Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hair attunement

We arrive at yoga from the office, from home, amid errands or before afternoon appointments, and wait, facing forward in mountain pose, as the instructor C attunes us for our session in vinyasa.

"I thought I'd start this morning by talking briefly about something happening with me lately," C begins, "or, more accurately, with my hair. I've always really loved my long hair. There's something about the feeling of it brushing against my bare upper arms. It makes me feel great. I count on it as I go through my days.

"But now my hair has started to get brittle and break off. It's been devastating -- I've experienced a good deal of grief over it. My hair doesn't brush against my arms the way it used to. I've stopped feeling good about myself. So I've been thinking about that, about how one thing like that can have such a powerful effect on our self esteem. And then it occurred to me. I could turn this around. Why not get hair extensions? I made an appointment, and I'm really excited about it. Even thinking about hair extensions has brightened my outlook." C shrugs. "I'll let you know how it goes next time. Now. Inhale deeply and raise your arms ..."

Curious, I looked into it further. There are over six different methods, using real or synthetic hair (browse for "types of hair extensions" and you'll get the complete rundown). Given our societal hair obsessions, the craze for extensions seems an inevitable next step.

The next week, C's hair does look longer and more lush.

"So, how's it going with the hair extensions?" I ask her after class.

"Wow, you remembered that? I love them, although they're uncomfortable at night," C replies.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I got the tape extensions. They poke into my scalp."

"Tape?"

C bows her head toward me and pries apart the roots of her hair to show me little bits of tape affixed close to her scalp. "It's worth it, though," she adds. "I feel so much better."

Monday, November 30, 2015

Holiday hair

This week I went for my usual cut and color at Gary Manuel Salon.

"The red still looks good," my stylist Jeff said as I settled in the chair. "Should we add a stripe of green for Christmas?"

"Hey, I definitely should," I laughed.

But honestly, I just couldn't see it. Later, as I sat waiting for my color to set, Micky came over to offer me a hand massage, part of the service.

"What cute hair!" I said.

Micky smiled. "I'm really liking it. Actually, dark hair isn't normally how I wear it. It's my natural color, but I'm just always coloring it, teal or pink or whatever. For my wedding, my mom asked, 'could you please have your normal hair color? Please?'"

"Oh, so you just got married?"

"Mm hm, on Halloween. So I thought, okay, mom, and had dark hair for the wedding. For the pictures and all. Afterward, I was looking at it and actually, I kind of like it dark. But you know I just couldn't leave it alone. So then I decided to do the red and the green. Someone at the studio said 'I really like it, it's sexy candy cane.' I told her I was going to use that." 


Micky stands behind me and looks at us in the mirror. "It's my holiday hair. See, I can I put the color underneath and sort of hide it with the dark hair, or let it show through more, depending. Of course, it won't be like this for long. Pretty soon it'll all be purple or orange again." Micky laughs. "Occupational hazard."

Friday, October 30, 2015

Locks of Love

My friend Mona knew her hair was getting too long, but she let it grow out just a little more so she could make a bigger ponytail donation to Locks of Love.

"Locks of Love?" I asked.

"Yes, they make wigs. It's for kids undergoing cancer treatments and other medical difficulties. I guess real human hair is pretty hard to come by."

"Will you take a before and after picture for me?"


Mona agreed. Isn't she lovely?

At the Locks of Love website, they post the following:
Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need.
They also post a fraud alert, noting that they never "solicit for hair or financial donations through any means including but not limited to: social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc., telemarketing or direct mailers other than the official Locks of Love newsletter. Unless part of a [Locks of Love] event, all donations should be mailed to Locks of Love, 234 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405."

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hair digs

Oh no, he didn't.

It's horrible sitting through toxic meetings where people are hating on each other while pretending civility. It's one thing to disagree in principle, another to get personal.

I have a friend with gorgeous, soft, if somewhat blowsy hair. I love the look of it. At a recent meeting we were attending, she spoke up about wanting a clearer value statement for the organization so she could feel confident spontaneously reciting it to, say, her hairdresser.

"My advice?" said the chair of the board. "Find a new hairdresser."

