Not By The Hair

July 7, 2012 § 2 Comments

Not By The Hair
Natalie Parker-Lawrence

adrenaline gets me through.  and showing up.  and instinct.  and serendipity.   and t-shirts and comfortable clothes.  i need sacred space for me and my book bag in the corner across from everyone else.  every mother of every boy i dated or married offered the same criticism about me: not warm, not sweet.  Their sons would agree except for under the sheets.

white medicine makes my temperature rise and burns off cancer and my youth.  the ob-gyn doctor says my body still wants to have a baby, but the oncologist says no, let’s jettison that body right into menopause.  the last time i weighed this much I had a baby the next day. take tamoxifen for five years.   then the cancer won’t come back.  maybe.  now the hair falls out in clumps in the bathtub. not growing back in furrowed flesh-rows unless the curls come in metal-gray and wolf-white and pubic-coarse.

my hair curled velcro-brown since birth, matted with sweat and mildew from riding my tricycle up and down memphis streets when i wasn’t talking to elvis, mr. green jeans, or mighty manfred, my best friend, the upside-down table in the playroom, its legs, his four hairy legs swimming in the air.

black before i went to mexico one summer, my hair covered my shoulders, made me vanish into its darkness. before that i vanished into the eight-inch scar that runs from under my right armpit to my wide nipple:  four surgeries and thirty-three rounds of radiation.  if you think of me as lopsided you might be right.  you might be looking too close.  you might be looking at, as my husband says, the cute one.

this month i vanish into the hair on my head that makes me look, as my mother says, haggard.  like the hooded gnarled, but not wiser, crone. i beg the stylist to put the blonde streaks back into my hair, to put the caramel back into my unflavored life.  the black hair provides a mask, the blond hair provides a frame to compete with the young writers, the ones with the natural blond, brown, and red hair who might understand a rapunzel allusion one day or see star wars for the first time this year. the ones who have never had a mammogram.  the ones who do not fear the machines which invite me to hold my breath for two hours every six months so that I can hold my breath for the next six months.

hurry up gets me through, gets work out on time and finished no matter when i start.  yeah, i can manufacture honesty about other people–their hair and their needy excuses about their writing every day all day.  able to look straight ahead naked in the mirror without flinching at the hoary changes, myriad over time?  any day.


Natalie Parker-Lawrence, a writer since 1994, earned her MFA in Creative Writing (creative nonfiction and playwriting) at the University of New Orleans in 2010. Natalie Parker-Lawrence’s new full-length play, a collection of nine true-story monologues about insomnia, I Bet They’re Sleeping All Over America, won a spot in the first Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis in August 2012, and is the season opener for Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe at Theatreworks, September/October 2012. The Just Passing By Theatre Company in association with The Morris Theatre Guild (outside Chicago) produced Bob War in 2011. Adelphi University (New York) produced Earlybirds in 2009. The Women’s Playwright’s Initiative staged a regional reading in Orlando, Florida of Upright Position in October 2008. Her other plays have been produced in Memphis theatres. Her essays have been published in The Barefoot Review, Wildflower Magazine, The Literary Bohemian, Stone Highway Review, Tata Nacho, Knee-Jerk Magazine, Edible Memphis, The Commercial Appeal, World History Bulletin, and The Pinch. She is the religion/spirituality columnist for Wildflower Magazine.

Image: Dryad, By Stephen Martin


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