a treatise on hair...

i got my hair cut on friday. 

the woman with the french braid who could so easily touch the memories of the long braids she had as a child was transformed into the short-haired version of herself. i've gone back and forth between these two versions numerous  times, but for some reason that i can't quite understand, this time has made me reflective about my hair  - and about the way i look - in a way i've not been before.

it all started with wanting to send my family a picture of my new 'do. talk about uncomfortable! who did i think i was to be taking picture after picture of myself, trying to get one that looked like the me i see in the mirror? i'd never taken pictures of myself. certainly i knew what i looked like after seeing my reflection for 62 years, touching my face so many times a day to clean and primp. but i realized this was a face i really didn't know. i was brought up to feel that taking such an in-depth interest in looking at yourself just wasn't something you were supposed to do. no one ever stated this, but i've always felt that it was just plain wrong. vain beyond measure. sinful.

yesterday i gave myself permission to ignore all of that and just snap away. oh the beauty of an iphone that lets you delete the really bad ones right away! and there were many bad one. many. i had to acknowledge that the woman looking back at me had really thin lips and a lopsided face. she tilted her head to the left and had a bit of a furrow showing up between her eyebrows. those short eyebrows. she was more comfortable with her hand near her face than away, and when she thought she was projecting a serious look, she just looked irritated. direct light was less kind than indirect, but any kind of light showed that she was a woman aging. gracefully? accepting of herself? who was this woman??? 
was she pretty? interesting? different? existential angst was setting in...

but what about the hair? i realized that, tress-fully speaking, i have lived at one end of the spectrum or the other; happy only if my hair was short or long, but never in-between. the first time i got it cut was when i was ten or eleven. i was tired of sitting on my braids and wanted hair i could casually toss around. i wanted it to look like shirley jone's hair on the cover of my carousel lp...and like the girl's in the kotex pamphlet about becoming a woman...i wanted it shiny and bouncy. 

my mother insisted that if i got it cut, though, it would be short. and permed. 

oh. my. god.

i don't remember much about how that first haircut looked, but i remember how it felt. how i felt. awful. boyish. odd. unfeminine. uncomfortable. the only thing i liked about it was that it wasn't braids. i grew it out and swore i'd never have short hair again. 

until the next time i got it cut...

peyton place was the blockbuster tv show when i was 16 and when mia farrow got her long tresses shorn i was right there with her. and i loved it! i was mia and twiggy all rolled into one and this time i had the confidence to pull it off. i was creative and a bit of a loner and the hair said both of those things about me. short hair felt like me.

i don't know why i grew it out after that, but i did. then cut it. then grew it. then cut it and grew it again...and each time it was long and in a french braid i felt a certain contentment that i just didn't feel with short hair. but short hair gives me a different kind of contentment. a certain freedom to be daring...

fast forward to me in my fifties and it's 2 in the morning and for some reason i'm still awake and downstairs watching tv. something comes on about sharon stone who was sporting a cute choppy haircut. mine was long at the time. i wanted it short like sharon's and determined to make an appointment the next day. but then i thought - i bet i could do it myself! and i did. marched into the bathroom armed with scissors and cut away. sharon stone choppy. done! the family was a bit perplexed the next morning but never mind. it was short. it stayed short for a couple of years then. (but i did have get it re-cut at a salon to fix my hacking.)

fast forward to this week. i've loved the way a french braid has highlighted the gray in my hair the past several years, i loved that it looked classic and elegant at megan and andrew's wedding, and i loved that i wasn't spending the small fortune every six weeks that short hair requires. but the desire to be free from futsing around with a braid finally became too strong to resist. and seeing sky fall with judi dench looking so wonderful and smart with her crown of short white hair planted the seed for change. again.

i've digressed. back to the picture-taking business that this haircut initiated... 

62 years is a long, long, l-o-o-o-o-n-g time to go without really examining your looks from the outside, you know? i'm happy i spent an inordinate amount of time confronting images of myself yesterday. thrilled, actually. and i'm planning to make it a regular exercise - not that i'll subject you, dear reader, to the results! just me. you know - that woman with the flirty short haircut...

: : karen anne


  1. I could have written this!
    great work
    congrats on Art Quilting Studio.

  2. Thank you for the compliment and the congrats! (I'd love to see your hair and hear its history!)