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“Hair problems”, and control over other people

November 13, 2009

I have been trying to let my hair grow out–in part, metaphorically encouraging my mental processes to develop–and am so tempted to cut it off again. It’s already starting to tie itself into knots in the back. I may not have been startled by glancing at Kim Jong-Il in the mirror, but I keep seeing “Trail Of Tears”* Billy Ray Cyrus. On a very bad hair day indeed. (Without the soul patch or the old mullet, thank goodness.)

This is with the stylist and the gallon of hairspray. It could be worse; it could be the morning after the straightening iron. Had I ever been tempted to try one, I think I’d pass. It doesn’t help him much.

“How can this world be so dark, so unfair, and so untrue?”, indeed. 🙂

Besides just wanting to vent a little, this is actually related to a point it’s taken me too long to get back into my head. I used to be embarrassed to go out in public with my hair doing what it does best, and went to great pains to try to keep it “under control”. But, I had to consider the other day that I do have a right to go around with strange flyaway waves of the stuff exploding out of my head.

I’ve known for years that some of my own personal Hair Problem comes from a double dose of internalized racism. As Eric Gansworth described it his “Identification Pleas” piece in Genocide of the Mind, “No matter how much I might brush my hair out every morning, invariably I looked less like any Indians in Edward Curtis photographs and more like Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead, or Gilda Radner playing Roseanne Rosannadanna, on early Saturday Night Live episodes (yes, they do look like one another, and yes, I looked like their child). My brothers, being brothers, insisted on reminding me of this resemblance every single day”

And my mom enjoyed goading me by pointing out the resemblance to old Billy Ray, in the early ’90s. IME, brushing makes it worse, unless you like the “finger in a light socket” look.

A lot of us from the East get this effect going; I suspect that’s part of the reason the Wendat picked up the epithet Huron, not to mention why European observers noted the Monacans’ individualistic hairstyles. (Bit of a joke in our house: little did they know how much of that was unintentional!) Before my hair grows out heavy enough to fall over, it bushes up into a fauxhawk by default, like half my family’s. I really used to hate this, which is a lot of the reason I’ve kept it very short for years. My hair has baffled more than one British hairstylist. The sheer volume of it baffled even one local hairstylist back home, and she had to raid another stylist for more equipment. (A spiral perm was not a good strategy, even when they were in style.)

The bigger issue here? It’s my hair, it has a right to do what it does, and how it grows is my own business.

Just like it’s my business what I do (or choose not to do) with what little leg hair I’ve got. Or, as long as it’s not too offensive or distracting, how I control my tics (or, again, choose not to) in public. Or what kind of expression is on my face at any given time; as long as I don’t grin while somebody is talking about their dog’s heart attack**, that’s nobody else’s business. It’s nobody else’s business what size my body is, or if I choose clothes for it based on comfort over fashion. At the base of things, unless it’s actually impacting someone else, it’s no legitimate concern of theirs. Yeah, this does tie back in with my last post.

Some other people may try to control things that they have no legitimate right to control, but I don’t have to help them.

With any luck, later I’ll get to the post I intended to write today, on taking the time for mindfulness in daily life.

* That video shows exactly what my hair does when it’s long: gets curlier and snarlier the more it grows. Probably why he kept a hat or bandanna on it! What they don’t show: the group repeatedly stopping for old Billy Ray to work the wind-dreads out, so it took twice as long to get to Oklahoma as if he’d just braided it up in front of the camera.

** That did happen once. And, no, the expression had nothing to do with what the other person was saying, but with something that had just passed through my mind. Now, that was embarrassing.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 2:00 pm

    Very interesting post, the differences between eastern and western hair patterns are rarely recognised by stylists on either side of the line.

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