Hair is a weird thing. Basic, protein-based, filamentous biomaterial that regenerates, creates warmth, and for most of the animal kingdom, provides camouflage and allows for greater sensory perception. But, as human beings are sort of the drunken redneck cousin of the animal kingdom, we have taken hair to a whole new level and allow it to both define us as a person and make us crazier than a shithouse rat when we wake up looking like Don King.
As a kid, I never gave my hair a great deal of thought. For me, it was more of an annoyance than a status symbol, which may explain why, for the majority of my youth I either sported the short-n-sassy Dorothy Hamill bob, or a rather unfortunate Toni home perm that made me look like the bastard love-child of Gilda Radner and Bob Ross.*
*R.I.P., guys. I hope wherever you are, you're surrounded by laughter, joy, and happy little trees.
Even my dolls weren't spared my aversion to flowing locks as I tended to rip off their arms and go all G.I. Jane on them with the scissors until eventually my toybox looked like a diorama of Amputee Day at Lillith Fair. Of course, my sister Holly was the exact opposite of me and from a very early age showed her acumen as both a fashionista and style maven. Holly was blessed with a torrent of gorgeous sun-streaked ringlets that over the years she has tortured like a Gitmo detainee in an effort to make it straight. For years I watched as she stretched, ironed, chemically irradiated, and hot oiled her Nicole Kidman locks, desperately attempting to create the sleek mane she so desired but could never seem to attain. It was like watching Michael J. Fox try to solve a Rubik's Cube; you knew he was never going to do it, but God bless that Brave Little Toaster for trying.
I didn't really pay my hair any great concern until long after high school. As it was the 80's, I rocked the requisite Tawny Kitaen spiral perm and Aqua Net bangs, and two weeks before graduation hacked it all off to the horror and dismay of my sister and my friends. In the following years I wore my hair short, long, shoulder-length, and dyed it every color from jet black to 'I Love Lucy' red.*
*When it comes to my hair, I have the attention span of a toddler on NyQuil.
But while I am pretty fearless when it comes to cutting and coloring my own hair, the thought of going to an actual salon makes me about as comfortable as a 'Nam P.O.W. with a yeast infection. Fortunately, I kinda won the genetic lotto with hair. It's thick, and shiny, has just enough wave that it can be worn curly or straight, despite the myriad acts of chicanery I have forced upon it, my hair has rallied like a boss. Like. A. Boss. I don't know how both my sister and I ended up with "good hair". . .who knows what convoluted crimp in the DNA chain determines why some of us roll out of bed looking like a Breck Girl and some of us look like Dora the Explorer after a donkey show?*
*And if you just asked "What's a Breck Girl?" then you need to go Google that little piece of Americana, STAT. Also, now I know that you're way younger than I am. . .and I kind of hate you a little.
But, despite the fact that paying someone to cut my hair has me running faster than Charlie Sheen when he hears the words "open bar", there comes a time when even I know it's time to suck it up, lean into the strike zone, and take one for the team. Generally, that time arrives when I find myself fashioning hair accessories out of household objects in a desperate attempt to tame the wild beast
Yes, that is a Sharpie. . .and a small screwdriver. But that's nothing; you should see my wicked rad binder clip barrettes. 'Yeah, boooooooooooy!"
So, eventually I cowboyed up, grew a (small) pair, and hauled my cheap ass over to the local salon. I sat in the waiting area, leafing absently through a magazine with a clenched jaw, and posture stiffer than Perez Hilton interviewing the cast of "Magic Mike". I sat in stony silence as women filed out of the salon, each one with a cut and color "edgier" than the last and gaped in abject horror as I watched them pay with checks that had more zeroes than a Star Trek convention. For someone with my tight-fisted and penurious little Republican heart it was horrifying to watch all of that money pop its clogs like that. It was like. . .like watching a snuff film narrated by Bernie Madoff and Michael Milken. So, ultimately, I stammered some ham-handed excuse about leaving the iron on or some fallacious shit like that and bolted out the door faster than Winona Ryder at a Nordstrom half-yearly sale.
Flash forward two weeks later where at this point my hair was pretty much being beaten in submission with duct tape and welding rebar when I ran into my friend, Naomi, at church. Naomi is also a fellow denizen of my apartment complex of inequity and as she rushed over to hug me I stared in awe at her glossy raven hair, now cut and styled with thick bangs and loose waves like a pin-up girl. I was mesmerized.
"Holy, crap, Girl; who did your hair!?!?" I cried.*
*Because, apparently, in my mind 'Holy crap' is a perfectly acceptable way to greet someone. Loudly. In a church. ((shame spiral))
Naomi laughed and flicked her perfect bangs to the side. "Thanks! I did it myself. You really like it?"
I nodded reverently. "Like it!?!? Damn, Naomi, you're just a martini and a sexually euphemistic moniker away from being a bond Girl."
Naomi shrugged, grinning shyly. "Thanks, Jen. I used to cut hair all the time. . .you know. . .before."*
*By 'before', Naomi means before she got married and had four boys within five and a half years. Whenever I complain about being in a two bedroom apartment with two children, I remember that she's in a two bedroom apartment with four children, a husband, and two dogs, and suddenly I feel like a complete asshole. It's oddly comforting.
"You know," Naomi began, eyeing my hair scrupulously, "you could totally pull off bangs. I can cut them for you, if you want me to."
Now, finding a situation where someone is willing to cater to my petty insecurities and perform a much-needed service in my own damned home is rarer than finding an NRA sticker on a Prius. So I said yes. . .*
*Actually, I said "Hell, yes!". . .OK, I might have screamed it. . .Again, in church. . .I'm a terrible person.
So, two nights later, over the sounds of six screaming short people, a lot of laughter, and a steaming platter of nachos, Naomi clipped, thinned, and glossed my hair over the kitchen sink.
I let her curl it under threat of death if she made me look like Zooey freaking Deschanel.
When people ask why someone with my heretic soul and rather. . ."colorful" vocabulary can possibly be a church-goer, I point to the people like Naomi, or the woman who spent hours helping my son with autism learn his Bible verses, or the woman who hugged me when I sobbed with fear over a health scare, or the men who anonymous paid the money for my children to attend camp when money was tight. Christians come in many shapes and forms, y'all. . .they aren't all gay-bashing, abortion clinic bombimg, Westborough Baptist jagoffs; most of them are funny, and accepting, and generous, and irreverent as hell. . .and oddly enough, most of them have FABULOUS hair.