My hair and I have a long and complicated relationship. I have pondered, prepped, primed, processed and pined for long, straight hair but my locks decided otherwise a very long time ago.
My first experience with my hair came at five when I refused to submit to my mother’s detangling ritual. I locked her out of the bathroom for nearly a half hour and emerged with dry, knotted and tangled hair. The next day I was at the barber getting a bowl cut. It was an awful haircut and often described as a haircut that involves putting a bowl on the head of a child and cutting around it. At it’s very best you see it on little boys. It was totally humiliating for a five-year-old girl. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowl-cut
“But I’m a girl,” I screamed from the ominous black barber’s chair”. My mother’s response to her distraught five-year-old, “When you can learn to take care of your hair properly, you can have long hair.” If only I had known then what I know now, it wouldn’t have changed a thing. Thinking about that moment in the chair still causes me to shiver painfully.
At twelve, I discovered sun-in and promptly and furiously began to spray it into my dark brown hair. I didn’t take notice of the word moderation but continued to spray at least twice daily. I was aiming at being a blonde but ended up looking like a copper penny.
At sixteen I found Jean Claude who convinced me to go with his very own personal chic cut. He drank red wine throughout the haircut and left for long periods of time to talk on the phone. I wanted to run from his chair and into the streets of NYC but Jean Claude cut only one side of the head at a time and I was trapped until he decided the haircut was complete. In the end, I left with hair that was at the very least ten different lengths. I cried for weeks and discovered scarves. The shag was another disaster but I already had the scarves.
I can look at every picture of myself from five to fifty and tell you a story about my hair. The people and places captured in the picture have less significance than my hair and my efforts to shape it into the latest style. I’m not proud that so much time and attention can be traced to this endeavor.
I wish I could wake up and decide if today is a straight hair day and just go for it. But my wavy hair requires 60 minutes and a lot of equipment, enthusiasm and muscle to torture it into submission. Is it really worth it? Truth is I love my waves in photos as long as it is winter. In the summer, I’m a slave to hair bands, clips and ponytail holders—sometimes it’s a major bummer.
When I discovered my artistic talent at the age of forty, my paintings of women were bold and oddly devoid of straight haired women. The women were more punk than Cher. Wild abandon ruled. Reaching far beyond trends and fashion, the paintings are seemingly my breakout moments. Are they of a woman coming of age and courageously announcing I’m me and I’m free?
By admission I have not given up the blow-dryer, the flat iron or the hot curlers because if I have the time, I CAN wake up on any given day and decide for myself what kind of dance my hair and I would like to try.
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