Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.
So I found this audio clip.
It’s not really a big deal, less than three minutes of two little girls — ages three and five — talking to their dad about the older one cutting the younger one’s hair.
It’s integral to this post, though, so you have to listen to it. I’ll wait…in fact, I’ll probably listen to it again: This page has a picture of the haircut’s immediate aftermath.
I’ve heard this recording repeatedly. Emailed it to friends. Made my husband listen to it. And I’ve laughed over and over again. Why? Because this three minutes encapsulates a perfect story: I can see the girls, the train of thought, the horror of realization, and the attempts to hide the evidence. And it’s a story with which I can empathize because I have my own version.
See, Mom, it all started because Judy cut a knot out of her Cabbage Patch doll’s hair…
It ended like this:
That’s right. No bangs, or really much hair at all, for many months.
I absolutely know the feeling of being Sadie with those scissors, singing to yourself and snipping away, and then the moment where you know “this is baaaaad, bad, bad, bad.” But whether that horrible haircut was of your own making or bestowed upon you by someone else, almost everyone can empathize with this story and its consequences.
The storytellers in this case are also particularly wonderful, sharing their narrative with the honesty of small children. It cracks me up every time Eva claims she didn’t like the way her hair tickled her hips and how Sadie hid the chopped hair under the radiator.
I remember my mother’s look of horror when she came down the hallway and saw what I’d done to myself, including the pile of clipped hair at my feet. What I would have given then for a radiator under which to hide the proof.
But Mom, Judy cut the end off of her hair, so I thought I’d just take a little bit off my bangs!
A shorter listen than reading most of my favorite short stories, this audio clip lightens my heart and tells a good tale each time. It hasn’t gotten old yet. And that, I think, is why this snippet of a story has such staying power. Lost love, found love, adventures, trials, and successes — storytelling is built on archetypes and it’s these experiences with which we connect the most when confronted with a new story. Although having a terrible haircut may not be as poignant or long-lasting a lesson as others that we encounter, it’s still a circumstance that nearly everyone can empathize with and create a little camaraderie around, and — at its heart — isn’t that one of the main reasons to tell a story in the first place?