangles as I lay back on the kitchen counter;
she preferred to deal with my squirms and screams without bending over.
I read lately that DNA knots very easily and there are scientists bent
over their microscopes all around the world trying to untangle strands
with minute tweezers. I suppose DNA always did this thing and I can’t
remember why this, like so many other experiments, is a useful discovery.
Unlike hair, DNA, after being snipped, can be reconnected by enzyme and this
discovery, I understand, can modify humanity, but not yet, because a strand
of DNA is so very tiny and the science is still so inexact, that it would
be a crime to cause a problem in our rush to solve a problem.

I know I would be shocked to find I had reached behind my head and snipped
the wrong section of hair. Still, I think of it as perverse progress:
instead of preserving my hair, I consider it expendable. I’m sure
there are women who guard each strand as though spun gold. And those
who despise their hair, battling course curls like razor wire. But
for me, it’s just expeditious to snip the knots free from my head. Most
of the time, the tangles were hidden anyway, so a shorter section isn’t
noticeable unless I tie my hair up and a small hank refuses to be bound.
Then I look like a mess, which I suppose, is how I prefer it. Maybe
I would simply look foreign to myself, like I was wearing some sham
wig of orderliness on my head after years of unruliness, just like
bodies adapt to a curvature of the spine or uneven breasts.

After all,
once you pass middle age, there isn’t much you can do about your deficits.
The trick is to find peace between what is and what can be. Sure,
I could shear off my hair, and never again deal with a single knot, but
that type of discomfiting exposure is best left for when chemotherapy demands
it. Breast cancer seems a looming threat for all women even when it isn’t.
Intrepidly, I search for knotty tumors with my fingertips like we were taught
and each time I am sad to think of how my breasts have become my enemy,
how what was sensual has become medical. I tell myself it won’t matter
if I lose my breasts, whether through disfigurement or mastectomy
or even skillful reconstruction (after all, they will no longer be mine),
because breasts have become expendable in an attempt to nip cancer in the bud,
or even beautify.

When I was younger,
I used to take a hunk of fat and skin from under my arm
or between my thighs and think, “If I could only have this cut off….”
I don’t know what the end of that sentence was, but I wasn’t concerned
about the scarring, the pain of a knifed assault. I simply wanted
some of myself gone, what I deemed the offending extra me. I know a woman
who powered through weight loss and had her excess skin tucked, trimmed.
It’s dangerous and uncomfortable to have fat-less flesh just hanging around.
While there is certainly more of me than I would like, it seems a crime
to wish to be less than I am. After all, it’s possible I will cease to exist
at all if I forget to look both ways when I cross the street, or if my own DNA
goes rogue and cancer moves through me fast and quick.

Maybe nothing
is expendable, because bodies, like memories, are slippery, and we should
be cautious when trying to shed ourselves willingly. I read about a woman
covered in tattoos, who refuted the usual admonitions that she would regret
having compromised her skin, saying she would not be alive forever,
so why preserve flesh that would eventually rot? It’s a knotty argument,
for sure, but I appreciate her banking on the possibility of regret
as less weighty than a willingness to tangle with it’s possibility.

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