Thursday, July 18, 2013


It's funny that the primary way we identify people is by their hair since hair is the easiest part of our appearance to change. We tend to describe people as "the red-haired woman" or the "dark-haired man with goatee." Of course, goatees can be shaven; hair can be dyed. I've been unrecognizable to people I've seen every day of my life because of a drastic hair change.

Me? I'm always a long-blonde-haired person.

Mostly always.

I was a long-haired little girl:

Adults would notice me because of all of that hair. Since I was a quiet and shy child, the attention would embarrass me--but I loved having long hair.

When I was twelve, my aunt cut off all of my hair at my request. My mom was so upset she cried. It would have been better if I had talked to her about it first. I think she would have been all right if our family weren't having such a hard time. That was the first time I changed my hair as a protest for all that was wrong in my life.

The short hair didn't last. It was long again by the time I was fourteen. I had Michelle Phillips hair, the ultimate hippy hairstyle. During the adolescent madness (or brilliance!) of my sixteenth year, I recruited a friend to help me dye my hair pink.
I felt like a Krystal Princess. Again, my mom was terribly upset. I can't blame her too much for that. It took about two months for the dye to wash out. 

The next drastic change came just before my eighteenth birthday when I cut several inches from my hair and permed it for the first time. It was a fun hairstyle, but my hair is a little too heavy for spiral curls. So it ended up wavy within a couple of months. By the time I started college the next fall, I (once again) had long blonde hippy hair.

Over the next few years I had a pretty steady pattern of cut off a few inches, grow several inches, trim, cut, leave long. It was always past my shoulders and mostly straight and always blonde. People recognized me from a distance by my hair.

2003 was a pretty bad year for me. That's the year I ran off to Florida "for an adventure" and met the man who would end up my ex-husband. I had already started off the year by creating some new ex-boyfriends, so I can't say romance was my strength that year. The best indication that I was going through some drastic period was when I cut off thirteen inches of hair and permed the rest.

I let my hair grow out again. As usual.

But a divorce seemed a good time for a change. My sister and I had found some really lovely photos of women with deep red hair and fringe. I hadn't had bangs for years. Well, maybe I had. They grow away so quickly, I don't remember. But the divorce took forever, so I delayed the hair change. When it did finalize, I threw myself a party (James was one of my guests). I was teaching two classes that semester, working on the first chapter of my thesis, and starting to spend a lot of time with James, so I delayed the drastic hair change until just before finals. James was pretty overwhelmed by the bright red dye.

So was my poor mother. (I think I've tortured her enough with my hair changes for a lifetime.)

It had faded by the time he came back from Ohio for Christmas break. Plus, his beard had grown in. We were hair happy.

Last summer was my latest drastic change. It came from pure exhaustion over brushing my long locks. So, I asked my friend Grace to cut them all off, and I sent another ponytail to Locks of Love.

A few days ago Boo was at her friend's house and gained several stripes of pink and turquoise throughout her golden brown hair. I admit I'm a little envious, but I need to keep my hair conservative for work.

And people always mistake Ji for a little girl because of his long, curly golden brown hair. I know we need to trim it, but how can I take scissors those curls?
Summer term started a few weeks ago, so James cut his hair and beard. His time as an actor and male model is closing down. He may not be mistaken for a Muslim or homeless man once he has a short beard and hair, but he's still recognizable to our children. I worry the most for Ji if he ever shaves his beard completely. I think Ji will search everywhere for his daddy.

1 comment:

  1. As a fellow member of the big hair club, I get it. I once got charged extra for a trim because of how long it was. I was living in Knoxville, TN at the time, and it didn't seem right to experience such big-haired bigotry that close to Dollywood. I also had a very bald baby girl at the time and had to make some big bows to stick to her head so people would stop thinking I was putting dresses on a little boy. Now my hairstyle is largely dictated by a baby boy who is a hair puller. Someday I'll figure out a real style. But I think identity is definitely somehow tied up in hair.