Posts Tagged ‘memories of hair’

By Robin

There’s a story about my birth that was told fairly often when I was growing up. It’s a short story, and involves hair.

When my mother was pregnant with me, my father was asked by a friend what his preference was: a boy or a girl? His answer was that he didn’t care if it was a boy or a girl as long as the child was healthy and didn’t have red hair.

I don’t know what he had against red hair. His father had red hair. Whether or not that had something to do with it, I don’t know. He would never say.

I made my appearance in December of 1958 with a blaze of bright red hair.

Sorry, Dad.

I have 40+ cousins on my father’s side of the family. I’m the only one who inherited my grandfather’s red hair. My oldest son also inherited it. We’re the stand-outs in a family of brunettes and blondes.

My father said my hair reminded him of the feathers on a robin’s breast, that bright orangey-red color, and so my parents named me Robin in an age when it was mostly a boy’s name. Perhaps they started a trend, one that’s caught on in recent years, of giving girls’ names that were usually associated with boys.

By the time I was in middle school, the red had started to fade. To make sure it was gone for good, I dyed my hair for the first time when I was in the 8th grade. I went blonde because, it was said, blondes have more fun. I think it was also in the 8th grade that I went from having long hair to a medium-length shag (which was the fashion at the time).

The red has never really come back, although there are signs of it in the streaks of color in my hair. My natural color now is a mixture of blonde, brown, red, gray, silver, and white. Like my cats, I’m a calico.

In the year 2000, I had 16 inches of my hair cut off. I think it took me a period of about two weeks’ time to do it. I had a couple of inches cut off at a time, then I’d go back to the stylist and have him cut some more until I got to the grand total of 16 inches.

There was something very liberating about getting rid of all that hair. I don’t know why I couldn’t do it all at once. I guess a big change like that takes a little time and getting used to.

My hair is relatively short now, unintentionally trendy. A friend recommended a cut called the stacked bob a couple of years ago, thinking it would look good on me. I went to see my stylist and, without having seen a picture of this cut, asked her to give me a stacked bob. It was obviously one of those days when I’d had enough of my hair and I didn’t care what she did to it as long as it was different.

I was delighted (and a little surprised, because this sort of spontaneous decision doesn’t always work out well) to find that I not only liked the style and cut, but so did my hair. I’ve been sporting the look ever since. Then Victoria Beckham came to the U.S. and made the style/cut popular. Mine is not as extreme as hers, but it’s basically the same style and cut. It’s everywhere now.

No matter. I like how it looks on me and will likely keep it in some version of a bob for many years to come. This cut finally did for me what no other color or cut or style ever did — it made me like my hair. It has bounce, it has body, and it’s easy peasy. A quick blow-dry and go.

That’s what I like best about it: no fuss. I’ve never been the kind of girl or woman who fusses with her hair.

Someday I’m going to try out some purple streaks in my hair. Just for the fun of it. Because I’m old enough now to appreciate having fun with my hair.

As long as it doesn’t require too much fuss.

Redhead, photo taken by Robin, February 1977, photo © 2008 by Robin, all rights reserved.

Redhead, Robin’s son when he was young, photo taken in
February 1977, photo © 2008 by Robin. All rights reserved.

Robin is a photographer and writer living in an area she calls The Bogs, also known as the snow belt of northeastern Ohio. (Note: she is a self-described “amateur photographer,” but once you see her work on her blog, Bountiful Healing, you’ll undoubtedly agree with our editing out the word “amateur.”)

Robin used to write but has spent the past two years focusing on photography. Recently, she is once again taking up pen and paper (or keyboard and monitor, as the case may be) for daily writing practice, inspired, she tells us, by the writing practices at red Ravine.

She wrote this essay as a writing practice, unpolished except for correcting typos (which she does automatically as she types), based on the post WRITING TOPIC – HAIR.

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I have brown curly hair. I am the only one in my family with curls. Not just waves, but corkscrew curls. People asked throughout my childhood: Who has curls in the family? The answer to strangers was: Her grandmother had wavy hair. To friends and one another, we joked: Her father was Zorro.

Zorro is what we called the postman who delivered mail on Neat Lane. Zorro stayed out in front of our mailbox and talked to Mom for hours. Literally. He would sit in his little postal truck and Mom would lean against the mailbox, and they would talk.

None of us knew his real name, and no one, not my dad or my older sisters, must have honestly believed that Zorro was a threat. I do wonder, though, what all the other housewives thought as they waited for their mail while Zorro frittered away the morning chatting with Mom.

Mom says my hair started out straight but that after the tracheotomy at 18 months, the time I nearly died of croup that became pneumonia, my hair got curly. She says I was in an oxygen tent for days and that as I lie sleeping and sweating, the ringlets formed.

Like a flower growing, in those nature shows where they speed up time, time lapse photography, that’s how I picture me inside the oxygen tent. Mom and Dad peering into the plastic then wham, straight wispy hair curls up all around, my forehead covered in drops of sweat. I even see their eyes growing bigger, as if witnessing something unnatural. And even though I’m sure this isn’t at all the way it happened, it is forever pressed into my consciousness, my own little film about a time in my life that I was too young to remember.

Nowadays my hair is long. If I were to straighten it, it might even reach my shoulder blades on my back. I usually straighten it when I have a meeting, like in China or with people I don’t know.

