Genetic Vanity

Moments of Unexpected Beauty

Sage is startled when he notices an onlooker. Sage is startled when he notices an onlooker.

I peeked through the bathroom doorway, observing my son Sage meticulously applying “product” to his hair and lovingly combing each gel-coated strand. I knew better than to speak; any interruption of his intense preening would result in a shrill and eloquent reprimand. I had trouble biting my tongue, though, when I had a sudden revelation: This wasn’t just a six-year-old with a slightly disconcerting hair obsession. This was a Family Legacy.

Sage carefully inspects his work in the mirror. Sage carefully inspects his work in the mirror.

My son was a miniature reincarnation of my grandma Naomi’s older brother Paul. Not only did Paul share a name with Sage’s father; he also shared Sage’s overwhelming concern with hair. I’d never met Paul myself, but I’d heard stories about him.

My grandma's brother Paul as an adult; note the still-immaculate hair. My grandma’s brother Paul as an adult; note the still-immaculate hair.

During the height of the Depression, my grandma had explained…

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