Wednesday, September 18, 2013
I decided to grow my hair long again. It's been a while since it was long, something like 1980.
Hair is funny thing for a woman. They tell you it's your "crowning glory." Seriously, that never meant much to me. I figured my crowning glory was the fact that I yanked myself up by my own bootstraps. But you'd have had to be with me a long time to get that. Only my long-gone and still-missed cat Heart was with me long enough to understand that. She was there through the toughest parts of my life, or those times seemed so at the time.
I was baby-bald until I was almost two. Mom said she had to tape a bow to my head. The funny part of that story to me was the "had to" phrase. Had to? Soon enough, though, my hair grew in, first white blonde, then golden, thick and straight.
This made Mom crazy as she liked a bit of curl or at least wave in hair. She had been someone I considered a "doll person" when she was little. She had baby dolls and wanted to be a mother. She was thrilled to get a girl the second time around, although my sometimes less-than-delicate ways must have been a little disappointment. I spent much of my childhood trying to keep up with my brother, my "Irish twin" who was 11 months older. I wasn't a doll person.
Oh, I had lots of dolls, all right, Barbie Dolls, Ginny Dolls, Chatty Cathy, Horseman walking dolls, all dressed in pretty clothes and frills. I played with them just long enough to make sure my mother knew I appreciated the thought, then turned to real favorites: my real cats and dogs, stuffed animals who came to life under my own chatty imagination and Danish troll dolls. I adored the DAM troll dolls and had a huge collection. I loved them because they weren't trying to be beautiful or perfect. They exuded happiness in their smiling faces. They were short. They had long hair. They had funny feet and cute toes. I was mad for them.
Mom could not understand the fascination but indulged it. I created a whole world within the cabinets above my desk from the doll furniture from my mother's antique shop. They had beds, baths and beyond. They had a huge console radio, a vacuum cleaner, a full kitchen, a television. They had clothes I sewed from felt to cover their tiny troll bodies and protect them from the elements. They had troll pets. They had books and toys and dishes. They had a perfect little troll world that I would occasionally enhance with a crocheted tablecloth for their little round oak table or a new hat. I had one troll that had two heads who had come to me from one of Dad's trips away, from my Uncle Max, they told me. I didn't want to break the news that Uncle Max's trolls weren't really DAM trolls, the only really cute ones. He had sent three, two "ordinary" trolls and the two-headed one. I named them Winkin, Blinkin and Nod-Nod, two heads, two nods, I explained straight-faced. I brushed their colorful hair. What I thought best about their world was that it was quiet and happy. I thought that would be a nice life.
My trolls had hobbies, games, employment, studies and favorite things. They had projects. They cooperated. They hated housework--just like me--but they did just enough to get by--just like me. My trolls were interesting, much more so than the flat-faced staring "pretty" dolls whose every move might muss their hair or tear some lace.
But still, I recognized that there was pressure to like the "pretty" dolls. I just couldn't do it. They were boring.
Mom dressed me up in dresses she made herself from Simplicity and McCalls patterns, with Peter Pan collars, puffy short sleeves, long sashes that tied in bows in the back, fiddly smocked bodices, and full skirts that required scratchy petticoats. I wore white lace-trimmed socks and Mary Janes, patent leather for dress up, Keds Mary Janes for play. I was her doll but I was rather bad at it, I felt.
Sometimes she would make "mother-daughter" dresses for spring so we would match. She despaired when I, having been sent to school in doll-like perfection, came home with a torn sash and a black eye, triumphant in victory on the playground again. From my earliest days, I associated getting dressed up with the restriction of free movement. I was not supposed to hang upside down on the monkey bars when I had my nice dresses and petticoats and patent leather strapped shoes. My best friend and boyfriend was gentleman enough not to laugh at me in kindergarten on our last day, hanging upside down eating cookies in our best clothes, my skirts fluffed around my nose in an unladylike fashion, my hair ribbons dangling at dangerous angles.
Hair was such a big deal to Mom. Her own hair gave her fits. It was extremely thick and extremely coarse and nearly impossible to style. But it at least had a natural wave that on occasion cooperated. Any curl that my hair exhibited was artificial. My hair was naturally board-straight. This didn't stop Mom.
I had permanents. Much like romantic relationships in junior high, they tended to last approximately two weeks, being anything but permanent. Sooner or later, any style perpetrated upon my straightness came undone. No ribbons, braid, clip or rubber band would hold it for long. Mom liked it just past my shoulders, partly because her ideal hair, as far as I could tell, was Lauren Bacall's. At night she would put it up in metal clip pin curls so that it would dry curly and fall to my shoulders in golden waves, all to fall straight by the end of the day. And we would begin again.
In junior high I rebelled against being a doll, partly because I was physically strong enough to resist being captured and pin-curled and partly because I was just hard-headed, a family trait. I decided to let my hair grow long, like the Beatles' girlfriends. They had straight hair. They were considered fabulously beautiful. It grew long and with a little trimming of split ends from the dry New Mexico air it started to look the way I liked. By then my high school buddies were doing whatever they could to straighten their hair, rolling them on beer cans and ironing them with the clothes iron. Lucky me! No such extraordinary measures were needed.
I kept my hair long, past my waist, for years and found that there are little inconveniences. For instance, it was unattractive to have it get caught under your arms with straight little tufts sticking out the front or back. It would get rolled up in the car windows. In the unrelenting New Mexico wind, it would lash my eyes, my cheeks until they were almost raw. In my college geology classes, it had to be braided when I went caving so as not to entangle bats. As I grew up and worked in an office, it got closed in filing cabinet drawers and caught on the adjustable back brace of steno chairs.
And somewhere around 1980 I realized that I didn't want a job, I wanted a career. I concluded that Alice in Wonderland was not a believable business figure. I made an appointment with the one man in town who cut women's hair, a man with a reputation for dating his wealthier women clients, a man who drove a Corvette. In Carbondale, Illinois, that was a big deal. He shook his head and gave me a bob, just above shoulder-length, crisp and businesslike.
It changed my idea of myself to see my reflection as a woman in a suit with bobbed hair. I became "professional." I went back to school for a second degree and became that professional. I moved to California and worked my tail off.
All the while I experienced the ennui of having to make some special effort to go in and have my hair restored to its "bobness" every few weeks. And after I was laid off in one of the huge dot.com bubble-burst massacres and finally got a job, it was in southern California, Orange County. It was hot, too darned hot.
I cut my hair again, this time into a short sophisticated wedge. But I am not sophisticated.
"Gimme a trim and a duck's butt, Debbie," I would tease my hairdresser who is a professional and takes her work seriously in spite of me.
So, after the careful consideration of a few moments' assessment, perhaps the obvious outward influences of the transit of Uranus through Aries across my natal sun coinciding with my second Saturn return, I decided to grow it out again, long as it will go.
Like the 8 of Wands, it is a work in progress signaled by growth, energy and movement. My hair may soon be up in the air. Debbie estimates I'll hate myself right about Christmas when it gets to a dreadful length that is not cooperative, fashionable or flattering. But then, past that, I'll let it grow so I can be myself instead of the corporate look I thought I needed to adopt to hide in plain sight and have now outgrown. I am no longer a doll. I am me.
This is the beginning.