November 1, 2020 – A very follicular fable.

There’s nothing quite like sitting down at the table and plunging your fork into a nice, healthy portion of lasagna only to discover it’s got a secret ingredient, a piece of your own hair. You won’t realize this, of course, until you put it in your mouth and start to chew, and then it will become quite obvious. And at first, you won’t be sure whose hair it even is (even though it’s likely yours since you cooked the lasagna) until you pull it out of your mouth and examine it. Although you’re slightly grossed out from the experience, since it is your own hair, you’re able to shrug it off and continue to eat. You know where your hair’s been and whether it’s clean. At least, I hope you do.

This morning that’s what happened when I was eating my breakfast, which consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon and oatmeal. Somehow, a hair managed to find it’s way into the skillet when I was mid-scramble and very cleverly disguised itself until I took a bite. Fortunately, I realized what had happened immediately and pulled that sinister piece of keratin-infused egg out of my mouth before it had a chance to reach the back of my throat. Whew! That was a close one!! Ordinarily, I pull my hair back and use a tape roller over my entire upper body (in order to avoid this whole scenario) when I prepare and cook food for others. Because what can be worse than eating your own hair? Eating someone else’s! Yuck! But when I’m just cooking for me, I am a bit looser with the protocol; however, maybe I should reconsider.

And since I’m travelling down this road, I must ask, have you ever experienced this before? Actually, there is no need to answer, because I already know. Yes!! Of course you have!! Those little wisps of silky keratin can break free from your noggin at any given moment, and sometimes I think they dare one another to liberate themselves at the most inconvenient of times. I can just hear it, “Hey, Ralph! Wake up!! The old lady’s got a nice pot of stew on the stove simmering. Next time she removes the lid to stir it, do us a favor and dive in, would you? She’s not going to notice until she’s dished it up and someone squawks, ‘Mom, not again!’ Come on, comrade. Take one for the team and maybe, just maybe, she’ll start taking better care of the rest of us. These split ends are out of control!”

My oldest, my daughter, always seemed to end up with the ‘lucky’ slice or the ‘lucky’ bowl or the ‘lucky’ plate in our family. What do I mean by ‘lucky’? Have you ever been to New Orleans and ordered a King Cake? They’re special cakes that have a little baby baked inside and whoever gets the slice with the baby is supposed to be lucky. Hang on! Hang on! You people must think I’m one sick individual. Not a REAL baby, folks. A plastic baby! It’s actually pretty cute. Well, since I have a slightly twisted sense of humor, what I ended up doing whenever one of my ‘long locks’ decided to ‘take one for the team’ and dive or free fall into whatever dish I was preparing, I would remark with great pride when I’d observe the telltale signs (person suddenly stops eating and then attempts to grasp something barely visible between their thumb and index finger and gingerly pull it from their mouth), “Looks like our little girl’s the lucky one today, everyone! She got the lucky slice of pizza!” Pride? Look, I’m being facetious. When you go to the trouble of cooking something and part of you ends up in the pot, it’s humiliating and embarrassing. You want to run out of the room and hide in shame. But rather than make it all dramatic, I try to make it fun. Maybe there’s an awkward moment, but then people get over it and life goes on.

And since we’re on the subject of food and follicles, I have to bring up pets. Cats and dogs can wreak havoc in a kitchen. Even though these companions of ours tend to stay low to the ground, their hair or fur or whatever-you-want-to-call-it seems to defy gravity. Just try petting your dog or cat for a few seconds (with a nice ray of sunshine streaming in through the window) and watch what happens when you rub your hands together. That’s right, gross! It’s almost like breaking open a down pillow, the stuff flies EVERYWHERE, and there’s no rhyme of reason. Ok, now I have to tell a story.

Many years ago, when my husband was stationed in Spain, a guy from his shop invited us over for dinner. When we entered his apartment, he introduced us to his wife (who was laboring over a dish on the stove) and then encouraged us to have a seat until the meal was ready. The dish was some type of goulash and it smelled pretty good, but it was hard not to notice at least two cats that had taken up residence on the kitchen countertop. I didn’t say anything but I didn’t think it was too kosher to have cats on the counters. Cats + counters = bad. It seemed a tad unsanitary. But I was a guest and I tried to be polite and make the best out of the situation. Eventually, the meal was done and the wife ladled out generous portions for each of us. Yep! You got it! I was only two bites in when I realized that the spoonful of goulash I had just put into my mouth had come with a ‘special ingredient’. “Hmmm, that’s curious.” I thought to myself. “Definitely NOT human hair. Too short and much too wispy. Alright, shrug it off. Don’t make a big deal out of it. You can do this.” And then it happened again. And again. I ate as much as I could but I just couldn’t finish the meal. Nothing like a nice goulash infused with cat hair! You should have seen us on the drive home! I started coughing up a hairball in the middle of the interstate and my husband just about went berserk. “Nooooo!!! Honey, Nooooo! I just had the interior detailed!!”

You must know I’m just having fun now, right? The hairball part was fiction but the rest of the story was completely true!! Honestly, just thinking about it makes me a bit queasy. Anyway, I probably should wrap this up because here I am again, it’s well after midnight and I’m wearing this ol’ keyboard out. I just want to assure you, before you go, that if I ever have you over for dinner, you’ll never wind up with cat hair in your food. How can I guarantee that?! Well, for one, I don’t have a cat. And, two, we don’t have a tendency to let the neighborhood cats roam around freely inside of our house. They might sneak into the backyard whenever they feel a bit courageous or suicidal but they NEVER come inside of our home because our dog would eat them. Not kidding. And while I have your full and undivided attention, I would like to reiterate that I ONLY guaranteed that you wouldn’t get cat hair in your slice or serving or dish or what-have-you. I never said anything about dog or human hair. I will be careful though, I promise you. I will pull my hair back and use a tape roller as well as continually wash my hands with soap and water and I’ll even shampoo my hair and the dog’s beforehand (just to be safe). But should things not go according to plan, and a strand or two winds up in your dish? Know that I’m going to immediately drive you to the nearest convenience store and buy you a Mega Millions Lottery Ticket. Why? Because, my friend, it’s your ‘lucky’ day!!

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