Carol Shinn, USA
My mother decided that after first grade I was too old for braids. When I reached sixth grade she decided that I should wear my hair very short. Periodically I was sent to the hair salon with money in hand to be sheared. I hated this. In my heart, even wearing my heavy brown oxfords and the square-sleeved dresses my mother made, I was Alice in Wonderland, for in her pictures she had straight hair like mine. The hair salon dashed all hope of showing the world my true self. Each time as I watched the scraps of hair being swept away I knew months would pass before I could face the bathroom mirror. About the time my hair showed promise I would be sent off to be sheared again.
There is a connection between hair and heart. As children we are told to ignore this uncomfortable truth. At puberty life seems like a bad hair cut that will never grow out. Eventually I had my way. At college my hair grew as much as it could, which wasn't very long. The fine ends split long before my hair matched my dreams. Even so, it symbolized more than appearance.
I married, graduated, had children. Gradually I began to ponder a change of self-image. I bought a page boy wig. Then I had my husband cut my hair. Finally he convinced me to try a professional cut. It would not be like puberty--that was behind me. I was in control now. Alice was long gone. Now I imagined myself Dorothy Hamill. Her sassy hair shined with self-esteem and success. When the day of my hair appointment arrived, I walked to the shopping center with a light step, imagining a new me. As I pulled open the salon door I was thinking about how foolish I had been as a child. But as I gave my name at the desk I heard my voice shake. And as I was sat in THE chair I felt my heart pound. I looked down to make sure I wasn't wearing big brown oxfords. I explained to the hair dresser that I wanted a Dorothy Hamill cut. He looked me over. He ran his fingers briefly through my hair. No, he could not give me a Dorothy Hamill haircut. It would not work for me. But why not? My hair would surely bounce and swing. People would see my style and success. No, he would not cut my hair. No. This was not just any neighborhood salon. Didn't I understand? He was not going to have his name associated with my hair. Words failed me as I got up from THE chair. I could hardly see as I made my way back to the glaring brightness of the street. How could life be worse than sixth grade? Tears welled up.
The next time my husband went to get his hair cut he asked if the barber would object to cutting my hair. The barber was fine with this. A hair cut was a hair cut. After a certain amount of procrastination I gathered myself and went. This time when I emerged on the street I was that new me. The haircut was, well, close--especially since the barber was doing his first Dorothy Hamill. Didn't I read somewhere that Cinderella actually wore big brown oxfords to the ball?