Workshop Blog: Glitter Hair Barbie

Tuesday, June 1, 2010 / 1:40 AM

“That looks dangerous,” I said with worried eyes. I watched as Na climbed onto a small blue plastic chair and reach for the pair of scissors our mother kept on the kitchen counter.

Na didn’t reply, but grabbed the scissors and jumped off the chair. Her feet landed softly on the linoleum floor and she motioned to me. “Come on,” she said. I followed as usual. Na was almost two years older than I and anything she said, I did; anything she did, I wanted to do. At this particular moment in time, I watched as my ten-year-old idol swaggered from the kitchen to the living room with sharp scissors in her hand and an air of confidence surrounding her.

She bounced toward a bin that was filled with dolls and accessories. We had never been obsessed with Barbie dolls but we had plenty of them and plenty of Barbie-sized accessories: dresses, shoes, t-shirts and skirts. Na put the scissors onto an end table and reached into the bin. She pulled out a brunette doll in a yellow skirt and orange shirt.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“Cut her hair.”

I frowned. It was technically my doll. My mother bought it for me after an enormous amount of pestering every time the commercial played. The doll was part of a trio of Glitter Hair Barbie dolls. Each doll came with a special comb and a tube of glitter. The commercial for the dolls showed young girls combing glitter into the dolls’ hair and then into their own hair. I used the glitter once before my mother realized how messy it was. She took the glitter away, but I didn’t protest. I wanted the doll for her neon red palm tree earrings and sleek yellow visor.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I told Na.

“I’m not gonna cut a lot of it,” Na replied as she prepared to set up shop. She turned Glitter Hair Barbie upside down and combed her fingers through the doll’s long brown hair.

“Give her to me,” I asked. Na ignored me. “Give her to me!” I shouted. I reached over and grabbed the doll from her hands. I could feel myself beginning to cry and turned away so Na wouldn’t see. Na never cried and I didn’t want her to make fun of me.

“You’re such a baby,” she said, rolling her eyes, and left the room.

I grabbed a Barbie-sized brush from the bin of dolls and sat down on the floor. I ran the brush slowly and gently through the doll’s hair, the same way my mother brushed my own hair. “You have to be gentle,” she instructed, “or you’ll pull more hair out.”

There were no more tears threatening to burst from my eyes and, instead, I felt proud of myself for saving the doll. Poor Glitter Hair Barbie, I thought. There was no reason she should lose any of her hair. She didn’t do anything to deserve it.

“What are you doing?”

I looked up. My mother walked into the living room and sat down on the sofa. Still holding the doll, I went to sit next to her as she turned on the television to resume the videotape of a Chinese drama she was watching.

“Mommy?” I asked after a few minutes of the tape. “Can you braid my hair?” I had seen her braid Na’s hair so many times. She used to braid my hair too, as well as curling it and styling it and pinning it up, but she stopped once my hair started to fall out. Now, she only touched my hair to cover the bald spots.

She tore her eyes from the television screen to smile her warm smile at me. It wasn’t a smile of glee or amusement; it was a sad smile, one she had worn on her face for the past year since my hair began falling out. “Here,” she said, motioning to the floor in front of her. “Chaw.

I sat down on the worn, maroon carpet and my mother took a plastic comb off of the end table where Na had left the scissors. My mother was always careful when it came to my hair because she was afraid that any tension would pull more hair out. She didn’t want to cause any more damage in fear that one day my hair would all be gone and I would finally break down.

With her soft hands, she ran the comb slowly and gently through my hair. I knew that was all she would do. We sat quietly as the television played. I bent Glitter Hair Barbie into a sitting position, put her on the carpet in front of me and began to braid her hair.

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