Contributions by other people

Layne Goldsmith, USA

Hair was always something around which issues of autonomy revolved in my family. As the first grandchild, the oldest of the siblings, and a daughter, I was fussed over endlessly. One of the major areas of interest on the part of my mother was my hair. She curled it, braided it, brushed and combed it and in general made much ado over the state of it. It was always very long and very shiny. There was a ribbon to match every dress.

At times the french braids were so tight I could barely blink my eyes. I swear she did this with vengence in her heart. There was one time that the curls were so ridiculous that I wore my sweater over my head for the entire school day. Sometimes the combing was so vigorous that it caused me to run screaming from the room. Horrid fights erupted around the daily activity of dealing with my hair. By the time I was 8, it was long enough to comfortably sit on the braids and much time was spent in conflict.

Years passed and I settled awkwardly into my teens when long and straight was just fine and I let it grow without concern. Nothing was easier than to wash it and brush it and let it hang. In southern California, where I lived within walking distance of my favorite beach, it was ultimately cool to have this head of sunbleached hair that fell straight to my hips with not so much as a wave. All of the associations with hair between the ages of 15 and 30 were more or less the same. Carefree, positive and completely independent of any concern for fashion. Hair got short, got long, got perms, got bleached, got shaved and mine remained the same. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that it became very much a part of my identity.

At some point I cut it. It may have been about the time that I turned 40, though pictures from that birthday event show it was already short. I got recommendations from a friend whose hair always looked great, made an appointment with the guy that 'did' her hair, and waited the appropriate number of weeks for him to fit me in. He cut it. It looked o.k. We worked on it over the months and eventually settled on something that I could live with.

People who didn't know me assumed that I was haughty because of the hair cut. People at work would comment on the 'great hair cut'. I spent more time fussing with it than when it was long, because there was a very specific objective and anything else looked just plain wierd. But the real issue was the guy who cut it. He was relentlessly sarcastic and cynical and after awhile, it became a serious problem. If the hair looked great it did not matter because I ususally felt so horrid. I became convinced that he was doing a bad job on purpose and for many months would snip away at the front of my hair with fingernail scissors to undo the damage. Finally, after an especially horrible haircut I realized that what was really going on was that same old issue of autonomy and that I was feeling violated and unlike childhood, when I had no option, for this I was paying serious money.

Happy endings have never been my specialty. However, since I stopped having my hair cut by that fellow, I have felt much better. Patti cuts my hair now. We talk about idle nothing while she colors it to almost the identical shade it was when the sun did it for free...which was her idea, not mine. I love the way she is so obviously tactile in her orientation to the material with which she works. And over the six years that she has been tending my hair, I think I've finally figured out what the deal was about a good haircut. It isn't just something that looks great, but it has the power to soothe the soul!