How Much Does Hair Matter?

“You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing.” — Hélène Cixous

Hair is a truly bizarre thing when you really think about it. It keeps growing after we’re dead. It stands up straight when you’re cold or startled. It doesn’t grow on the fingertips, the palms of hands, or the soles of feet (among several other bizarre bodily nooks and crannies).

As a child, I was always enthralled by hair. I had the Play-Doh Barbershop, which was actually awesome — you could cut the doll’s hair and just push a lever and the doll’s phallic skull with little holes poked in the top of it — honestly, looking back at the Play-Doh doll now, it looks like someone poked a bunch of holes in a condom, doused it in liquid nitrogen and then used it as a salt shaker) would keep sprouting back spaghetti strands of neon mush at you).

I also had a strict nanny when I was young who insisted that, like my mother, I too must blow dry my hair promptly after each and every shower. As a result, I was convinced I had straight hair until the 6th grade, when we had “Swimming Class” as part of our lackluster, lackadaisical gym curriculum. After showering off from the first day of Swimming Class, the bell rang for our next class period, “Art Class,” to begin, and there was no time for me to blow dry my hair. “Screw it,” I thought. It was as if my hair had heeded my call, for within half an hour, it had indeed managed to screw itself up into a lion’s mane of curly blonde frizz.

And despite the fact that my dad had a killer “Jewfro” back in the seventies, it may have been the closest my hair has ever come to experiencing a “Jewfro” to call my own. But I was completely oblivious to the fact that this had happened and that I now looked like a French poodle, until a girl in my class shouted, “Annie, what happened to your hair? You look like a French poodle.” That, I kid you not, was the precise moment that I knew: my hair was, in fact, curly.

When I was thirteen, I took a pair of scissors to a giant cowlick in the center of my forehead. A week and a half later, the giant cowlick started growing back in, only now instead of curling, the hairs were all sticking straight out like a diving board. My mother rushed me to the actual barbershop (no phallic dolls there) for the awkward phase of my prepubescent life, which I like to call ”When Forehead Met Bangs.” Voltaire once said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Well, screw perfection, I’d take “good” any day, but unfortunately, despite what Rick James may have led you to believe, there is no such thing as “good” curly bangs. I learned that lesson the hard way. And no, you can’t see the pictures.

Sophomore year of college at Oberlin, I went through an androgynous/sexually-experimental phase wherein my friends helped me buzz off all of my hair, starting with the ponytail. One of my close male friends saved the ponytail in a Ziploc bag, and come spring, he’d decided to tape it to his head for Oberlin’s Drag Ball.

At that time, I knew a girl there who was very proud of her hairy armpits, and so she let them grow wild and dyed them a deep scarlet hue. Some of my friends turned up their noses at her freshly crimsoned pits, saying shitty things about her like, “Wow, you’re a feminist. We get it,” and “Friggin’ Hipsters.” I nodded along, but I secretly thought the idea was kind of cool for the reasons listed below:

A) It’s like shouting, “I don’t give a f-ck,” but minus the shouting. You don’t have to shout anything when you’re armpits are making a statement like that.

B) It’s rebellious, but in a peaceful manner — almost like a way to let our phallocentric, heteronormative, and patriarchal society know that the times they are a changin.’ It’s like in The Lion King when Simba says to Zazu, “Danger? Hah! I walk on the wild side. I laugh in the face of danger. Ha ha ha ha,” only you have to replace the word “danger” with the word “society.” It’s strange how interchangeable those two words can be, which can only mean one thing: Society equals danger, or something. But I digress…

C) I may or may not have had a small LesBeHonest crush on her at the time.

D) All of the above.

The first time I met my current boyfriend was at Oberlin’s “Safer Sex Night.” I was wearing a bright blue wig, he was wearing fake zombie blood. The second time we saw each other, it was Halloween, and I was wearing a Rainbow Brite costume and a long blonde wig. The third time I saw him, I was not wearing a wig. He seemed a tad caught off guard by my real hair follicles (or lack thereof), and I didn’t see him again for almost a year. The fourth time I saw him, I think I must have been getting back in touch with the Pittsburgher in me because my hair had grown out to a chic, chin-length mullet. We started dating a week and a half later. Which can only mean one thing: men find a mullet on a woman sexier than a girl with a buzz cut?

I currently have long red curly hair. Due to this, I am almost constantly inundated with questions like, “So does the carpet match the drapes?” and pick-up lines like, “Hey, Big Red, ya know, I’ve got a thang for redheads” (direct quote from a drunken old man at a bar in Pittsburgh).

“Please don’t buzz your hair off again,” my mom said to me one day, a non-sequitor completely out of the blue. We had been talking about what groceries to put on the list.

“Um, okay,” I said.

“It just made you look so…well, Butch.”

“Thanks, Mom,” I said.

