Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why do we care about hair?

Hair. We cut it, color it, shave it, wax it, pin it up and let it down. Hair can be become the calling card of who we are or something we hide behind. We make many judgments about others, both men and women based on their hair. I know personally whenever I see someone else with rainbow colored locks I instantly think they are someone who’s creative and likes to take risks (and also doesn’t have a 9-5 day job). Dreadlocks might signify a person is a hippy with a relaxed, laid back lifestyle. Baldness on a woman might mean she’s battling cancer though on a man it can be dignified without the same assumption. Long hair (think supermodel Giselle Bundchen) can be a status and sex symbol while women with short hair can be labeled in a way that has nothing to do with her sexual orientation. Having platinum blonde hair leaves me open to judgment as well but to quote Dolly Parton, “I’m not offended at all by the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…and I also know that I’m not blonde.”

Recently it’s come to my attention that this judgment of what covers our head starts before we are even walking or talking. Charlotte, my 18 month old daughter was born with about as much head on her head as I have on my arms. A year and a half later she has more teeth than hair or eyebrows and what she does have is so light and thin it can only really be seen while wet. To me her lack of hair is exciting – it makes her blue eyes pop in photos and I still get to treasure that first haircut moment. I glued bows on her head when she was an infant but now she’s gotten so she’ll pull anything off her head so I don’t fight it. To me, she’s beautiful. To the general public she’s a boy.
I tried my best to dress her gender appropriate then I realized it didn't matter

From the cashier at Trader Joe’s to the carpet installer at Lowe’s, almost everyone we meet outside of friends and family calls Charlotte a “little dude.” She can be wearing all pink in a dress and it still doesn’t matter. If I dress her in something blue or orange then forget about it. I once was offended but now I’m amused. Society has a fascination with hair it seems and we have gone so far to use it to identify genders. I’ve had friends with cancer who have lost their hair and they’ve spent a great deal of time agonizing about the loss of their hair. For most women, identity is tied to their mane and the loss of it can leave one feeling less feminine. I know women who’ve cried from cutting their hair too short because, “I don’t want to look like a boy!” and I know men who’ve confided they hated pixie cuts on their spouse or other women. “She use to be hot…until she cut her hair.”

Seriously…why do we care so much about hair?

I’ve battled with my hair all my life. Mine is thin, it doesn’t grow past shoulder length and I never wake up with it looking perfect. My hair doesn’t air dry pretty and it doesn’t look good when it hasn’t been washed. I’ve had my hair short, I’ve let it grow long, it’s been dirty blonde, I’ve had highlights, it’s been orange and now it’s platinum on its way to ash blonde. When I was pregnant it grew thick and the longest it’s ever been and I enjoyed braiding my hair for the first time in probably 20 years. After Charlotte was born and the pregnancy hormones left my body it began to fall out in clumps. I’ve never had chemotherapy but I can imagine the horror of having your hair fall out if it was anything like what I experienced. I started taking supplements and I’ll let you in on a secret, I even got hair extensions to thicken it up. Hair extensions are not as awesome as you’d think they are – they fall out, they pull, you have to cover up the tape where it’s glued in and that’s not easy to do when you have 3 inch pieces of hair from breakage. I’ve been coloring my hair platinum for probably 10 years and I’ve never had breakage or unruly hair this horrible since having a baby.
bows and blondes before my hair started falling out

Between my bald baby and my broken falling out hair, Charlotte and I make quite a pair when we go out.
Charlotte, in all her perfection, is a girl and a beautiful one. Her identity is not tied to her hair because she’s not even aware she’s missing out. Her smile, her personality, her gentle nature and her laugh are what make her beautiful not what she’s wearing or what’s sprouting out of her head. She’s taught me a lesson in, what’s the big deal with hair? In our lifetime we will go through many hair changes and it’s important to remember not to become attached. Hair will fall out, it will change colors and eventually turn grey and it will probably stop growing. Some of us, like my grandmother, will worry about how our hair looks until the day we die. My southern belle of a granny put all her stock into how her hair looked and if it wasn’t done she always said she felt a mess. She probably spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over her lifetime on keeping her hair perfectly coifed. She kept her hair dresser as busy as I keep mine. When she passed away she was cremated so what her hair looked like then didn’t even matter. What people said about her at her funeral had more to do with how she was as a person than her appearance.

So my point is, enjoy your hair but know it’s not the core of who you are. Platinum blonde is my signature look and I’ll probably never deviate far from that no matter what the cost. I don’t care if people judge me by what’s on my head because chances are their assumptions are wrong anyway. Think of your hair as a decorative accent like paint is to a house. Nothing has to be on the walls or you can enhance them with whatever color you choose but at the end of the day no one really cares as much as you. Others can have their opinions but you’re the one living in that space so make it as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.

As I’ve learned from Charlotte, if you don’t have hair…a little smile can go a long ways…


And there’s always hats. Thank God for hats.

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