I have fabulous hair. I am blessed to have the kind of hair that fits the cultural and societal norms of what constitutes a desirable head of hair. Growing up, there were times when this fantastic hair was more of a burden than I cared to carry, but I have learned to live with it, to love it, and to cherish it. I've sold it once or twice for doll hair, and I've given a great deal of it away for wigs. And there's the braid I buried with my first cat, Delia - I wonder how long it takes a braid of hair to decompose? When I was young, under 12, my mom brushed and styled my hair - mercilessly. She would pull and wrap it into tight ponytails and severe buns. She'd say, "If you want to be beautiful, it has to hurt." And I'd think, 'then I guess I don't want to be beautiful...' At some point, since I was so much of a 'tomboy', and had no interest in the punishment of the hair-care ritual as I knew it, the long tendrils were shorn to a bob, and I went about my merry way without the added bother of extensive daily detanglings.
As an image-conscious teen, I wore it long, because again, we are lead to believe that long, shiny hair that waves free in the breeze is pretty hair, and I was playing all the cards I had in the game of attracting the opposite sex for elicit meetings in darkened environs - I had some of what the boys were told to look for, so I waved it at them. And let us not forget the influence growing up in the 70's listening to musical sensations like Hair had on my formative ideas of image and appearance. In my 20's, I started playing with it a bit, with strange-for-me cuts and colors, and it shocked me how agitated some of my male friends got went I cut it short: "You look like a dyke," was the usual response, and knowing quite a few more dykes than the morons who made such statements, I couldn't necessarily say that was a bad thing (even if it was a stereotypical mass generalization). The first time I wore dreads it was a style thing - I was all hippied out, in my overalls and patched jeans - it started as a few beads and wraps and evolved into its own natural condition. Some of the people in my life were horrified by the dreads. So much so, one of my friends came over to my house while I slept, and started to comb them out! At that point, I had to finish the job, and my hair was back to 'normal'.
In Kyoto, Japan, at Higashi-Honganji Temple (a link for that? really?), they had on display gigantic ropes woven from the hair of the women in the nearby village - hair they had cut off and donated to the war effort (there's a picture of it at the link). It was so amazing, I wanted to touch it, and see how it was made! A few months later, soon after I got a buzz cut (to clear old energy away, and begin a new journey), Alice Walker's 'Medicine' came into my life:
Grandma sleeps with
pa so she
can get him
during the night
look at me
(my apologies to Ms. Walker for any formatting errors, I pulled this off the web) and Hair took on a new meaning. For sure, I had long grasped the concept of hair's energy and how it relates to each of us personally (hence having buried it here and there, and leaving strands as offerings. I probably still have a jar full of it on a shelf nearby), but I thought about it in terms of how it relates to others - like the guys who would get so mad when I cut it off. It did seem to be some kind of medicine for certain people, and so I kept it as a gift to those whom it made happy. For the past decade or so I haven't done more to my locks than sport the occasional crazy hairstyle where I'll wrap it with brightly colored ribbons and yarn for a few weeks, or redden it with henna, but I am acutely aware of fanciful and decorative hair as it is one mode of self-expression that excites me, inspires me - like when you feel your pulse accelerate, your eyes dilating, as you make an appreciative sound, like an 'ooh', or suck in your breath...that little catch in your day, the spark of magic that reminds you to resonate on the higher vibration...
'righteous hair fairy'
A few years ago, I saw Chris Rock's film, Good Hair, which made me think about the politics surrounding hair once again, and I felt cultural grief for any pain I might have caused to my afro-straightening, weave-wearing sisters of multiple ethnic backgrounds, and I cursed yet another industry for taking advantage of our emotional real estate and inflicting such a toxic ideal of beauty on an entire group of women whose hair type I happen to really dig. More recently, I was reading an essay, also by Alice Walker, talking about how experiencing her natural hair helped get her outside of herself, and moved her through a 'restless stillness' which she acquaints with periods of withdrawal during growth. In thinking about that piece, and one that circulated on facebook about Native American scouts in the US military during the Vietnam War who apparently suffered a great decline in their abilities after receiving military-issue haircuts (note: I can find no other information about this subject, and the article lists no references), much like the biblical Samson after a session at Delilah's, my desire for George Clinton-esque hairstylings developed into braids with the intention of dreading again.
Call it my foil hat, if you will, or tuning my instrument, in line with the Rastafarian belief in their holy antennae, narrowing the frequency, drinking from a more contained flow...what ever it was, I needed to bind my locks into a more finite psychic-wave gathering apparatus, to limit the number of feelers I had out, while at the same time, strengthening them by joining them into synergistically enhanced collection tools. Are they considered less than attractive and possibly dirty by mainstream society? Do I conduct my life based on input and feedback from mainstream society? Okay, yeah, but just a little. In this case, it doesn't matter. It's a temporary thing, and as I tell the people thinking/saying, "Oh, my god! What have you done to your hair?!?" It's just hair. My personal renewable resource. When I'm done having dreads I'll either comb them out, or cut them off. I'm way less attached to it than some people to whom it's not even attached...
In the meantime, I'm enjoying the way it feels sort of tight, and as I run my hand over my head, I feel like both the master who has applied the clothespins to the slave, and is using them as keys with which to play the instrument, and the instrument being played - as each pressure tugs sensation to bear on a particular section of my scalp, I feel stimulated into concentrating on my higher chakras, and finding the tone of that vibration, being my own incantation. I like to freeboot and camp out in the Summertime, and I don't feel like packing a brush, or having to fight knots out of my thick, waist-length locks while trying to keep them neat on the journey, so I took pre-emptive action, and went for it. The peyote wraps I used to wear 'back in the day' were safely tucked away in my jewel case, and it feels nice to have them woven back into the mess of month old braid and dread happening on top of my head.
It seems there is an argument to be made, in the hair debate, for one's beliefs, though: Buddhist monks shave their heads to show the commitment of one gone forth into the Holy Life (Brahmacariya), Hare Krishna men shave their heads to symbolize renunciation of the material way of life and dedication to spiritual pursuits (the tuft at the back signifying them as Krishnas as opposed to Buddhists), Sikhs tend not to cut their hair at all as they believe it is a symbol of love for god and what they have been given, some nuns and Hasidic Jewish women shave their heads (though I think that has more to do with vanity than spirituality), some Hasidic Jewish men wear payot to show a symbolic separation between the front part of the brain (intellectual) and the rear part (physical, sensual) and his intention to keep them separate. There are obviously many other cultures I haven't researched on their particular and/or peculiar hairstyles - and I wonder where bald people or folks with alopecia universalis fit into this discussion?
The only thing I think it's fair to say is that our hair (or lack thereof) serves as a medium for communicating who we are, and in some small part, what we believe in, to those around us. This season, I'm saying I have too many other things of importance to use my brain for, so I am relinquishing my perceived responsibility of keeping my hair the way most people would like to see it in favor of a wash-and-wear, quick-drying, no-nonsense natural styling of it's own choosing, with a few shiny adornments thrown in here and there. It's so important to remember to be ourselves - I often forget, and when I get shaken back to it, it's like an affirmation that becomes more imperative with each realization, because Right Now is all we'll ever have - it's all there is. Why dream of being brave enough to wear rainbow candy stripe dreadlocks - why not just wear them? Yes, thank you, I think I will - because I'm exercising my desire to be wholly me, both for my vanity, and for my soul.