Hiding behind Your Hair

The first time I saw Violet, in the Pixar movie The Incredibles, I instantly related to her. I was that girl when I was in school. I was the one with the low self-esteem, who just wanted to disappear. The only way I could do that, really, was to hide behind my hair.

I’m beginning to see that girl again when I look in the mirror. Not because my self-esteem is back to rock bottom, but because thanks to COVID-19, all the hair salons are closed. I’m beginning to look as though I’ve been raised by wolves. I’m seriously contemplating shaving my head.

I’ve known a lot of people who hide behind their hair. I have one friend with a foot-long beard, a la ZZ Top, who swears it’s just a fashion statement. But he is very reclusive and tends to keep people at arm’s length. I think that beard is one of the many walls he shelters himself behind, and it makes me very sad. He’s an amazing man, and I think he’d see a lot of positive results if he removed that barrier.

Yes, everyone should be allowed to express themselves any way that they want. I’m not hair shaming here. And I certainly don’t mean to trod upon your cultural beliefs. I’m just speaking from personal experience. Your situation may not be the same, and if it isn’t, more power to you. But if you think your hair might be a wall, consider tearing it down, or pulling it back or putting it up at the very least.

Come out, come out. I know you’re in there somewhere.

Violet Parr
Violet Parr, The Incredibles

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The Day My Mother Cut Off My Hair

When I was about 9 years old, I lived in such a dysfunctional atmosphere that I was prone to dissociation. I was profoundly depressed, so I learned to “go somewhere else” inside my head. I had a rich inner life, because my outer one, in a nutshell, sucked.

One day I was abruptly wrenched from that world, though, when my mother cut off about 12 inches of my hair. I screamed. I cried. But the damage was already done.

She said to me, “I told you and told you that if you didn’t wash your hair properly, this was going to happen.”

The thing is, I have no memory of her giving me that warning. None. I remember being shocked when she said that.

Maybe she did warn me. Maybe I was somewhere else at the time. There’s no way for me to know.

In my profound depression, it wouldn’t surprise me if I wasn’t taking particularly good care of myself. Looking back at this as an adult, you’d think this might have been a red flag that called for some sort of intervention on her part, rather than an opportunity to violate my body in such a horrifying way, but no.

Please understand what hair is to a girl with low self-esteem. It’s something to hide behind. It’s practically all you have. When someone chops it all off without your permission, it leaves you exposed, vulnerable, and feeling completely out of control.

And while a pixie cut may have looked cute on Twiggy in the 60’s, one glance at the photo of me below and you realize I wasn’t exactly rockin’ it in the 70’s. When you’re 9 and have no other thing to identify you as female, it’s devastating. I was mistaken for a boy for about a year. I wanted to crawl under a rock and die.

I took to wearing a big, ridiculous looking floppy hat. But I couldn’t wear it at school. There, I wore things with flowers. I hate wearing things with flowers. It’s not who I am. But this hairstyle was not who I was, either.

When you’re a few short years away from puberty and already confused about who you are, the last thing you need is to have what little ability you have to express yourself wrenched away. I don’t know if this was the only contributing factor, but to this day, I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin.

Please don’t do this to your daughters unless they want short hair themselves. There has to be another way. Communication would be a great starting point.

Very few photographs of me from that time still exist. Whenever I see them, I can see the pain in my eyes. I want to take that little girl in my arms and rock her and tell her how wonderful she is. Someone should have done that at the time. Nobody did. That was the crux of the problem.

1972 ish School Pic - Barb

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Are You FREAKING Kidding Me?

Let’s just say, (hypothetically) that I received an e-mail from someone who isn’t even in my chain of command, and it said, (hypothetically), “Please allow yourself to do cleaning duties toward the end of your shift. I found a long strand of hair on the inside of the toilet rim.”

First of all… ALLOW myself? Like I’m, what? Possessed by demons who absolutely will not tolerate me keeping track of every strand of hair that might be in the room? Or is this simply friendly advice on how to win the psychic battle with my more slovenly self?

If this actually had happened, I would be (hypothetically) not the only person in my workplace who thinks that this person has a major screw loose. If you have so little to worry about that you have to make a federal case out of a single strand of hair, then I want your life for even a day.

But I’m all about solutions. So if this insane scenario were to happen, here’s the suggestion I’d make to management:

I think all bridgetenders, even the bald ones (so as not to show favoritism) should be required to wear hair nets during their entire shift. Hair net dispensers could be placed at all entrances, and the employee would not be allowed to clock in without donning one. A hair net log book could be kept, both a paper copy and on the computer, and both bridge operators would be required to sign it on shift change, verifying that hair nets were being worn. Of course, special hair net disposal procedures would have to be implemented to avoid a hazmat situation.

DNA samples should be required during the employment process so that if there is a question as to the offending hair’s origin, that may be quickly and quite expensively resolved. Anyone who refuses to provide said sample should be wrestled to the ground and shaved from head to toe. If they claim some sort of exemption for aesthetic reasons, they should be required to encase their entire head in a plastic bag until such time as they choose to comply.

Further, “hair nets in place” should be added to the supervisory site visit form, and supervisors should be more stealthy when approaching the bridges so that they can catch and fire people who are out of uniform. Therefore, the alarm system should be disabled, because otherwise we could all have advanced warning and put the hair nets on as you approach.

