The first memory of a hairbrush that registers for me is actually that of a purple comb, precisely parting my dark, curly hair into multiple, workable sections. My mom is the one doing the parting. The comb feels rigid and the cheap plastic digs a bit into my scalp, but I don’t mind. My mom has silver, straight hair; a shocking juxtaposition to mine. My birth father, whom I’ve never met, is the one who lent me his curls, but my mom is the one who celebrated them. Where she gathered her knowledge on curls during dial up times I’m unsure of, but it was present. One of the most important sentiments she shared with me was to preserve my curls and not damage them. When I was older and ordered myself one of those rotating straightening brushes, her fists balled up Arthur-style and her baby blues turned black for a moment. Years of her hard work, thwarted by this cheap contraption. The horror.
Conceiving me in the first place was not an easy feat for my mom, so once I was born, everything about me to her was precious. My hair being one of those things. She knew to use a wide tooth comb for detangling and always styled my hair when it was wet. The look we went for was always slick and saturated with leave-in conditioner, ridding my curls of any frizz they may be harboring. I’m sure this gave her more control and a texture that she was more used to working with. I recall long, Pippi Longstocking pigtail braids sprouting out from either side of my head almost daily. This complimented my slightly buck teeth nicely. We eventually got over that phase as I went rogue and took matters into my own, undersized hands. I continued the theme of overly conditioned, frizz-free locks, but this time just letting them rest on my shoulders.
One day, I switched things up and bought the same brush my best friend always used on her tawny, straight strands: a wide paddle brush with a clear, jelly handle. I ran it through my wet strands the same as I would the wide tooth comb, but felt differently when doing so. I definitely ripped out more hair while using it, but that’s the brush pretty much all the girls I knew used, so I thought it was right. My hair was soft like theirs, but I couldn’t run my hands, or a brush, through it without my curls claiming everything like a Chinese finger trap. Even though that brush was not made for me, I used it until it’s beaded tips wore off and neon pink nail polish muddied the handle. It was well loved.
Since then, the only other brushes I’ve owned are a ratty toothbrush to slick down my edges and a Sally’s dual sided brush that I rely on for sleek buns. Quite a departure from the misguided paddle brush of my youth. Being biracial has allowed me to use, though few, a wide array of brushes throughout my life. It has also left me unmotivated to claim a single one that I cherish, which has resulted in me having none. My choice in hairbrush remains as ambiguous as I am.
Initially, to me, a hairbrush isn’t a source of joy nor does it spark anything within me. However, when I think about my mom, I feel many things, whether they are amicable or resentful, which of the latter is very rare. When I think about my mom brushing my hair into place as I teeter on a wicker barstool in our kitchen, I smile. When I think about my mom doing research on a hair texture that is not her own, my chest clenches. And when I think about my mom gazing up at me and my curls from a hospital bed only to softly pronounce, “You’re so pretty”, I realize, that maybe, a hairbrush is much more special than I had thought.
Now, meet the first hairbrush that I’m actually excited to use because it is, without a doubt, made for me.