July 20, 2022

Thoughts on Hair

The most radical thing I have ever done was cut my hair. When I was a kid, my hair was sparse, thin,cut short like a boys. Often I was mistaken for one since I wore jeans and t-shirts instead of dresses. 

I always wanted long hair. My mother had hers down to her waist, as did both of my babysitters. This was in the early ages of Disney,  and all the princesses had long hair, long blonde hair. I remember crying at Woolworth's because the only princess mask was Cinderella and she had blonde hair when mine was brown. 

My hair finally started to grow in elementary school. This started long fights with my mother, fights with the tangles, let alone finding a freaking hair conditioner when we moved to Europe, our chant, “First the brush, then the comb, then the rubber band.” It became a constant chore. I would keep it contained in one or two braids. By the time I was in high school I could sit on it. I never got it cut. Occasionally my mother would trim the split ends. It was only in my 20's that I finally cut bangs. 

When I was fifteen, I went back to Europe to visit Julia. In London, I stopped at a hairdresser's to chop off my long locks. It was the early 80's and I was ready to pink out. The stylist convinced me I just needed coloring. Four painful hours later, my hair shoved through this bathing cap of tiny holes poke through with an embroidery needle to so that I had bleached highlights streaks in my hair was one of the most excruciating experiences of my life. Let alone the most expensive. After that  died my hair myself, I adding blonde streaks or stripes of black dye leftover from my brother's particular embellishments, and now and then a nice bright henna red. 


During my first marriage, things got a little bit rocky and I remember thinking,  if we broke up, what would I do? I knew instantly I would cut my hair and do a ritual with it. I became the butch babe I was always attracted to.

In 1994, At the American Booksellers Association convention in Los Angeles, I went to my brother's hairdresser, as my hairdresser was much too invested and literally would not chop off my hair. I made a thick braid which was deftly sliced off. That rope of hair lived above my altar for over a decade. One day I decided that as my hair contains my history, I should allow it to be free. I went down to Lighthouse Field and released the strands into the breeze so the birds could make their nests.

After the ABA, I walked into Herland and gave my wife a big hug from behind. She turned and put her hands on my head, stepped back, and said, "I thought you could never surprise me."

It served me well this butch cut. A classic flat top, a touch of  gel, I looked like a little spiky hedgehog. Being the queen Amazon at the lesbian bookstore, I needed to be tough, a warrior. Everyday I was baited by random men who had nothing to do but try to argue politics.

After Herland closed in 2004, I grew out my hair. I wanted to be the priestess with long hair again rather than the warrior. I exchanged my contact lenses for prescription glasses, bought a plethora of long flowy skirts and tunic tops, covered my tattoos and worked hard to embody the archetype of the healer.

Much too my surprise, my hair grew out thick and wave, when it has always been flat and straight. I keep it about shoulder length, my hairdresser, who really is my therapist and has known me for thirty years. She cuts layers upon layers to free me from the weight on my neck and still frame my face. She always cuts my bangs too long, but I love her anyways. I decided to stop dying my hair because of the amount of chemicals on my head, and switched back to using natural henna in a deep burgundy.

I walked over to my local coffee shop and ran into an old friend, who said, "Oh, you look so different!"

And I thought, yes, because I am not the same.

Transformation is a Way of Life, Not a Moment in Time