I've been thinking about a hair-themed post for several weeks now, ever since an older woman stopped to stare at me in the library not too long ago. I thought something was wrong at first. "Oh, my," she said, pausing on her walk to the checkout kiosk, "What glorious hair." For a retiree, she was pretty speedy, and I barely had time to smile, probably somewhat goofily, and say thank you before she'd taken off again. It was a completely unexpected compliment, especially since I don't know that I've ever thought about myself, or any part thereof, as particularly glorious.
But her words stuck with me, and for the rest of that afternoon, I found hair-related quotes and incidents from literature popping into my head. First, the scene in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" where Jo reveals she's sold her "abundant" hair -- "her one beauty," as one of her sisters terms it -- to a wig maker to buy a train ticket for Marmee. Another Anne, Anne of Green Gables, bemoans her red mane and wishes she could have jet-black hair like her "bosom friend" Diana. She even goes so far as to try and dye it, resulting in her hair turning an unfortunate green hue. And St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, says "the long hair of a woman is her glory," but likewise admonishes those who go to prayer with their heads uncovered because it shows a lack of humility.
Well, women can certainly be picky -- and, yes, vain -- about their hair. We want what we don't have and lament what we do, yearning for curls if our hair is straight (and vice versa) or wishing it was a different color. We dye it, straighten it with flatirons, perm it and fill it with product to be more shiny, less frizzy or sometimes just to keep it in place. Most of us have had at least one hair style that we regret (bangs, for example. I tried them twice, and they were no better the second time around).
When I was younger, somewhere around 6, I remember telling my mom that I wished I was a blond. Even at that age, somehow the "blondes have more fun" mantra had already worked it's way into my psyche. Or perhaps it was due to Barbie. I was incredibly excited when I received a Barbie doll that had even light brown hair and so looked slightly more like me. Funnily enough, I had honey blond hair when I was 2 and 3, but by the time I got to kindergarten, it was long gone. I would actually look terrible as a blond now, I think.
The first time I had my hair cut in a salon, I was 13, and I got one of those asymmetrical cuts that was popular in the early 90s. I don't know that I'd do that again, but it looked good at the time. By the time I went to college, it was the longest it's ever been, nearly to my elbow. A few months in, though, I chopped it almost all off, over a foot of it so it was less than chin-length. Sometimes, you just need a change. I know women who are incredibly intimidated by cutting their hair short. I've been to salons where, when I tell the stylist that I want it bobbed, they practically turn to stone and ask me, several times, if I'm sure. Once, there was even an older woman in the next chair over who said "You're very brave." Really? It's a haircut. I was hardly going into battle.
Right now, my hair is the longest it's been in several years. Though hardly Rapunzel-esque, it is practically to the middle of my back. Usually, when it gets to this point, I'm frustrated with it, especially if I try to blow-dry it -- I find myself looking like Gilda Radner playing Rosanne Rosannadanna on SNL, minus the bangs. But I have a really good stylist and a great cut. And I certainly appreciate the fact that it's pretty low-maintenance in the styling department.
Still, vanity has gotten the better of me, too, when it comes to my hair. Up until June of this year, I'd had what is typically referred to as virgin hair; never been dyed, never been permed. And I was proud of that. But thanks to genetics, my hair started to gray early (I found the first full-length one at 24), so over the summer I finally decided to dye it, just to cover up the gray. I was nervous that it would look strange, but practically no one noticed, which was my hope, since I didn't want the change to be drastic or obvious. One of these days, when I'm older, I'll let it go all nice and silver. I think having longer, silvery hair (why do almost all women cut their hair short into a helmet-like do when they reach a certain age?) will look quite striking. But not until I'm 50, let's say. :) Hopefully, it will still be glorious.