My Sister’s Hair

Becky looks about three?I wasn’t born jealous of my sister’s hair, but I grew up hearing the story of my mother’s surprise. Apparently we were quite similar at birth, with dark hair plastered close to the scalp. My older sister’s hair changed to white-blond curls within weeks.Roberta, Becky and Bob 1952 Oakland







Robin Martinez Oct 1960 age 2.5

Mine didn’t.

My next memory is of my dismay and tears when the Clairol commercial played and my sister would turn to me, cluck and shake her head, eyes very, very sad and say:

“I’m so sorry you will never have any fun.” In my five year old mind blond hair most definitely equated with “fun.” Didn’t my sister get to go on adventures with cousins and grandparents and friends while I stayed behind? Wasn’t she allowed to cook, to stay up late, to read, to watch TV programs taboo to me…the list goes on.

The years went by and the Martinez sisters long hair and braids and wild personalities grew. Another sister came along. She was a sweet combination, with brown hair, not as dark as mine, but not blond, to my relief.Becky braids

The next time I was jealous of my sister’s hair was after she gave birth to her first child. There she was, after labor and delivery, smiling and refreshed, holding the new baby, blond french braids crowning her like a queen. I had cut all my hair off by this time, but the second I found out that I too would be a mother I let it grow. I must have braids at the delivery. Short hair would not give me the image I wanted—I deserved—after that feat.

I failed to consider the fact that I didn’t know how to braid my own hair. My post-delivery pictures show a tired, post-vomiting, post-screaming and hysterical woman holding a yellowish infant (jaundice! but that is another story). My hair is frizzled and tangled and it is obvious shaving my head will be the only solution.Robin and Becky Avenal






I was able to get through about thirty years after that without being jealous of my sister’s hair. In fact, I love my hair. I have had it short, long, dyed like a tortoise shell cat. I have learned to braid it.

About fifteen years ago I had long hair and watched the television show “Darma and Greg”. The hippy mother walked on set, her hair shoulder length and pulled back on the sides with barrettes.

OMG! I looked just like her. Like a dorky older woman who still has a fifth-grader hair style. The very next day I went and had my hair cut boy-short again. Never, ever, ever will I let my hair grow out again, I swore.

Until now. Because you see, my sister has not cut her hair. Oh, it has been shorter than waist length, but her braid scrolls down her back in a wise twist that makes me covet the image of sage advice and southwest spirits and—just about everything earthy and arty and calm. The colorful stripe she adds pushes me even further.

So…I grew my hair out again. I braid it. I put silly barrettes on the side and look like an aged hippy.

I love it. And you have to admit, GRAY is the new BLOND.




  1. I love this post. Love it.

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