Over the years, my hair and I have engaged in a love/hate relationship. As a child, I wore my hair in a short bang and bob. Not blessed with naturally curly hair like my sister, Mom would torture me with a head full of pin curls at night so my crown of curls would fluff around my face each morning. By the time I’d walk to school, my tendrils would loosen to soft corkscrews. By the end of the day, I’d have a wave. Eventually, the bang and bob gave way to a short, layered “pixie” cut. Barely longer than a boy’s style, this hair style suited my tomboy years perfectly as it required nothing but wash and wear. Sometimes, Mom would take my “sideburns” and tape them over night into a curl. Since no one ever mistook me for a boy, this little whorl became Mom’s attempt to keep me feminine as I wickedly raced through the neighborhood.
During middle school, I decided to conform with the style of the day—long and straight. Only I had long and wavy. I’d sleep at night with my hair wrapped around juice cans, and on more than one occasion I ironed my tresses. By the end of the day, Texas humidity ruffled its fingers through my locks, and my messy wave returned. By the time I hit my senior year, I embraced my mop and let it grow. If I needed to dress up for a special occasion, I’d pull out the hot rollers and the hairspray; otherwise, I became one with my hair and its unruly nature.
College found me grabbing the scissors one day in frustration and hacking off all but a few inches of hair. Immediately, I began growing my hair out again. That became my cycle for my entire adult life. Very short cut, various cuts to disguise that I was growing it out of layers, then finally long hair again. Of course, in the 80s there’s the “big hair” phenomenon of perms and teasing, yet I still stayed focus on my objective. Whenever the urge did hit me to chop everything off before I’d reached my long hair goal, I’d grab the L’Oreal and thwart my compulsion by changing my hair color.
Presently, I have cycled back to very long hair. I tell myself that it’s convenient because I can ponytail it or French braid it. I can do the “Mary Ellen Walton” trick of twisting it, tying it in a knot and clipping it. I can even achieve my long ago dream of “long and straight,” if I plug in the Chi. Some days, though, I’ll see a friend with a new stylish cut, and my fingers itch to grab the scissors!
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman