DEWITT JR. COLUMN: Letting Momma take a little off the top
I understand there is a silly new debate going on between ultra-liberals and no-nonsense conservatives: do we call them “birthing people,” or mothers? Frankly, where I come from the real debate is whether to let your Momma cut your hair, or not.
I am 48 and not ashamed to admit that my birthing person still trims these luxurious bangs and that glorious comb-over that isn’t fooling a soul on God’s green Earth, but makes me feel better. (Those few, loyal and tenacious strands of hair up front there have hung on longer than some of my marriages, and I revere them.)
In my lifetime, I’ve paid for more trips to Disney World than I have professional haircuts. I’m not cheap, that’s just how some of us are in the rural South, a land where people grow their own food, make their own wine, build their own homes and change their own motor oil if something goes to knocking.
Letting Momma cut your hair is not without its perils, however. My personal birthing person has no formal cosmetology training whatsoever. Depending on her level of medication at the time, a haircut may vary from perfectly level to downright cattywampus. She will nip an ear occasionally.
She gets distracted easily. She might stop to clean out your ears, despite your squirming. She might rub on some foul-smelling, anti-baldness ointment that she swears isn’t Castor Oil, but you know it is. Lord help you if she finds some acne bumps that need “mashing.” It’s a fact well known by Democrats and Republicans alike that mashing acne bumps on offspring people is a favorite hobby of birthing people.
Then there is the wait time. When I can finally catch Momma in the mood to cut hair, she tries to get everyone in one fell swoop. By the time I get there, Daddy—the non-birthing person—is in the barber chair in his underwear, a sight that will burn your cataracts clean out. There are two dogs on the couch waiting their turn. An impatient pigmy pig looks in through the screen door, and a sheep is trying to climb up the porch.
But the advantages far outweigh the perils. Momma always has a sack full of garden-fresh groceries, homemade canned goods, and other goodies waiting for me.
“I made some of that pimento cheese you like. Get you some squash and cucumbers, and don’t forget your eggs. Oh, here, take all this candy, these cookies and this bag of sugar. You know your Daddy can’t have that mess with his diabetes.”
Yeah, my birthing gal looks out for me. But the sweetest thing about letting Momma cut your hair is the conversation. Now, before you go getting all judgmental and calling it gossip, I’ll have you know that if it comes from the righteous lips of birthing folks, it’s called “keeping up with family and friends.”
“Did you hear about Dewayne?” she asks, while trimming behind my ears.
“What’s that fool done now?”
“Growing that dope right in his Momma’s greenhouse and garden!”
“Yes sir. To make matters worse, them state police tore his Momma’s flower beds all up getting that evidence out of there!”
“Well, that wasn’t very nice of ‘em.”
“And did you hear about Susie? Pregnant again!”
“Well, Momma, the girl is legally married now, you know.”
“Yeah, but three times in two years? That’s one busy heifer! Even the Good Lord rested one day a week!
” Finally, what seems like hours later, you stagger away, loaded down with food, gossipy news and a Mother’s love, bits of hair all over you, the tip of one ear still bleeding, and your hairline so cattywampus you have to talk to people with your head tilted at a 45-degree angle until it all grows back.
There may be neater, easier, faster and less painful ways to get a haircut, but I’ll have none of that nonsense. That’s just not how we do things in my neck of the rural South, where we do our own taxes and defend our own court cases.
I started to ask Momma once, why she had all this extra food laying around, and exactly why does she buy all that candy and sweets if Pop can’t have any, but that would be like looking a birthing gift-horse in the mouth, and my birthing person didn’t raise any fools.
Michael DeWitt, Jr. is the managing editor of The Hampton County Guardian, an award-winning journalist, columnist and outdoor writer who has been published in South Carolina Wildlife, Sporting Classics, and the author of two books.