Better yet, let’s install secret surveillance cameras and hire a staff member to monitor us at all times. A sensor should also be set up to detect stray hairs and send an electric shock into the operator’s chair if any violations occur. And any stray hairs left at the end of one’s shift should require removal by using the offender’s tongue, attached for the first offense, detached for the second.

I think we can all agree that it is high time that management started taking things more seriously up in this mo’ fo’, so I look forward to your usual prompt and proactive resolution measures. Thanks ever so much.

shaving head

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Personal Space

People want to touch my hair all the time. It’s freakishly thick, and at various times in my life it has been quite long. I wouldn’t mind so much if they asked first. But no. They just dive right in there. It feels like a violation.

And one time when I was in 7th grade, this boy I didn’t even know walked up to me, stuck his finger in my mouth and ran it along my gum line. Of course I slapped his hand away, but he may as well have been invading my private parts, it was that upsetting. He laughed and walked away. Maybe if I could understand why someone would do such a thing, I’d stop having such a visceral reaction when I think about it, even 40 years later. Ugh.

And at 5’6”, I’m apparently at just the right height for men to elbow me in the chest. Elevators, in particular, are danger zones for this type of behavior. It happens so often that I sometimes wonder if it’s intentional. If so, it’s not cool. In fact, it really hurts.

I don’t know how pregnant women cope. Having total strangers touching my belly would freak me out. Bald guys get treated to unexpected touches too.

And then there are the cultural differences in personal space. I had a very hard time when I lived in Mexico. People there are right up on you. It made me really uncomfortable, even though they didn’t mean anything aggressive by it. I’m sure I have the same effect on people from places that enjoy an even larger bubble of independence than I do.

Would you enter a stranger’s house without knocking? Do you rummage around in another woman’s purse without permission? Would you walk up to a random diner in a restaurant and help yourself to what’s on his or her plate? No? Then maybe you might want to consider keeping your hands to yourself.

Me in hairier times.
Me in hairier times.

Donating Yourself

Times are tough and there’s so much need out there that it can be overwhelming. But it’s understandable when people can’t make financial donations. I for one am struggling to make ends meet. But there are so many other ways to help.

Here are some ways you can give of yourself, show the world how wonderful you are, and improve the lives of others without spending a dime, and if you need added incentive, in many cases you can write these donations off on your taxes.

  • Become a marrow donor. If you’re between the ages of 18 and 44, a simple cheek swab will get you registered, and if you become a match it could save someone’s life. Go here to order a registration kit.
  • Become a cord blood donor. Are you pregnant? Donating your baby’s cord blood after birth does not put you or your child at risk and could save someone’s life. Talk to your doctor and find out if your hospital participates in this program before your child is born. For more information, go here.
  • Donate your used clothing and furniture. It breaks my heart to see useable items on the curb on trash day when there are so many organizations who would be happy to take them off your hands. Many will even come and pick it up from you.
  • Donate your used car. There are a lot of organizations that will take your used car. Here’s a site that can connect you to various charitable organizations, but personally, I plan to donate my car to National Public Radio when the time comes.
  • Volunteer. Many organizations in your community could use your help. Here’s a website that can help you find those opportunities.
  • Give someone a micro-loan. I can’t say enough about Kiva.org. In a nutshell, loan 25 dollars, change someone’s life, get paid back, and hopefully do it again. What have you got to lose? Not one single penny, that’s what.
  • Help a neighbor. If you have a neighbor who is sick or elderly or disabled or a single parent, they could no doubt use your help. Whether it’s shoveling snow, running an errand, doing home repair or mowing the lawn, there are any number of things you could do to make their lives easier.
  • Donate blood. Another free opportunity to save a life! Imagine that. Go here to find the blood bank nearest you.
  • Freecycle. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Rather than filling the landfill with your perfectly usable but no longer wanted items, advertise them here on your local freecycle network. This is a great way to pick up things that other people are giving away as well!
  • Spread the word. Do you know of a way for people to save money or live healthier or safer lives? Don’t keep this information to yourself. Share it. Facebook it. Tweet it. Whatever it takes to share this with others. Knowledge is power.
  • Donate your hair. Planning to cut more than 10 inches of your hair off? Don’t let it go to waste! There are organizations that will make wigs for people who have cancer or alopecia. I don’t want to give any one organization special treatment, so simply google “hair donation” and choose the one you like best.
  • Listen. Sometimes all someone needs to turn their day around is someone willing to listen to them. Really hear them. That’s a skill. Please practice it.
  • Participate in Neighborhood Watch. Help keep your neighborhood safe the RIGHT way, with an organization that does not advocate vigilante behavior. Google Neighborhood Watch to learn more.
  • Be a mentor. Share your knowledge and expertise with someone who would benefit from it. Learn more about this here.
  • Recycle. Think of this as volunteering for the planet.
  • Report abuse and other crimes when you see them. If you witness domestic violence or any other crime, speak up. That’s the only way you’ll prevent its recurrence. This is a way of doing a good turn for a future victim. Simply dial 911, or if you are outside of the United States, find out your emergency number and keep it handy.
  • Be an organ donor. Sign up to become an organ donor in your state’s organ donor registry and you will not have died in vain. For more information, go here. Also, be sure to share your wishes with your loved ones so that there’s no conflict or confusion when the time comes.

There are so many ways to make a difference in this world, and you don’t have to spend any money doing so. If you can think of any other ways that I may have overlooked, please add them to the comments section. I do 13 of the things mentioned above, but doing even one will make the world a better place. Join me, won’t you?


Remember when you were young and willing? It’s never too late.

[Image Credit: astdtn.org]