Sunday Morning ~ Shining, Gleaming, Steaming, Flaxen, Waxen

Sunday Morning ~ Shining, Gleaming, Steaming, Flaxen, Waxen

Ukapanda tsitsi, usamabise lumo. ~ If you have no hair, do not hide the razor blade.

~Chewa proverb

May 3, 2020

Hi Everyone,

I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about their hair this week. I get it. I’ve had short hair for a long time and one day you wake in the morning and it’s too long. It happens overnight. You have to get your haircut that day. It can’t wait another minute. Little wings sprouted over your ears while you slept; your bangs, grazing your eyes for a few days now, are suddenly IN your eyes. They are too short to put behind your ears and too long to make vision involuntary. It’s an emergency. You can’t think of anything else. You cringe every time you walk by a mirror, unable to glance away from the horror. Of course, there aren’t many hairdressers who can give you an appointment on that exact day at the exact hour you are free, even though when you call you make it sound like you’ve got appendicitis. You (I) are (am) not the type of person to book your (my) haircuts six weeks ahead, because who knows what the world will be like then? There might be a pandemic and you’d have to cancel anyway. Then you (I) find out there isn’t an opening for two weeks! What? How can that be? This dire situation can’t wait two weeks! Even if it is the result of my own poor planning. I’m sure every hairstylist has thought that to herself or maybe even said it out loud to the lucky customer sitting in the chair at that very moment.

I used to have hair long enough to sit on. I started growing it long in junior high, either because everyone else had long hair or one of my friends told me to. I had to get my father’s permission to grow it long and had to agree to keep it out of my face. It was the late 60’s and the contempt my father had for “women libbers” was only outdone by the contempt he had for hippies. I could put it in braids and french twists. I agreed to the terms and let it grow. It was easy enough to brush, wavy, and not too thick, and the damage done by hot curlers and sun exposure was remedied by baby oil, which, also fried my skin. Lucky for me I had mediterranean genes. When I got to college I found myself still wearing my long hair pulled tightly away from my face even though I was free from the parental restrictions. It was required in labs and certainly in clinical rotations. One day, riding my bike from campus to my apartment in Brookline I looked over my right shoulder to cross traffic. I had my hair pulled back and secured with one of those trendy leather patches with a stick going through it. When I turned my head, the stick came out and the leather patch fell off. My hair came down and when I turned to look forward the wind blew it across my face. I was riding my bike down the yellow line of Brookline Ave in rush hour traffic, cars going both ways, blinded by my hair. I didn’t panic (well, I did panic, I didn’t lose control) shook my head slightly while keeping the bike steady going as straight as I could until some of the hair blew back and I could see again. I so could have been killed by my hair. I was attached to my long hair and didn’t consider cutting it despite the risks it posed. Not long after that incident I spent my last summer at home. I couldn’t find a summer job, had no car, and was bored. I had way too much free time and hardly any money. I took a bike ride one day up through Stow with my hair secured in a ponytail never to repeat the hair/traffic incident. On my way home I passed the shopping center where I saw a new hair salon had opened. I coasted into the parking lot, locked my bike to a stop sign, and went in. The place was empty. I asked if I could get my haircut and they took me immediately to an empty seat. This may have set off alarm bells for some people but I was happy with the accommodating atmosphere. She asked how short? I said, “All of it. Short. Cut it off.” This was the most impulsive thing I had ever done. She asked several times if I wanted to do that all at once? Go shoulder-length maybe first? Nope. All off. Short. 

I wonder now what led me to that impulsive act? Boredom? Bad hair day? Frustration with my life? I had a boyfriend at the time but couldn’t see him much in the summer. He lived in Wellesley, had a convertible, and a summer job. We had no cell phones. I couldn’t text him and ask if he thought I should chop all my hair off. Texts were science fiction in that day and age. I only remember him coming into my thoughts on the matter insofar as the fun of seeing his reaction. Long hair was a huge deal at the time. Guys dated women for their hair. It could have been the end of that relationship for all I knew but I never gave that a thought. Maybe I was secure in the idea that he like me for me. She started cutting and I was happy. I felt freer by the snip. The waves turned into curls and the color seemed a darker brown. I loved it. I must have had cash shoved into the pocket of my cut offs because I pulled out the six dollars it cost. I don’t think I knew enough to leave a tip. It was 1975 and I hadn’t learned all the unwritten social rules of hair salons. I got on my bike, helmet-less and smiling, happy, anticipating the shock value of returning home. I often felt like a wallflower and was looking forward to a little attention. First my mother: Scream! Then an admiring approach to run her fingers through the short curls. That made me happy. I tossed my head around to see how it felt. I loved it. I went upstairs to her bedroom, the only one with a mirror. My sister could, and still can, make me laugh harder than anyone else. That choking unable to breathe laugh. The pain in my stomach laugh. She bounced down from her attic bedroom, the one I’d vacated to go to college. She peered into my mother’s bedroom when she saw me, then screamed. She yelled “Why didn’t you warn me?” and flopped onto the bed as if the shock was just too much to bear. She did have a flair for drama and her hair was much more important to her than mine was to me. I laughed. When she recovered herself she came over to rub my head and toss the curls and examine the damage more closely. She liked it. I remember being happy she did.

The boyfriend liked it too. He picked me up on a street corner in his convertible on a day I’d planned a trip into Boston. I hadn’t told him about the haircut. It was a big change. He did a double take and smiled. He was a man of few words and didn’t say a thing. I hopped into the car and he turned onto the road looking straight ahead. At the first stoplight he reached over and rubbed my head like a poodle. He smiled and said, “I like it.”

I’ve had short hair ever since and realized there is a price to pay. Haircuts, for instance every four to six weeks. Where I live there are no chain haircutters that take walk-ins and most of the places I’ve lived the situation has been similar. I don’t care who cuts my hair so never had an attachment to a particular stylist. I have been to hairdressers all over the world and my hair always looks the same. For that reason I hate paying a lot of money to have my hair cut. Well, I hate paying a lot of money for anything, but especially that. I’m not fussy, always want it the same way, don’t require a blow dry or even a shampoo. Years ago when I couldn’t get an appointment before my hair drove me mad I took matters into my own hands. I thought I’d just cut off the little wings that look so cute on a two year old. I did that and it didn’t look too bad. So I kept going. I trimmed the bangs and… there, that was better, then started on the top and before I knew it, I had a haircut that looked pretty much the same as when I paid for it. I left the back alone since I couldn’t see it. Years of this self-grooming has left me well prepared for this very pandemic moment. My bathroom, a pair of scissors, and apathy for my appearance are all I need to make the zoom close-ups tolerable.

Stay safe everyone. Hang in there. Cut it yourself. It’ll grow back.

Love to all,


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