Mom grabbed a hairbrush and bottle of detangler as she fixed my hair for school. My long blonde hair was almost down to my waist. Even with her best efforts and Johnson and Johnson’s “No More Tears,” I felt like I was being scalped, and cried. Two ponytails, tightly anchored to each side of my head, emerged. School pictures. Must look nice, you know. Age 6. Most of the time that is how she fixed my hair. A child who could not sit still, I was, curious, creative. Energetic. If someone asked me a question and I wanted to say “no,” I flipped my head back and forth until the ponytails slapped me in the face. This, I had practiced with other girls at school. We had such fun. Until my teacher informed me that is not how you say “no.” Those were the days of “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am,” and consequences for disrespect.
How did I not get dizzy?
My Grandma Ferguson was a cosmetologist for many years.
A few tries at detangling my hair, and well.
Here she came with scissors.
“It will look so cute,” she said. “You don’t need all that long hair in your way. It will be clean, and cool.”
Goodbye, ponytails. Every time Grandma took care of me for any length of time, those scissors appeared.
My mother cried, and was furious that Grandma had cut off about 22 inches of blonde glory.
It grew. Hair does that, you know.
Looking back on my school pictures, the length of my hair went short and longer, though never as long as it was when I was 6.
The first time I willingly asked to get my hair cut short was when Olympic figure skater Dorothy Hamill hit the tv screen. Everyone at school wanted to be just like her. And I was ready for a change.
Actually, that should have been a sign to those who knew me that something was not right. It was not long after the first full blown rape (I was about age 9) that I cut my hair.
Through the years, it grew again. All little girls were following the trends of whatever teen idol hit the magazine cover.
Then Princess Diana emerged. My grandparents spoke much of England .. grandma’s family way back were from Yorkshire. I watched every tv interview with the princess. Bought every teen magazine I could that featured her. Watched her entire wedding .. live on television in the middle of the night.
The teen magazine gave a diagram you could clip and take to your hairdresser, for the perfect “Lady Di” haircut.
I felt free and beautiful.
Until the first time I washed my hair, and an alpaca appeared. There were duck flips everywhere (we had no flat irons then.)
So I grew my hair again.
My current hairdresser told me that whenever a woman goes for a “change” in her hair, there is often something else going on.
By age 16, my hair had grown below my shoulders and I made peace with my curls. I washed it every day. Air dried it at night. And put hot rollers in every morning. An easy routine. Tied a scarf around to keep it off my face and let it fly.
I walked along the beach on a windy, sunny day. My hair dancing in the breeze as I just enjoyed the vastness and power of the ocean, its tides, the waves and salty smell.
Ocean air has a way of kissing you, even your car when a little sand gets inside on the floormats.
One of the sweet pleasures in life .. that peace of letting go of cares and troubles.
Everyone has a happy place, I suppose.
And that was mine.
The story of short and long, I believe, has many twists and turns throughout the years. In one relationship, I was required by my man to get a haircut that was almost as short as a guy’s haircut.
Years later, he told me that it was because he was afraid someone would “steal me.”
I guess it was all about control.
Hence, hair decisions. “What do you like?” my friends ask.
And I am tossed. My kids all want me to grow it out, as that was the mommy they knew for years. Will it look stringy and unkempt? I am old, I say.
Then I go grocery shopping and see occasionally, a lady in a well defined feminine, short haircut. That cut needs no entrance. It makes an announcement of its own. Just like Princess Di.
It says, I am organized. Clean.
There you have it. These blogs, you know, I write because I enjoy living creatively and pursuing adventure and a brighter point of view. It is no secret that my target readership are those who have been abused.
How is it that just this year, I finally learn the true reason I wrestle with short and long.
The struggle for control, being neat, not feeling unkempt (many survivors of sexual abuse are meticulously clean .. it is how we cope.) Versus the desire to not worry over said hairstyle and be free. What will I choose? It does not matter.
I know who I am, and that the true victory is this: just like the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides, my decisions on hair may go back and forth. But sand is sand. I am still whole, no matter the shape of how I present myself. Whether a storm comes and piles the sand on the shore, or takes it away as it recedes, my life has meaning. I am free to be me.