Hair

cropped-p1020872.jpg“Give me a head with hair, Long, beautiful hair, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen. Give me down to there. Hair. Shoulder length or longer. Here Baby, there Mama, everywhere Daddy, Daddy, Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair…”

It’s official, my hair is now an actual obsession. It used to be something I hated and ignored as much as possible; limp and lifeless and greasy, really not attractive except for the time between the fresh cut and the next wash, that time when I could enjoy the fruits of the stylist’s efforts.

That time, the time between the cut and the first wash, was always too short for my liking. I have tried, I really have tried to make my hair nice like other peoples’ hair, but I found these things to be true: gel doesn’t work for me – as soon as it is dry the hair falls into its natural direction; hair spray and mousse cause asthma attacks; I get skin allergies from pretty much all hair products, and if I’m not allergic to it when I start using it, I will develop allergies to it soon enough; and, my all important apathy. With my hair product disabilities, and my loathing of hair technology and the general hatred of fussing, I have never been able to make the most of my hair, keeping it volumeless, tied up and close to my head.

dadMy dislike of hair grooming activity was not genetically determined. My father was vain about his hair, he gladly used a hair product called Brylcreem (“a little dab’ll do ya”) to slick it back, and, later, after it had started to turn white, Grecian Formula in a vain attempt to turn it back to black. He was a man of his time, always trying to keep his hair looking its best, even when he was older and riddled with cancer and dying.

My mother also used to fuss with her hair; my father liked her hair teased up into a beehive. “You have a small head,” he used to say to her, “You need volume in your hair to make your head look bigger.” She believed him, and kept her hair up, leaving it up for a week at a time, wrapping it in toilet paper before going to sleep at night. Her hair is a lot like mine was, fine and limp, she had to use lots of aerosol hair spray on it, and big rollers to give it body and volume. Now she wears her hair almost shaved, never much longer than #4 guard.

I have a memory: I am sitting in my high chair and my father is attempting to impart some body to my limp fine hair. He is using the hand held hair dryer on high, my scalp feels like it is burning. my eyeballs feel like they are drying out, and my brain feels like it is poaching inside my skull. I remember that I was screaming, I remember that my mother was yelling at him to stop, and I remember that he kept going with an awesome frustrated determination, focusing his rage on his toddler daughter’s hair’s lack of body, as though its inability to hold curl was some distorted refection of some character flaw of his. His rage was white hot, and I could feel it blistering my imperfections; he concentrated it as though if he were able to conquer my hair, bending it to his will, he would be able to bring his own demons to their knees, kneeling in submission before him.

Was I traumatized by this experience? Yes, probably, though I have never talked about it with any of the therapists I have seen. I know that I’m really not comfortable being in a stylist’s chair where I am without my glasses, helpless like a toddler in a high chair, unless I know and trust the stylist, and even then it’s not great for me. I suspect that most other people like going to the stylist, but I am not like other people. Additional evidence of trauma is that, although I have tried, I have never been able to learn to use hair styling technology with any proficiency, leading to my hair being extraordinarily blah and never having been what I consider to be an asset in the search for friends or place. I know that I have never liked my hair. Traumatized? Maybe. Self-conscious that my hair is not beautiful, that I lack perfection? Yes, I am, and have pretty much always been.

braided vSo, being the pessimistic perfectionist that I am, I believed that if my hair was unattractive, then I should get rid of it, and the afternoon of New Year’s Eve day, 1999 heading towards 2000 – in prep for Y2K, maybe – I girded my loins with a flake bar and went, accompanied by my friend Max, to the barber around the corner where I had my head shaved. At that moment, my hair was long, and held in a braid that I considered to be wimpy and unattractive. At that moment, I figured that if my hair was unattractive, it might as well not be, and I got rid of it. I mostly kept my hair shaved off or very short (#2 guard) for the next ten years.

One of the things I hate the most about having my hair cut is having my hair blow dried, so after years of hating the process I have asked the stylists not to use the drying equipment on me. This one small assertion makes a big difference, but I still hate getting my hair styled. Another small assertion that makes a difference for me is documenting the haircut – I always take a photo of the strands of hair on the floor before they are swept up into the pile of disembodied hair. I believe I am going to make an art project of these someday.

As I was growing it out, or rather leaving more time between shaves, I noticed that it was coming in all bouncy and with quite a bit more body than my hair of old, sticking away from my head like an unruly version of the flipped up hair of the singer Lesley Gore in the 60s. Then, mysteriously, it started to curl, just at the ends, almost into ringlets, taking on the look of a grown out perm. One day a friend asked if I was using a curling iron on it or something, and then everyone, me included, started to notice it.

As near as I can figure, the individual hairs are thicker than they used to be. Before of ten hairs found, most would be fine and maybe three would be a little thick. Now, of ten hairs found, three will be fine and most will be thick, three times as thick as the fine hairs. I had heard, long ago, that when the hair grows back in after having been shaved off, it comes back thicker and wavier. I didn’t believe it, but maybe it’s true. All I know it that I have somehow ended up with what my friends call “shampoo ad hair”, thicker and bouncier and wavier than it ever was before.

hair-2Now, for the first time in my life I love and enjoy my hair, and, wonder of wonders, I have a strict hair regime: I don’t use any electric equipment on it (I haven’t yet curled it – though I may someday); the only hair product I use is a little bit of shampoo; I cut it at least once per year, I wash it at least once per week, and I comb it at least twice per week, and I think about it at least once per day. Other than thinking about it and talking about it, I use benign neglect as a grooming process, and right now I have the hair of my dreams, black and shiny and voluminous. Enviable hair, the hair that I have always wanted…

“…there ain’t no words for the beauty, the splendour, the wonder of my hair, hair, hair, hair, hair…”

~ by thiscassandra on Thursday 18 July 2013.

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