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Hair History - More on Hair-Shapes - nhpeacenik
Hair History - More on Hair-Shapes
Women are allowed to be open about hair, but men generally aren't.

When I was a kid, at least when I was school-aged, my family always took me to the barber shop. The barber offered two styles to boys: "crew-cut" and "butch". With the butch, you got a stick of butch-wax to keep the front standing up straight. Both styles were super-short - almost a shaved head. The barber always used to punch me in the shoulder and call me "champ", which was just about as embarrassing as anything I could think of. I couldn't respond in kind, being a kid, so I just became more taciturn than usual, which was an acceptable male response.

Looking back, I realized that I was growing up in a militaristic, gender-regimented time. Later, when we went to Alaska on archaeological expeditions, I'd get one haircut per summer, using the "bowl" method. Someone would find a bowl that sort-of fit my head and trim the hair around the edge of the bowl with scissors. The result was a mop-top that was the archetype of what the Beatles later tried to achieve. It left the hair on top of my head long. I liked it that way... It felt like freedom, and somewhere deep inside I vowed that as soon as I became an adult, I'd wear my hair long.

Living in Denmark, I had my first chance. In Denmark, boys had long hair that streamed out in the wind behind their bicycles. The girls liked it, and the smiles that passed between young people of opposite genders passing on bicycles there has no equal in my memory. I took the cue from the natives and paid no attention to the fact that the US embassy kids who were also at my school were sticking defiantly to their crew-cuts.

Once I was on my own, I grew hair (and sometimes beard and mustache) as long as I could. Whenever I had to get a conventional job, I'd undergo the  humiliation of having my head nearly shaved and then let it grow out again as soon as the boss saw I was conscientious. I loved periods of unemployment and near-self-employment when I could let it grow back out to its natural length. A lot of men who came to be defined as "hippies" must have had similar motivations, but this was no shallow fad. There was a story, i think by Zenna Henderson, in which sensitive people had antennae growing among their hair, and if the hair were shaved off, it would leave them desperately alone and out-of-communication with their fellow sensitives. One of my elders, an eccentric mystic named Rusel who taught me a lot, believed this was literally true.

When I was about fifty and attending the Old Songs Festival in Altamont NY, I stayed at the Motel 6 in Albany, where the bathroom had harsh fluorescent lights and mirrors on all sides. I discovered that there was a bald spot in the middle of my head where I couldn't see it, but everybody else could. The image of being a bald man did not appeal at all , and I vowed to myself to keep my hair as long as it could grow until they strapped me down in the old-age home and forcibly cut it. A slightly-older Quaker man came to stay with us a few days for a Quaker gathering shortly thereafter, and I noticed that his long hair had turned white. I thought, "That's what I'll look like in a few years." The change is inevitable, and I am comfortable with it, but I'm thankful there's still some red in my hair for now.

If I'd grown up at a later time, I might have had dreds or piercings or tattoos (or even a shaved head) that made me feel freer, but I am who I am, and I come from where I come from, and I'm just happy to be a spectator of all this new freedom of appearance. I delight to see young people working and playing in "masks" of their own making. I sense that the inner freedom that accompanies it is a real sign of progress in this age where other kinds of economic and social progress seem to be caught in a time-warp.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
tibbie_x From: tibbie_x Date: October 21st, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hi, I like this post a lot! I have always been jealous of punk girls who looked so beautiful with shaved heads. I know it would not be for me. For men I guess its more or a depressing conservative thing and for women its liberating....?
pirate_moo From: pirate_moo Date: October 27th, 2008 04:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
You would've looked ace with dreads! Haha!

Hair is a funny thing; it can make us feel totally different having it in different styles! I think I've found the way my hair 'should' be, much as you did. Long hair is best!! :D
2 comments or Leave a comment