Peer Review by Audrey_W (Singapore)

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A thank you letter to my mother's hairdresser.

By: MarSan

To Rocío, I really hope that's how you write your name, 

How's the salon holding up? Well, I say salon and mean the little room at the side of your parent's house. I ask how's it holding up and mean that I pray every night you're not one of the small names who will be erased after all of this is over. And I write you this letter and I mean thank you. But you already know that. 

You already know that because you already know my mother. Sometimes I wonder if you know her better than I do, but I quickly convince myself that we're all just unraveling her different faces. She stays elusive, despite being seen. She stays hidden because she is found. She knows her own details so well, she forgets to look at the bigger picture sometimes. What do you see in her, when curling her hair? When crafting intricate masks for her to wear? I think I caught a glimpse of it the other day. 

The loneliness and quiet of a world inside four walls have made us find each other inside the corners. It is sometimes jarring, I'll admit, but we've found a way to dance around one another. So as a sign of truce, mom asked me to dye her hair. It was a deep plum color. We didn't have the right tools or the right hands, but she was patient. I parted the hair into four sections. She asked me to make sure her grey hairs didn't show. I told her she was beautiful, and she made a face at me through the mirror. So I laughed at the border of tears. 

I know my words fell on deaf ears, that she was made to believe at a much younger age that she had to choose between being strong or beautiful. That she was made to believe she could only be beautiful at a much younger age. That her beauty was made to please, to wear as a mask. Traded, shown, performed, never owned. And despite this, her smile was wide with truth when I was finished. It was the same smile she wears every time she comes back with glitter on her nails or golden on her eyelids. A smile that lets you know that deep down she doesn't only believe it but knows she's beautiful, even though she'll never dare to say it out loud. 

So I thank you, for painting her nails a different color every time. She'll spend the whole month stealing glimpses at her calloused, rough, painfully wonderful hands. I thank you for never trying to cover her up, for making sure to picture her in outlandish jewel tones, in orchid and teal. She'll complain about the fake eyelashes but dance the whole night. I thank you for knowing that you can't convince her with words, that she will only listen to the silence after you sculpt her before a mirror. That her beauty is malleable, elusive, delicate, and free. 

I thank you, spinner, who pulls the silk of women's beauty out of their pain. I thank you, confessional, that swallows their muffled screams, their whispered secrets. I thank you, hairdresser Rocío, that makes my mother see herself as beautiful, even when she's not allowed to. 

Yours never and forever, 
someone whose name you're not sure how to spell.


Peer Review

This piece interested me because the writer used such simple and honest language to express many complex emotions and circumstances.

I think the writer already does a great job conveying the characters of the mother especially, but also the hairdresser and author. I think the writer could write a bit more about the hairdresser, since the letter is addressed to Rocío, but the way it is now is really great.

What made you choose to write about your mother and the role of a hairdresser?
Do you think your mother can change her mindset about beauty? Do you think she should?

I really like how this letter is almost an observation. You look at people others wouldn't think twice about, and really notice their complexities and problems. A lot of writing is observing what others don't see, and I think you definitely did that with this beautiful piece!

Reviewer Comments

Good luck in the competition! I hope my comments help, and I hope you do well. Thank you for sharing your work - I truly enjoyed reading it closely.