Sunday, August 23, 2015

Daily Sketches. #23 Hair (Excerpt)

Pippi Longstocking Book-cover by Lev Tokmakov

Write about hair – either yours or a character you work on.

Marusya never liked her hair, or as she often would say, she hated it. Looking from a distance, you’re now probably as surprised as Marusya was when she grew up and looked back at herself, how much the word “hate” circulated between the girls of her age.
“How is school?”
“I hate school.”
“Isn’t math fun?”
“I hate math.”
“Do you like your classmates?”
“Hate ‘em.”
 “Oh such a sweet dress!”
“I hate it.”
Marusya did not start putting this thought together until one day one of her classmates said that another of her classmates said that she hated Marusya.
“What?! She what me?!”
“That’s what she said. ‘I just hate Marusya,’ she said.”
Marusya stopped breathing for a moment, feeling as though her face was burning – she always blushed easily. Never before had anyone told her that they hated her or knew someone who hated her. Hating school was one thing. It wasn’t personal. School was just some cold, official, faceless institution. Just a gray building with a bunch of rooms and corridors painted in a toxic green color (why schools and hospitals always pick such an unpleasant color?). All right, hating classmates was not especially a nice thing to say, but it also wasn’t personal, it was just all of them together, not each of them individually. “All” means a mass, a blob, it means nothing. But how on earth someone could say “I hate her, Marusya”?
Now, if Marusya was totally honest, she would tell that friend that she also hated that other girl. She even wrote it in her diary which she would never, ever want to show to anyone. But she did not say it, because that’s what diaries are for – to write any thought that entered your mind, and it did not have to be nice. Marusya knew her thoughts were not always nice, and she would never want to pretend that they were. But one thing was to think that thought and even write it down in your diary, and quite another to say it out loud to someone. To say it out loud almost felt like doing something not nice to that person. Or maybe wishing that you were doing something not nice to that person. And Marusya did not want to do something not nice to anyone, no matter what she’d write in her diary.
From that day on, Marusya was quite sure that it was not okay to hate anyone and was not sure it was okay to hate anything either. But she reserved her right to hate one thing – her own hair. Her hair was long and curly and tangled to the point when it was a nightmare to brush it. Grown-ups often would stop and tell her how pretty her hair was, but only grown-ups. Kids were teasing her as long as she could remember. As if having curly unmanageable hair that had a mind of its own was not enough to torcher Marusya, her hair was also copper red color, which ran in the family. Matveika got lucky, Marusya though. Yes, he got curls too, but his hair did not have to be long, and it was not hard to brush short hair – not as hard as her long curls anyway. But he also got a normal golden brown color that many kids have, with only a hint of copper in the bright sun. No one would think of teasing Matveika for having a hint of copper in his hair. People probably did not even notice that slight change of his hair color on a bright sunny day, when Matveika got straight sun rays on his head. Marusya got teased-at since childhood, when she’d ask her parents not to bring her to day care early in the morning and just let her stay at home which they couldn’t do of course since both of them were working, and Matveika went to school. Only on very rare occasions would her mom take Marusya to her work instead of day care – those were happy days. Mama’s students seemed to like Marusya, and no one called her “ryzhaya” (*) or “clown” as kids in the day care did. When mama’s students or grown-ups mentioned Marusya’s hair color, it always sounded like a compliment, not as an insult. She noticed that some women colored their hair in red color on purpose (something that blew her mind – why on earth anyone would want to be red haired, she’d never understand that). She made a little peace with her hair when she first read Pippi Longstocking. She was ten or something like that. For a while, she felt as empowered as Pippi, as if she could pick up a horse or a policeman with her arms. She’d imagine how one day she picked up the most annoying boys from her school and throw them in the air, and how their faces would get long and scared, and full of remorse, and how they’d land and run as fast as they could, looking back at Marusya with fear and even respect. The thought that she was somewhat similar to Pippi was comforting for the next couple of years, but now at twelve Marusya started being annoyed with her hair in a somewhat new light. She couldn’t say exactly what was going on, but somehow with all the body changes she experienced lately, having bright copper red hair became an issue again.

(*) “ryzhaya” means red haired (about a female), and “ryzhyi” – red haired about a male in Russian.


  1. Everything is so intense at 12. Love, hate, joy, sorrow-hair! I hope Marusya groves to love her hair.

  2. It has always been SO hard for me to imagine that anyone would hate red hair. Since I was a kid, I found it fascinating and cool. I guess this proves it ... I'm an oddball. ;)