Post alert. If you’re having a tough day, this maybe too hard to read especially if you don’t read to the end (the inspiring part). I hope it gets better, by the way.
Don’t worry, I’ll be back next week with news about the book!! Yes, I said book.
For a long time now, I’ve been mad at my hair. It started at fortyish. I told myself all the things everyone else says. It’s too thin. It’s hormones. Having the kids ruined it. Need more Biotin. Using the wrong shampoo. My water is too hard…. And on and on and on.
After enduring countless salons and stylists and cuts, I finally realized very recently that I just wanted it off. All of it. I was so very angry and tired of my hair.
Had I been bold enough to shave it off I would have—but I live in the north and it gets cold here. And my head is shaped like a potato.
I cut it off—pixie short. I love it. The feeling after I cut it surprised me—shocked me, in fact. The feeling was more powerful than I thought it would be.
I felt profoundly relieved, as if something awful had left me—as if my hair was a malignant disease, and now I’ve had it excised.
At the age of five, I was cast as Goldilocks in my kindergarten play. I did not want the part, but that didn’t matter because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t asked. Had I one iota of talent, it might have been fun.
I did not and it was not.
I had long golden hair and that was the reason I was selected to be Goldilocks. I would have been a better bear, or a tree.
The teachers goaded and coaxed me to just say simple things about something called porridge.
I did not understand why I was being tormented daily to practice such silliness at kindergarten, while all the other kids got to play outside.
Then one day, we drove to a church or somewhere that smelled like a church, and they gave me a dress.
I saw all my friends there. Oh, then they told me it was performance day and I had to wear the dress on the big stage and recite my lines.
I’m not sure how many rotten tomatoes I received, but I remember the teacher being miffed that no one could hear me.
It was also the last day I ever acted.
The Goldilocks calamity was but a tiny bead on a long string of tragedies that having long blonde hair in a small-town Texas caused for me.
I could almost sit on my hair at age five, which meant it had been growing for a long time. Every day meant that getting dressed was some kind of tortured brushing event. It meant I had to sit still when I wanted to play and endure pulling, occasional yanking, and then styling. My mother let us watch cartoons to distract, although it still hurt.
We lived in dusty, windy West Texas—think tumbleweeds, dust storms, and rattlesnakes. We played outside all day, most days and had inadequate air conditioning inside—it simply gets too hot to cool homes properly. We had baths every night, but only “shampooed hair” once a week—or very infrequently.
You can imagine how my hair and scalp smelled and itched at times. You can also imagine how hot I got.
Saturday night meant shampooing.
As good as it felt and smelled, they had very few conditioners back then. My mom used something called Crème Rinse to detangle my hair, but it was very ineffective. The comb-out was a long, painful, and sometimes tearful event which is probably why we washed it less frequently.
Occasionally I was encouraged to sleep with sponge rollers —hard plastic contraptions with tiny sponges on them that took a long time to put in. Sometimes I had to sleep with a headful of bobby pins that held curls tight to my head so they would dry like that. This was so I could look nice for everyone.
Sleeping with hard stuff in your hair means not sleeping very well. It is actually painful.
I hated my hair for all those reasons.
Having long hair hurt, and clearly I did not let my mom know—or I’m sure she would’ve cut it.
I still have occasional post-traumatic rage for all the people and the era that invented sponge rollers and thought it was okay to do this to very little girls who were not old enough to articulate or protest well.
I hated that I had to endure this, and then it got me noticed and touched by strangers who thought my hair was theirs to touch and comment on.
My awful, smelly uncomfortable hair got me roles and attention I did not want. Later it would get me roles I did not want with boys, too.
I believe this is the way we teach children to hate themselves. We objectify them to obey cultural norms, trying to be caring parents—but missing the mark and making them feel more like shiny objects that we decorate and tote around.
By doing so, we dictate which pieces of them are valuable to us and to the world.
It’s tricky too, because by the time I had any say so, I would want to preen my locks every day myself. This is what I was now—a talentless, mindless head of hair that tortured herself to feel acceptable to the world. This was my normal.
By the time I was a teen, I happily took the torch from my mom. Up early every day—way before my brother, washing-curling-styling-spraying.
I would get perms and eventually learn to color it when the golden locks faded to “dirty.” And that’s how I felt and was treated, too.
I was happily pouring chemicals on my head as often as I could get them, because I was told and inferred my dirty blonde hair looked awful.
Surprisingly and ultimately, I am not angry with my parents or my hair. They absolutely did the best they could—their intentions and care were well above normal for the time.
Surprisingly, what’s under all anger was a harder thing for me. Much harder. Shame.
I’m ashamed for continuing the toxic cycle that I’m sure in some ways has sent the wrong message to my girls—as if they are my shiny objects I carry around.
I’m ashamed, that I hurried them some mornings and may have brushed their hair harshly or made them feel like it could have possibly looked bad.
I’m ashamed for continuing to torture myself to fulfill harmful stereotypes that hurt me as a child and may be hurting other children and adults.
I’m ashamed that I have contributed or perpetrated any cycles of “your not enough,” for men, women and children who struggle to be themselves.
I’m ashamed I can’t just be me “out there” in the big world.
And now, I’m done. I forgive myself. No more self-harm about hair!! I’m learning to be gentle with myself and others who are having trouble with shame, or hair, or walking with integrity. (If you want to know name of my hair style, I call it ‘freedom.’)