I have always envied those folks who have had the same haircut their whole lives. They found something they liked, it worked for them, and they stuck with it. Commitment! Regardless of trends, or fashion, or even common sense, they stick with that style no matter what. I tend to think those folks are fairly predictable in their clothing choices as well, but that’s another blog post.
That’s not really how my relationship with my hair works at all. I have sported pretty much every hair style under the sun; I have had red hair, brown hair, blonde hair, long hair, short hair, straight hair, curly hair – I’ve had it all.
When I was a little kid, I had a shag haircut…for real. In my kindergarten picture, the very first school picture a kid gets, a HUGE rite of passage, I am wearing a toothless smile, a pink, zip up pantsuit, and a blonde shag. My mother, a normally puritan and conservative matriarch, gave me a haircut made popular by Jane Fonda’s performance in “Klute” – you know, the movie where she plays a prostitute? I had the hair of a whore at 5 years old.
My two older sisters were allowed to grow their hair out. They had lovely, long tresses. My eldest sister Mary had honey colored hair (always reminded me of Sleeping Beauty’s hair in the Disney classic) and my other sister Sarah had rich, chestnut colored hair. While Mary usually wore her hair down (classic) Sarah would often wear braids, or carefully construct a bun that would flawlessly make it through the day. As a young child, I envied my sisters’ long hair. I used to wear towels and steal my mother’s wigs and pretend, for hours in front of the mirror, that I had long hair. I begged her to let me grow it out, but it fell on deaf ears.
Apparently, according to my mother, I didn’t have the disposition it took to have long hair. I made a fuss about most things in my youth, and combing, washing and taking care of hair would have been at the top of the list. (Let me be clear, I can now say, as an adult and a mother, that I was a horrible child. If I had to raise myself, I would be dead by now; certainly the child/Liz would drive the adult/Liz to some desperate act either against her adult-self or her child-self. And yes, I understand how a therapist would get off reading that sentence, but hey, I’m a Gemini.)
The summer after the shag, my mother gave me a “pixie” made famous by Mia Farrow’s performance in “Rosemary’s Baby.” (I am assuming that is not at all a subconscious reflection of my behavior as a child.) That was also the summer I spent every day in the pool and never bothered with showering. Why should I hop in the shower when I spent the whole day in water? (Duh…) Well, around July 28th, it became clear why perhaps rinsing chlorine out of my blonde hair might have been time well spent. My hair started taking on a neon greenish hue, which was really fun for my older sisters and brother, because that was the color of my swimsuit that summer as well. It was subtle at first, but around August 15th, it was pretty obvious. I started blending in with the local flora. People pointed at the grocery store and my sibling’s taunts increased. Lesson learned. Rinse off when you get out of the pool, Blondie!
Finally, when I was in high school, I had a modicum of control over my life and looks, and I grew my hair out. I finally had long hair! I wore it all different kinds of ways. I would get up early to braid, or curl, or tease…it was fun. It usually only lasted until 3rd period, but still, I looked great at 8:00! As I got older, my hair got a little bit darker with each year. I wasn’t a fan. I preferred to be a sassy blonde, so in high school, I started adding highlights. That was my first foray into color. It was fun. I also tried perming my hair. That was not fun, but for some unknown and stupid reason, I continued to get them. (This is when older, wiser Liz wishes she could have a heart to heart with younger, stupid Liz and tell her to avoid fashion trends.)
In college I had different hair styles. Freshmen year I had a bob, because I joined a sorority, because, well, OK, it seemed like the thing to do. Most of the gals in the sorority had a bob, so when in Rome. (Clearly, I was more of a follower at this point in my life.) I was surrounded by blondes with bobs. (New band name, I call it!) Sophomore year was another bad perm, and junior and senior, (heavy sigh) I sported a mullet. Yup, like a bad Joan Jet wanabe. Not only did I have a mullet my junior year, but my senior year, I permed that bad mullet. That’s right, a permed mullet. Looking back on it, I’m not sure what was worse, the hair or the Aqua-net hairspray addiction that went with it. Gotta love the 80’s!
The rest of my adult life, my hair has been everything, although I do believe the last perm I ever got was in 1992. (Good riddance to bad rubbish.) I also started recognizing a pattern with my hair. Usually, after a tragedy, I made a drastic change to my appearance. Some people get tattoos when there is a death of a loved one, I made an appointment at the salon. There is something about cutting off many inches of hair, hair that took years to grow, that can be freeing when one is in pain. Then, as one heals and mourns, there is something about growing it back again. Seeing slow change over months, seeing and feeling familiar locks against the neck or shoulders can give comfort, knowing time has passed and we soldier on.
At the end of the day, what matters is how our hair makes us feel. It’s OK to let go of new trends or styles or colors, and it’s OK to jump on board too. You own it, you get to wear it how you want. I know this sounds ridiculously simplistic and Pre-K, but honestly, it has taken me about 48 years to figure that shit out. My hair is like me – constantly changing, growing, morphing, and as I go through life it’s kind of fun to look back at the different styles I rocked and some that I did not. I have recently decided that I am going to grow my hair out again, but who knows? Maybe I’ll get bored along the way and do some damage before it reaches my shoulders.