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  • Kristan Higgins

Li’l Flannery

Updated: May 6, 2022

I bought a human head.

Okay, okay, I bought a fake human head. But still.

first day of school 2007

My bébés on the first day of school, 2007

I’m going to be doing my daughter’s hair for her wedding in June, and here’s the thing. The Princess doesn’t love to have her hair done. There’s a window in which she’ll let me practice on her, and then the window closes. I’m pretty good with hair, having once had long hair myself, and having been the kind of mommy who loved braiding and brushing my daughter’s hair.

My grandmother used to French braid my hair, and I loved it. My own sainted mother had more of a sadistic approach to hair—the “Hungarian water torture” in which she dumped ice-cold water over our heads to rinse the shampoo, or the time she just cut off my ponytail because my hair was tangled, and she lacked the patience to comb it out (I still resent your Prince Valiant jokes, Mother!). And so I vowed that, should I have a little girl, I would be the kind of mother who knew how to do hair.

And I was. Flannery went off to the first day of school for twelve years with French braids. Every day, she’d sit on the living room floor while I brushed and styled her hair. She had hairbands and barrettes and clips. She still lets me brush her hair—it’s incredibly thick and silky, and it’s a Zen-like experience.

Thence cometh her engagement. We looked into having a professional stylist do her hair on the wedding day, but those services are few and far between on Cape Cod (and ridiculously expensive…$800? For one person?). “No matter!” I said. “I can do something.”

And, bless her, she trusts me. So we’ve had two “sessions” in which I’ve given some lovely wedding updos a try. Flannery winces and sighs and, a couple of times, has admired the end product. But wedding hair is not first day of school hair. Wedding hair has to stay in place. It has to have texturizing spray and dry shampoo and heat protection and flat ironing and back-combing and ten thousand bobby pins, and my daughter’s time is limited.


So I bought Li’l Flannery here. She is a practice head made just for these purposes.

I love her.

When I got the notification she had arrived at the post office, I texted McIrish. “My head is here! Please pick it up!”

Li’l Flannery has immediately become a family joke. I sent the Princess a picture of her new sister. “Is she your favorite daughter?” she replied. That night, as I was in the bathroom, McIrish poked LF’s head in and asked, “Do you need anything?” resulting in my screams. Later, when he was asleep, I clamped her to the counter and combed her hair over her face so she’d be the first thing he saw when he got up for work in the morning.

I took her to the Cape with me this weekend, figuring I could practice up here. Texted the family and said I had locked Li’l Flannery in a closet and feared for my safety. The next text said “Mommy isn’t here, and Li’l Flannery doesn’t like you”…as one does on Halloween.


I’ve become quite fond of Li’l Flannery. We did hair last night till one a.m. and she did not complain once about my pulling those little neck hairs. I’ve perfected flat iron curls and a French twist on her. I’m sure Real Flannery will be quite pleased in our next practice session.

For now, she is clamped to the counter, patiently waiting for me to do some writing and then perhaps wash her hair.

Hey. It’s a hobby.


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