February 2007

No State Fair hair, please

By Suzanne Strazza

“Hair brings one’s self-image into focus; it is vanity’s proving ground. Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices.” — Shana Alexander

Last night, I saw a friend whom I haven’t seen in quite a while. As we caught up, I was distracted by the way her hair fell in perfect, sassy lines, complimenting her face while at the same time appearing easy, unstructured and yes, sexy.

Interrupting her intriguing, yet much less important, description of her career, I said, with a considerable amount of envy “I love your hair.”

“Do you??? I cried when I got it done.”

Ah, the universal hair lamentation.

How important is a good haircut? It depends on who you ask… a woman or a man. A man will probably reply with, “Huh?”, while a woman will fix you a cup of tea and regale you with opinions, and a horror story or two.

Have you ever cried over a bad haircut? I’ll bet that at least 95 percent of you (female) readers can answer yes to this question.

“But it’s just hair,” our male counterparts will say, trying to comfort us. A lot they know. Although it may seem vain, historically hair is a woman’s “crowning glory,” that which defines her. Ask a man what he finds attractive about a woman and I guarantee the answer will include her hair, especially if it’s long enough for him to use it to drag her back into the cave.

Hair can define a woman, tell the world who she is; a well-primped mane screams “high-maintenance,” while a raggedy greasy mop hints that she’s probably a mother who misplaced her brush amidst the piles of diapers. Braids say “low-maintenance, still cares, likes the outdoors.” An ’80s do which has remained the same since high school clearly lets the world know of a timid soul. Healthy hair shows a woman cares about herself, eats well, exercises, hydrates, whereas fried hair or a bad perm job shows ignorance of holistic health. A bad bilevel says, “I pissed off my hairdresser!” And a pouffy style that adds 10 years to a woman lets us all know that it’s spring and the state fair is in full swing.

After numerous bad cuts and bad dye jobs, I took matters into my own hands (quite literally) and shaved off my entire mane, lock, stock and barrel. Although many of my friends and neighbors did not appreciate my choice, I loved it. My husband thought it was incredibly sexy too. But, after many months of hairlessness, I began to covet loose flowing locks.

I wanted to look like a girl again.

The growing-out process has been a living hell, 1 1/2 years of bad hair, day in and day out. I have dyed it, gelled it, and sworn at it. I own a lot of hats. Now, it is finally long enough to not stick straight out, which has catapulted me from the realm of bad hair to an even scarier one: CUTE hair.

Let me make this clear. I am not CUTE. Cute people are nice, sweet, and delicate. I am none of the above, yet I have this sweet little bob that bellows cute.

Ask any woman, it’s demoralizing to want sassy or sexy and end up CUTE.

Another realm of bad hair includes the Home-Do (often a result of boredom or despair). Particularly vulnerable: bangs. Most women have, at least once, grabbed the scissors and hacked off those precious front hairs to create an instant new look. Who doesn’t have a bad-bang horror story? And we somehow always forget the agonizing nightmare of growing them back out. This same phenomenon applies to the dyeing of hair; purple and hot pink being as sure a sign of dissatisfaction as crooked bangs.

“What the hell was I thinking (again)?” is a question frequently asked. When my mother dies, her gravestone will read, “I hate my hair” — her daily mantra for the past 50 years. Any woman, even if she appears to not care, does.

On the other hand… A man’s hit on a haircut… out of his face, covers up the bald spot, shampoo no more than once a week — good.

If men cared as much as women, the world would not know the comb-over. We won’t even go into the mullet thing.

Men’s roots go back to Neanderthals: head-to-toe hair. Hair was utilitarian, kept them warm. Women got dragged around by their hair so we innately know the significance of our locks. And groan as men may about our vanity, they know that, as Martin Luther once said, “The hair is the richest ornament of women.”

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.