I do like having long hair at the moment, but I still miss those low-maintenance, carefree, hair-free days. Although if I buzzed my head again I think my boyfriend and my mom just might go cray cray. On the other hand, every morning when I wake up, my hair now puts the term “Bed Head” to shame. My unruly Jewish ringlets frizz and shrink up like snakes. One quick glance in the mirror confirms the deadly truth: I have once again become the Medusa overnight. TC Mark


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  • Sadthatiknowthis

    hair doesn’t keep growing after death, the skin around hair follicles loses water and shrinks, making the hair look like it’s grown. (sorry to be such a nerd).

    • Nic

      Read the 2nd sentence and immediately, I had to scroll down to the comments to check if someone has already corrected this. Fellow nerd, you’re not alone.

      • H

        Me too!!

  • Renee Aisha

    hair matters a lot, we can blame disney. think about it, snow white was the only girl holding it down for short hair girls and she isn’t as famous. there’s an obsession with long hair and people also like to police people’s hair practices.

  • meg (@meganfauxxxx)

    I had the same issues with hair. Growing up I had pin-straight dirty blonde hair. It was a rude wake-up call when that pin-straight hair became tighter, frizzy ringlets and waves, and no straightening iron could cure it. Ever. Now I’ve learned how to tame and accept the beast all at once. True, it included a lot of multi-coloured hair dye, bleach, straightening serum and finally just letting it run free (regrettably at times). But hey, it’s been a great adventure so far.

  • Only L<3Ve @

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • mel

    I had the opposite problem. I’ve known my whole life I had unruly, crazy, frizzy, super-curly hair. Growing up in the 70’s when everyone had hair like Marcia Brady made my life a living hell. Then in 1971 the first hand-held blower dryer was invented and I discovered all kinds of straightners and products to control my hair. Its still curly, but most of the time I love it. Why? because now it’s socially acceptable. So, yes, hair matters, ALOT. If I’d had “Marcia Brady” hair growing up, I wouldn’t have horrible memories of being made fun of, called names and thinking I was the ugliest person on the planet. Sad but true.

  • Kelly G.

    So true.

  • Raeg

    it’s just as bad in the african american community when you transition from relaxed hair to natural. i cannot tell you how many guys have told me that they think my hair is scary or girls who’d suggest that i keep my hair straight instead of letting it fro out like it naturally does. i just wish our society accepted that not everyone has long super straight hair and that other textures are just as beautiful.
    as for the morning bedhead, what helps is washing at night and putting it in a few braids before you sleep. you’ll spend less time de-tangling it in the morning and the curls come out more defined.

    • Mel

      I found the best remedies to cure my “frizzies” is not to wash it alot. I swear, I could not wash my hair for 2 weeks and it would never get even slightly greasy (If it matters, I am white). I wouldn’t recommend waiting that long. But dry curly hair (mine anyway) should not be washed more then twice a week. At night, I just pull it all up in a scrunchy and in the morning, blow out and style.

  • C

    Ok, I know this isn’t a bastion of great literature. I understand this is a blog. But, this is literally the worst piece of writing I’ve ever read….and I tutored remedial writing for two years in college. It had no organization, no flow, it looks like no one edited it at all. There was one (or more* parenthese that didn’t have a mate. PARENTHESES BELONG TOGETHER! Also, that list didn’t make sense. You can’t make “All of the Above” an option unless you’re posing it as multiple choice and not a list. Dear God, have some respect for your craft! Give it a once over. You’re making yourself look bad.

    *see what I did there?

  • Guest

    I grew up in a mostly white suburb. I used to envy both the tall lithe figures of girls, and the way they’d effortlessly run their fingers through long pin-straight blonde hair. I’m short, curvy, with an excess of brown Puerto Rican curls that if I attempted to run my hands through, would likely return less a few fingers. I refuse to straighten it though. Mostly because it’s part of my charm, and because it’d be an exercise in futility. I figure that’s the way genetics saw fit to put it on my head, so that’s the way it’ll stay. It would hurt my feelings when boys would stick pencils and paperclips in my hair, and giggle when I didn’t notice as my mane swallowed the school supplies whole. But the blonde girls I envied cooed over the hair I deemed a curse. “Can I touch it? Ohhh its so soft and shiny!” They’d squeal as they took turns carefully pulling the ringlets with a boing. I guess the moral is never be ashamed of what you’ve got. The old cliche, that grass is always greener holds true. And those same boys that teased, with time and sense grew to appreciate my different looks as exotic. Unruly mop, for the win.

  • Anonymous

    Did you even edit this?

    In the second paragraph you start with an M-dash and end with a parathesis, and it’s “non sequitur” not “non-sequitor.”

  • heyoh

    Oberlin representtttttttt

    • heyoh

      let me also say that my spirit animal is a buffalo. awesome

  • megeriter

    Thanks you drastically for this great and actually insightful report. Everybody will get fantastic specifics from this text.outstanding do the job protect it up. I’m planning to bookmark this website site for came back again all over again in upcoming.Visiting this site daily now. Great info. Keep it up!

  • Ketsia Leste

    Totally can relate. I miss my hair-free head. But am kinda enjoying long haired me again.

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