I know a family of women with scissors. They are my boyfriend’s family. On Sundays we visit for lunch, and afterwards all of the women sit together in the living room. I don’t know where the men go– to nap, or to look at something outside in the yard. Whatever they do, it’s far away from us.
At first we sit formally, with tea cups carefully balanced on our knees. Eventually, one of us tucks a leg under, and another lies back on the couch. Someone moves to the ground where it’s easier to spread out. Our tongues loosen, too. It is here that I learned about the Women with Scissors.
My boyfriend’s grandmother’s soft voice starts the stories. She is a normally quiet woman. When we go to her home she constantly offers us juice from the fruit trees outside, and breakfast rolls that are almost as pillowy as her wrinkled hands. She told us of a day when she was young, a day she went to the hairdresser and asked for a complicated beehive style that doubled the circumference of her head. She was going to a party that night, and wanted to look her best. When she got home that afternoon, she realized that she wouldn’t be able to change her shirt without ruining the hair-do. She was wearing her favorite day shirt: it was yellow cotton, with elaborate embroidery of flowers at the throat. The shirt had small buttons at the back of the neck that were covered in the same yellow fabric. It would be inefficient to try to preserve the shirt: without a second thought, my boyfriend’s grandmother found a pair of scissors and cut right across that lovely embroidery, ruining it forever, but preserving the hair-do. She wore an open necked style to the party that night.
When the laughter had subsided, Aunt Margaret joined in with her story. She knew her first husband was having an affair with his secretary. It made her crazy but she didn’t know what to do. One day, he told her he was going out for the afternoon. She concealed her jealousy until he had left the apartment. Then, she rushed to follow him, slipping a pair of scissors into her purse. She followed her husband to the town square, where the secretary waited on a bench under a tall palm tree. Aunt Margaret watched her husband kiss the woman, and run a hand down her arm, offering the stranger a tenderness that he had never shown his wife. When she could bear the torture no more, she rushed towards them, waving the scissors in her hand. She grabbed a chunk of the secretary’s hair and cut it off, throwing the strands into the air to scatter with the leaves.
The scissor stories went on and on– every woman had one. My boyfriend’s sister laughed about a fantasy she had of holding the scissors to her husband’s neck. His mother told of a time when, in a fit of rage, she had cut off every blooming rose in her garden and let the blossoms rot on the grass. Eventually, the sun dropped beneath the horizon and the stories ran out. In the quiet darkness, they asked me what was my scissors story. I had one but I was hesitant to share, not being genetically related to my boyfriend’s family. I told them that ever since I started dating my boyfriend, 5 years ago, he had stopped cutting his hair. Now, his curly black hair was longer than mine, past his shoulders and approaching the middle of his back. I told his mother, grandmother, sister and aunt that I dream of cutting his hair in the night. I even wake up sometimes and try to grab his entire mane with one hand, testing to see if I could do away with it with one chop.
The women of my boyfriend’s family listened to me gravely. When I finished telling my story, they stayed quiet for a moment. I worried that I had crossed a line with them. Maybe I should have told them I didn’t have a scissors story, that I rarely thought about the tool at all. Then, my suegra said, “If you want to do it tonight, I’ll lend you my scissors.” The scissors women once again broke into laughter, wiping tears from her eyes. My boyfriend walked into the room of women. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Oh, nothing you need to know about. Your girlfriend, though, she’s one of us.”