It is supposed to be the princes who go bald. They are Charming or Galant or Dauntless — looks don’t enter into it. They might even turn out to be distinguished with receding hairlines, or at the very least a touch of grey.
But that is just one of those things no one ever warns you about. Your handsome prince will spend year after year becoming a king more handsome still, while your own currency fades. No, not even as graceful and leisurely as that. It implodes.
Three days lying prone in a glass coffin with a suspended circulatory system left Snow White with patches of alabaster scalp showing through. The hunter broke her rib cage in half, held her still-beating heart in his hands — but that is the worst part of it all. She would give him back the heart, or anything else he asked of her, if only he could make her raven curls grow.
Beauty — what a wretched curse of a name, we all feel sorry for her — turned out to have an allergic reaction to Beast fur. Her skin swelled and puckered, her nails and hair lost their shine. She takes cartloads of antihistamines, but her hormones are all out of sync. And even though her Beast is now a man, she continues to swell and shed and dull.
Rapunzel started losing hers because of the sheer weight and pull of it. At first, she hid coils of it inside her mattress, trying to keep it secret. (We all start out trying to keep it secret.) When the seams of the mattress split, she tried to bury it, to burn it. But there was always, always more hair to lose, until it seemed like she was drowning.
Now, she uses her hair to make darling little wigs for the rest of us. She dyes them chestnut and ochre and ebony, and adorns them with little ribbons and bows. And not a single person is fooled.
At first, we each thought we were alone. We each were desperate to fix the problem. Now we know that there is no fixing it, but we have each other. That is something.
Briar Rose is the worst off. One hundred years. By the time she woke, what little hair was left intact had matted into spider webs and mouse nests. It tangled on thorns and was heavy with dust. She ripped it out with her arthritic fingers, leaving a pale, sad fuzz that wasn’t even alive enough to be grey.
She will not wear her wig. She will not cover her peach-fuzzy head at all. She is trying to convince us all to open our eyes, to see what we know lies before us.
There are things no one warns you about.
How fragile beauty is. How meaningless. How easily a princess who has used up her beauty can turn into the wicked witch.
Better a witch than nothing, she says. We are starting to agree.
Heather Morris lives in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, and Bards And Sages Quarterly, and she reviews books at thebastardtitle.wordpress.com.