Something about straight hair, the notion that it’s not actually me underneath it, allows me to slip into a more businesslike, more powerful persona. I like having the option, and even though I’ve come to love my curly hair, I like that at any time I can blow it out and make it as straight as straight can be.

I was remembering this morning about a time, maybe in my 30s, probably after Em was born, when I lost a lot of hair. I was thinking about the thin-haired women, aunts and cousins, on Dad’s side of the family. I remember I went through a period where I had a recurring dream that I was one of those alien dog-men from Bewitched, the one who didn’t have much hair on top of his head but had instead long, hairy ears.

My dream was that I get up out of bed in the morning, wash my face in the sink, and as I’m rinsing the soap off my face I catch my reflection in the mirror. I am just like the dog-man on Bewitched. Bald on top, long floppy ears down the sides.

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – HAIR

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I can’t stand loose, grubby hair on the bottom of my socks. I either go barefoot, or wear slippers around the house. But I rarely go barefoot (tender feet). So we’re back to the slippers. My slippers are (were) Minnetonka Moccasins I had for the last, oh, probably, 20 years. They finally wore through at the toe and there was a gaping hole.

But I loved them so much, I kept wearing them. Last time I was in Taos, I forgot them in my room at Mabel Dodge. I’m sure whoever visited my room after I left, went, “What?! Who would have worn these ratty old things!” and tossed them in the garbage. I wonder who found them? Embarrassing.

Now I have no slippers. I need to revisit the Minnetonka Moccasin website and see what they have. In the meantime, I wear an old pair of Ked’s penny loafers around the house. But they aren’t large and roomy like my slippers and won’t accommodate the bulky butter socks I’m wearing this frigid Minnesota January.

I’ve worn my hair short since I was about 19. Back then, the feathered look was in for short hair. Before that, my hair was long the way women wore their hair in the 70’s, hippie or not. I understand that style has come back. But I don’t pay attention to hairstyles anymore. I wear my hair the way I am most comfortable. That’s all there is to it.

I like blonde highlights, but not just highlights, more like a bleached-out tips look. It’s expensive to get the hair highlighted though. So since I’ve been focused more on my writing, I take fewer trips to the hairdresser.

My grandmother was a beautician. She really enjoyed the work, but it was hard to be on her feet so much. I remember sitting in the beauty salon with her in the early 60’s, drinking icy bottled Cokes out of the machine, and listening to women talk with each other while they sat under those robot like hair dryers that wheeled around. The dryers were bulky and heavy and loud.

I was so hot as a kid, sweating all the time in that Southern climate, that one day I begged my grandmother to cut my hair. She finally gave in. My mother was so upset with her that day. She liked my hair long. But I was happy as a clam with my new bob. Eventually, it grew back out again.

I love getting my hair cut. The pampering that goes along with having someone wash and cut my hair for me, that’s what I love. It’s not that often that we get to have someone else wash our hair. Maybe I’m strange, but I find it kind of nurturing.

Hair was a big deal in the 1960’s. Men wore their hair extremely long. Or else medium with those lambchop sideburns. I’ve come to discover that women have much more freedom around the way they wear their hair and the way that they dress. There are more choices for different occasions. Men seem so much more limited in style. But, at the same time, there can be freedom in that simplicity. So maybe it’s a toss up.

Back to the hair on the socks. I don’t know why that bothers me so much. But I really can’t stand to have dirty socks on the bottom. It grosses me out. Does anyone still say that – grosses me out? That’s what happens in writing practice, you show your flaws and weaknesses, you are exposed. Sometimes the writing is just plain bad. 8)

Body hair? I think Americans are obsessed with either having it or not having it. For women, if they have it, it’s a nightmare. They are stared at, laughed at, made to pluck, pull, yank, wax, and conform. If men don’t have it, perhaps they are athletes, or they might be gay and take off every centimeter of hair from their body. There are many gay men who like hairless bodies. I never asked about the particulars of this. I only know what a few friends have told me – every hair removed.

I like soft, fine hair. I tried to grow mine out a few times over the last ten years. I couldn’t stand it past the mid-stage, when it was driving me crazy, flailing in my face, falling limp and lifeless, where there was once short wild hair with lots of body. I’ve got a gray streak on the right front corner of my hair. It’s become kind of a signature. When I get my hair tipped, I never let them cover that up. I’ve grown fond of the original nature of the steak. It appeared sometime in my late 20’s, early 30’s. It doesn’t seem related to age.

When I was in 8th grade, I had hair like Patty Duke, curled under and wrapped to my head, tucked under my chin. It’s like that in my 8th grade school photo. Maybe I had a premonition of things to come. I traded the fake blonde for the authentic silver streak. And that’s what I know about hair.

Oh, one more thing. Last week, one of the popular local news anchors changed her hairstyle. We noticed right away. It made her look completely different and accentuated her already high cheekbones. She’s a beautiful woman no matter how she wears her hair. But the new cut had bangs and wasn’t as flattering as the old one.

Within, two days, she had swooped the bangs back under the longer hair and parted her hair on the side again. Back to the old hairstyle. I guess we weren’t the only ones that thought the new doo looked like a mushroom. Think of the pressure of being a news anchor, in the public eye every day, two or three times a day. No thanks. I’ll stick with writing every day, alone, from the comfort of my cave.

-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, January 31st, 2008

-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – HAIR

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