Monday, June 21, 2010

Since yesterday, I been wanting to write about these four sentences in this post.

The gesture she makes at her own hair, just before she clams up, is not, I think, a mean girl's I'm-so-gorgeous primp. It's comic business that would have fit amusingly with the wisecrack that was never cracked. My friend, a woman who, like Fiorina, has recently regrown hair, feels sure she has the ability to recognize a shared dark humor about hair that women who have not gone through the experience don't pick up on. Hair is a big deal to women, and our ears perk up when we hear talk about other women's hair. [emphasis added]

I decided not to comment because the conversation was centered around whether it was not a joke but an insult, Fiorina's qualifications, how distractions hurt discussions about policy positions, and whether it's tacky or appropriate to bring up cancer.

Is hair very trivial in comparison to some of that commentary, and a little more trivial than most of it? Undoubtedly, but hair is what's been on my mind. I'm not a tabloid-reading pop culture addict, I just agree with the bolded sentence. Hair is important. I think it is important to men, too. (Yes, maybe not as important.) What's more, women's hair is important to men. (And yes, men's is important to women, but maybe not as important.)

Back to the hair twirl. It didn't strike me as either primping or a prop. I am not sure where she was going with her remarks, whether she had a punchline. Maybe not. What I saw in the gesture was self-consciousness about hair.

Not a political endorsement (and I don't live in CA anyway, so what difference does it make?), but I like Fiorina's hair. Reminds me a bit of my own. I've always loved my hair. It is a stylist's dream, will do anything. I've had it very long, long, medium, short, and short-short. Sometimes when it is short-short (or even short) I get a flash of self-consciousness, even though I prefer my hair very short.

In recent years, the grey has been creeping in. I resolved to never dye it, and I never will. (OK, when I was about 30, in an act of rebellion, I had a patch at my temple stripped and dyed purple - sadly, it was a disaster. But that isn't the same thing.) Again, there are times when I have a flash of self-consciousness. I ask myself, maybe a woman my age should still have solid black hair? Or people will assume I am a lot older, because they never see women my age with grey (or even salt and pepper) hair?

I do not mean at all to liken this fleeting feeling to a woman's (or man's) experience with hair loss and regrowth due to chemotherapy. I've known several women in that position, I can only imagine what they were going through. I'd have to concede to their superior knowledge on the shared dark humor of hair loss.

Society does have expectations about hair. Both men and women internalize them. The idea that long hair (especially on young women) is sexy, feminine. Blondes v. brunettes v. redheads. Natural curly hair v. straightened hair. Bald men. Beards and mustaches. The rebellion of the '20s, with women cutting their long tresses. Perms. Dyed hair. Sideburns. Farrah. Tweezing, shaving, waxing, electrolysis. Shaved heads, mullets, mohawks.

There is something special and vibrant expressed when women who are undergoing chemotherapy wear a wild headscarf, or boldly take off their wigs, revealing baldness, or a cute undyed pixie. I remember Aunt Jean wore a white cap with flowery ruffles to Bob's graduation. Yes, I believe there is something darkly humorous about it that outsiders may appreciate, but maybe only others in the "club" can really identify with it.

Back to the bolded sentence above, which made me think of another hair story (again, nothing as dramatic as a cancer survivor's tale). A couple of years ago, my sister decided it was time to make the transition from Kiwi (as our brother called her) to natural. She'd started to go grey at about age 30, as Mimmie had, although unlike Mimmie, she dyed it black. After she had a grandchild, I think being a grey haired lady didn't seem so bad. Also, being grey in one's 50s isn't quite the same as being grey in one's 30s.

It took a year, but she did it. In that year, her hair was every blend of colors you can imagine. Her hair was the focus of so much attention, and a subject of conversation nearly every day in West Shokan. All people could talk about was her hair! Some loved it and some hated it, and said so! The transition is long over now, and her hair has settled into salt and pepper (mostly salt) and it looks great.

Back in January, she came to Bob's 50th birthday, and saw a couple of my friends whom she had not seen in years. After everyone who was traveling a distance left, we chatted for a while with our friends, caught them up on Bob's surgeries, etc. But what was the first and hottest topic? My sister's hair!!

Finally, this reminds me of this post, specifically this excerpt (written October 9, 1982):

As soon as I reached the age of reason, I rushed for the tweezers and plucked out practically all of my eyebrows. Or maybe that should be “eyebrow,” because I was, after all, only born with one.

Maybe it is time to join our “rebellious” sisters and let our hair all grow out. Truly, I despise the society which made sleek, smooth calves the prerequisite for femininity. But I am not among those who can break from tradition and proudly display what nature has given me intact. I admire those women, but I am somewhat too susceptible to popular opinion.

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