Your Hair and the Hero’s Journey

At the start of the year, I created what is called an “editorial calendar” in which you list the subjects you plan to write about for the entire year.  It’s a great tool. No matter what’s listed, you write about it. No wondering, no dithering, “What am I going to write about?”

When I opened the file today and saw the subject, I laughed:
Hair and the Hero’s Journey.  What was I thinking ten months ago?

I say now–now that I’m over 60—“You know you’re a grown-up when you let your hair do what it wants.”

I’ve stopped coloring enhancing.  I’ve stopped curling.  I’ve stopped fretting.  My hair drops straight, and lays wherever it wants to.  Life is way too short (now that I’m over 60) to spend more than a moment on my hair.  That’s not always been the case though:

  • I had many childhood Lilt Home Perms (This one is not my fault.)
  • I had a lot of  identity/sexuality wrapped up in being a redhead
  • I just knew blondes had no problems.
  • I knew brunettes all wanted to be redheads.
  • I spent decades in hot rollers trying to keep curl in my straight hair.
  • My hair’s been one inch short and over two feet long at different times.
  • I had a few years of alopecia areata and cried one night to a friend, “Not my hair!”

Statistically, I am a very rare genetic mutation (only about 1-2 percent of the entire population has natural red hair), born into a family of all brown hair and blue eyes. Adults frequently told me how beautiful my hair was. I hated my freckles and wanted to be a petite blondes like Melody who lived down the street.

I didn’t appreciate the beauty of my hair until after 40, after the alopecia ended.  It pained me so much losing what I thought was my identify, my self, I knew I had to let it go. Who am I, if not a redhead?  Do I even exist without that?

So I stopped fighting my hair. Now it’s a mix of grey, brown and red, and probably will be for a few more years.  It’s still very obstinately straight and thick, as the stylist sighs trying to get through it when she cuts. Who knows, though, what will come?

I am fascinated by movies like Chris Rock’s documentary, “Good Hair,” and Sanaa Lathan in “Nappily Ever After” (based on Trisha R. Thomas’ book).  Both movies show graphically the pain and cost black women incur to make their hair “good,” i.e., meet a white standard of beauty.  I am fortunate (privilege of being white) that I have never felt I had to go that far, but I do recognize the feelings of pressure and fraud.

Violet, the character Lathan plays in “Nappily Ever After” does do a Hero’s Journey through her hair. (oh! go watch it now! When Violet jumps in the pool it’s the best.)  The character’s redemption will make you tear up–and not from the ammonia stinging your eyes.




Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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