The Trouble with Hair

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I love drawing hair. In real life, I like all kinds of hair, and I’m a big believer in wearing your hair the way you want. Seriously. Rules for keeping hair out of food and machinery and certain types of medical procedures make sense, but beyond that…wear your hair the way you want.

Why does anyone care if a male has long hair or a woman short hair? And rules telling people of color how they may or may not wear their hair are ludicrous and racist and unacceptable. Wear your hair the way you want.

My own battle over hair began when I was about 9 and my dad married his second wife. She hated my hair. Or more to the point, she hated my having control over my own hair. She slathered my fine hair with Dippity-Do. She refused to let me sit at the table for dinner unless my hair was slicked back. She insisted on washing my hair herself once a week, holding my head under the faucet until first she could drag her fingers down my hair and hear it squeak and until I started to kick the cabinet door because I couldn’t breathe. So, I have strong feelings about hair. Wear it the way you want.

Like many, I grew up reading stories about hair–Samson and Rapunzel each had famous hair. Snow White’s hair was famously ebony and Aurora’s hair famously gold. So many stories talked about the beauty of the heroine’s hair. Not to mention all those make-over scenes in movies where a mousy girl becomes beautiful when she takes off her glasses and lets down her hair. Any time a female character appeared on screen, you knew a lot about her by the way she wore her hair. I’m thinking of Nellie Olson versus Mary Ingalls, Morticia Addams versus the uptight women who visited her home, and other famous hair from Princess Leia to Marge Simpson.

Religions have a lot to say about hair. Don’t cut it, don’t show it, don’t be vain about it. But yet we spend a helluva lot of money on beautiful hair.

And you probably know someone who lost their hair thanks to chemo (like me) and the various ways we dealt with the loss. (Many tears in my case.) Losing hair can be deeply traumatic for people.

Years ago (the year 200, I think), I went to the movies on a Tuesday. The showing was about 11am. The movie was Chocolat. When I left the theater a couple hours later I was missing some hair. Someone sitting behind me I cut, as pretty as you please, a lock of my hair from my head. Probably about an inch or so wide and closer to the scalp than yo’d think possible was a perfectly straight, sharp cut. The section that remained stood upright, like the hair of that TV character Alfalfa, but more so. To say I was shocked doesn’t quite capture my reaction, but HOW COULD THIS HAVE HAPPENED? But there you have it. I guess someone in the world has a lock of my hair. I try not to think about it. But if hair didn’t matter, you wouldn’t care if some stranger had your hair would you? Okay, maybe that wouldn’t bother you. I can’t say. But it does seem to bother most people, doesn’t it?

I actually hate it when people shrug and say, “It’s only hair.” It is and it isn’t. If your hair means little to you, that’s a fine thing. But hair has power and if it didn’t, we wouldn’t have these stories and rules about it. Wear it the way you want and let others do the same.

So, I love to draw long hair, the longer the better, its waves and curls going upward and over and down and twining around itself. Drawing lines of hair is meditative. It’s freeing.

Wear your hair the way you want.