So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

24 August, 2007

Resuming Normal Broadcast

Thanks to folks for their supportive comments on my little meltdown.

In an attempt to get back into the swing of things, I'm going to write about my hair.

I have joked in the past that my hair is a more critical identity trait for me than my sex. Which is an interesting thing; it's certainly far more consciously chosen.

I have very dim memories of one of the first times I had my hair trimmed, in my grandparents' bedroom in Stoughton. I screamed the entire time. I have gotten a little better about having my splits removed since then. A little.

I've kept it cut the way I do it now since I was fourteen, when I came to the conclusion that I was done looking like Wednesday Addams. This was partially influenced by the abuse I took in junior high school, which was partially centered on my hair (and one of the cases of unwelcome touch was hair-related). I have permed it twice, maybe three times, at about the age of seventeen, and came to the conclusion that I appear to be allergic to the chemicals, don't like smelling of plastic, and don't have particular interest in the effect. (Besides, as my dear college roommate says, if I want it curly I can braid it and wash it.)

I have a lot of hair. In its natural state it is fine, prone to splits, on the oily side, straight, and dark brown with a tendency to brassy highlights when I get a whole lot more sun than I have in years, and these days reaches my ass. And there is, well, a lot of it.

I'm thinking about my hair today because I just finished dyeing it, which I do every three months (though I was about a month late on this one due to life being crazy and disrupted, and me being a lazy bastard).

Dyeing my hair is a two-day process; I wash it the night before so it's clean and dry come the day of, and then mix up and apply the stuff, let it sit for a few hours, and wash it some more. It's a fair amount of effort to go to, and this time when I was washing it out I wound up thinking about cultural beauty rituals and assumptions.

The assumption I often see is that the stuff one does that's appearance-based is effortful, done to please others, requires extensive maintenance, and so on. The whole sparkle-pony shit that gets sneered at around elsewhere.

I have a hell of a lot of hair. I have a hell of a lot of oily, fine, split-prone hair. I have spent probably cumulative months of my life arguing with my hair, with its tangles and tendency to snarl, extracting tennis-ball sized accumulations of frayed mess that did not noticeably affect its density, several times giving up on tangles and cutting them off with a knife. (I have a blade, rather duller now than when I got it, that I refer to as 'my hair-cutting knife'.) I have a hell of a lot of ornery hair, and I won't cut it short.

Now that it's freshly hennaed, I can't stop running my fingers through it; the smoothness of it, the way it feels, the way it flows. It doesn't tangle; I will probably need to worry about combing it again sometime in October. That two-day process (mostly planning and scheduling, and then sitting for a few hours with mud on my head) wins me wash-and-wear hair, hair that behaves, hair that is willing to grow a hand longer now that it doesn't get so fragile and so caught up in snarls. The hair that I always thought I should have had.

I was washing the cocoa butter out of my hair this afternoon and just running my hands through it, feeling the sleekness of the length of it, the way the water flows through and around it rather than fighting with it constantly. Like it's not there, in the way it flows and swirls (and now I laugh at the person at the Flea this weekend who asked me if I was a mermaid, for a completely different reason than my bafflement at the time; my liege's fiancee did suggest that I have mermaid hair, floaty on the water...).

It turns my hair from dark brown with those bronze highlights to dark red-brown, nearly invisible in artificial light, striking in the sun. And yeah, I've gotten a compliment or two on that from relevant folks.

But what it wins for me is the hair that's my self-image, my identity, and reduces its maintenance to the occasional need to deoil it. It gives me hair I can run my fingers through without catching them on a sudden snarl that wasn't there a moment ago, induced by the disruption of a breath or a touch. It gives me my hair.

It gives me hair that I maintain this way in significant part as religious devotional. And it gives me hair that has been known to get my liege to bury his face in the back of my neck and rumble, "Mmm, henna", as well. But mostly ... it gives me my hair.

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