Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Hair

If you cut your hair, I’ll cut you out of my will.’ I was often in receipt of this threat or promise while I was a child. It was my Aunty Mali who’d say it. Not really an aunt but a family friend, she became a powerful influence in my life. Eventually I made a big storytelling piece about her called Travels with My Welsh Aunt.

Aunty Mali:

A music teacher and always smart (handbag and hat when she went out), Aunty Mali herself had long hair which in the day would be wound into a bun. But each night before getting into bed (and this I know from all the times I stayed with her), she’d comb out her hair with much care and ceremony and then (it’s something I’ll never forget) she’d carefully remove any hairs that had got into the brush, twist them together into a piece of tissue paper and then place the twist of tissue-paper in the waste-bin. ‘Your hairs are like your thoughts,’ she’d say. ‘You must look after them with care and never throw them to the winds.’

Cutting the plaits:

By the time I was a teenager, I longed to go to the hairdresser, I longed for a style. So in the end, my plaits had to get cut off. For years, I kept them on a shelf in my bedroom cupboard. I can’t remember what I did with them later. I do remember that my subsequent hair-history includes when I had it permed (very short and curly), regularly plied it with henna (applied by my sister-in-law) and then cut it very short indeed. Eventually, of course, it began going grey. Then, shortly after my recent chemo treatments began, it all fell out. I had to start winding turbans onto my head. But not long after the chemo was all done and dusted, in fact only the other day, I noticed a fuzz all over my head. My hair is growing back! What a relief and a pleasure! And I suppose it’s that pleasure that made me start recalling stories of hair.

Stories of hair:

Remember Rapunzel? Remember Samson? Or that bittersweet story written by 20th century American writer O. Henry, in which a young woman with long, beautiful hair gets it all cut off as Christmas approaches? Her plan is to sell the cut-off hair and with the proceeds buy her much-loved young man a fine watch chain on which he can keep his watch. But meantime, the young man, wanting to buy her a fine Christmas present, pawns his watch so he has the money to buy his much-loved sweetheart a beautiful comb for her hair.

Ah! What a sadness it is as each appreciates what the other has done and how, for now at least, their gifts to each other have cancelled each other out. Yet even as we wipe our tears from our eyes, we have to realise that all is not lost. Just as the young woman’s hair will grow back, the young man will save up sufficient money to recover his watch from the pawn shop.

So to finish and to match the finish of last week’s blog, here are a couple of sayings that have been said about hair:

A hair divides what is false and true.     

Omar Khayyam

It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.

Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

PS: The top photo is, of course, of my much-loved Aunty Mali whereas the bottom photo is of what subsequently became a much-used brush. But it has to be said that Aunty Mali would never have had a brush that employed plastic. Pure bristles for her every time!

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Hair”

  1. Annalee Curran Says:

    Thank you., Mary. Your blog reminded me of when my plaits were cut off in a small Spanish village 58 years ago with the villagers standing around and exhaling a ” UUUUH” as the hairdresser made the cuts! I think I still have the plaits somewhere – they have followed me around the world! I hope they are smiling now at the thought of your new fuzz appearing! I certainly am. And my mother used to tell me the story of the watch chain and the hair pin which I always found unbearable. Thank you for reminding me of it – and of Aunt Mali whom I’ve come to know so well through your stories.

  2. Hilary Minns Says:

    Thank you for reviving a memory, Mary. I had my plaits cut off in 1957 when I was eleven years old and wanted to look more grown up. I kept them in a box until shortly before I got married at the age of 21, when I saw an advert: “Wanted – human hair” and sold them for a miserable 5 shillings. I sometimes wonder what happened to them. Goodness knows what I did with the 5 shillings.

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