How It Is to be Groomed by a Miniature Mother Gorilla

I have the best wife ever. Buuuuut... she never runs her hands through my thick, manly head of hair. It's just not her thing -- I get it. Not her fault. The devil made her not do it.

But that's why I have Grace. She's nine. Living with Grace is what it would be like to live with a miniature mother gorilla: she always hovers nearby and makes sure my hair is untangled and free from flakes. It's kind of weird putting that down in writing, but I'm unashamed. I love nothing more on this lovely planet than having someone groom me, and my Grace loves nothing more than doing so. We are a perfect team.

I feel sorry for everyone who doesn't know this person. (Antigua, Guatemala; Sept 2016)

That's why I keep my hair long. Maybe some think I'm trying to make a statement. Be individualistic. Buck the system. Nope. Just keeping Grace happy. She likes it long so she can braid it and brush it and clean it. And that's a good enough reason for me.


The other night after dinner I was tired from a long week of existing, so I put on some music and laid down on the couch. Like a moth to a flame, Grace soon settled down beside me with some scrunchies and a brush and went to work with my hair while I lost myself in one of those moments where time loops back on itself, and you're aware for an instant that now is so close to then, and yet you're a stranger to them both somehow.

Once, as a teenager, I went to a Smashing Pumpkins concert. The Pumpkins were okay. But the opening band that night stole my heart. Cheeky lyrics. Shiny melodies. Big guitars. The singer's voice sounded like it got crushed against his uvula and then shoved through his nasal passage and out his nose.

And as if that wasn't enough to convert me to Fountains of Wayne then and there, when I found their CD at the record store, the album cover was a photo of a kid in a makeshift Superman outfit, his underwear on the outside of a pair of highwater jeans, a limp red sweatshirt hanging behind him as a cape. And the kid is striking a Man of Steel pose, holding a big, live bunny rabbit. +1 for Fountains of Wayne, +0 for National Geographic.

And I've been a fan since then, delighting over the wit and cleverness of the words, the effortless catchiness of the tunes, the anti-charisma of their live sets, and Chris Collingwood's kind of grating voice, which, for me at least, has over the years become less and less ironically nasal and more and more warmly golden. 

While Grace brushed and braided my hair, the background music on my phone jumped to Collingwood's new project called Look Park, which recently released a wonderfully eclectic set of songs flittering from schmaltzy to breezy to cabaret-flecked waltzes. I half dozed and half listened to Collingwood's wonderfully whiny voice, so familiar from my younger years.

And I thought how everything ages and changes. I remembered a younger, smoother-faced me lying in the summer grass with a gaggle of my friends, a lovely teenage flame pulling her fingers through my dark hair while I contentedly watched the clouds drift across the deep blue. A college-aged Chris Collingwood droned something forgettable from the parked car's speakers. "I've got a flair for pulling your hair and making you crazy."

Now a cute little 9 year-old is pulling her fingers through my greying hair and Chris Collingwood is still droning from my speakers, but not atop power pop choruses anymore. He's pushing 50, and I'm older, and the music has grown up too, all dressed up in tinkling piano keys and warm, Love Boat-esque strings and sophisticated time signatures.

Grace isn't listening. She's just gathering a fist-full of my hair to wrap in a scrunchie. But maybe some place inside of her hears that nasal voice, a little piece of my youth. Maybe she's absorbing a bit from a song called "Breezy," a bit of wisdom Collingwood and I have collected over a few decades of Plinko-Wheeling through this life: "What's that the world taught you? Spun you around and brought you back where you began."