The woman on my left dropped her jaw at him in disbelief. "Ouch!"

My friend with the gorgeous, blowsy hair could have, probably should have, let the guy have it with an equally hurtful remark, but she didn't engage.

I've seen it often, as I sit in the salon chair getting my hair cut. The stylist at the station next to us finishes with a cut, ceremonially unsnaps the black cape, and sends his client off with a lightness in their step. Some people positively beam.

"Isn't it cool, how happy people are after a haircut?" I said once to my stylist.

"It's true, it's amazing," Jeff said. "I even feel good when I get my hair cut. It's such a huge part of our identity."

My advice? Please. Do not dis the hair.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fawn hair

This month's Hairpisode is by Bruce Holland Rogers, award-winning fiction writer and creativity consultant. Bruce's passion for writing has taken him around the globe; he's taught writing seminars in England, Denmark, Greece, Finland, and Portugal, as well as teaching for a semester at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest on a Fulbright grant. Currently, he teaches fiction as a faculty member of the low residency Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, and, in addition to ongoing writing projects, writes 36 stories a year through shortshortshort.com.


FAWN HAIR

I am a Japanophile. A key element of Japanese esthetics is mono no aware, which is often translated as the “the impermanence of things” or “the pathos of things.” Aware, by itself, is an old expression of surprise—not the fight-or-flight surprise when someone jumps out of the shadows with a yell, but the surprise of seeing cherry blossoms in the morning. So I think of mono no aware as the “oh my of things.” Contained in that “oh my” are both the mild surprise of noticing something and the gentle sorrow of knowing that it won't last. Oh my, here is a thing! Oh my, there it goes!

In my early thirties, I developed some patches of itchy, flaky scalp. The doctor pronounced it a case of seborrheic dermatitis. I was pleased to have what I thought was the sort of diagnosis that had a definite cause and cure attached. Seborrheic dermatitis. It sounded so specific.

As it turned out, seborrheic dermatitis means “itchy, flaky skin.” Once the doctor ruled out a few possible causes, he concluded that the itchy spots were the result of me being me. For its own unknowable reasons, my skin had become itchy and flaky. I could soothe the skin. The itching and flaking might go away. Or they might not.

Eventually, those spots on my scalp improved, but the hair grew in white, giving me these two distinct spots. My girlfriend at the time called them my fawn spots, like the white markings on a baby deer. They were my first white hair.

Of course, my spots weren't at all a sign of youth. They were an advance signal of the color that all of my hair would be one day, if I lived long enough. They were a reminder of mortality, but rather than an ominous skull hidden in the painting of my life, my spots were kind of cute... and were mostly hidden from me.

Anxiety about death comes with being human, but mono no aware helps many Japanese adults feel at ease about aging. The first gray hair isn't as likely to make them reach for bottled color. Instead, the first gray hair is met with mild recognition. Oh my, there is something new. Oh my, there goes the earlier me. I'm moving in time with all things, as is right, as is sad, as is beautiful.

A very young Japanese woman may enjoy wearing bright, girly, even stagily erotic clothing, up until her twenty-sixth birthday. After that, she will dress more conservatively. I have never seen a Japanese woman who did not dress her age. A woman of twenty-six might feel a little sad as she gets rid of that bright and sexy outfit that brought her so much attention. She can still dress attractively, but there is no more sense in keeping that outfit than there would be in trying to tape the fallen petals back onto the cherry tree.

After my spots came in, a few of my whiskers turned white. The woman I was with wanted me to dye my beard on the grounds that she was too young to be paired with a man with a gray beard. So I did, while we were together. After we parted, I shaved my beard, and the white one that grew in startled and dismayed me. Now my face displayed the same memento mori as the back of my head. I'm not Japanese, so it took a while for me to incorporate mono no aware in my daily assessment of the face in my mirror.

Year by year, my white spots become more subtle as the rest of me catches up, and as my acceptance catches up with my reality.
Oh, my! Hello, whiteness! Oh, my! Goodbye, middle age! Oh, sad and beautiful goodbyes! Every day, every moment, a tender goodbye, a sweet goodbye. Delicious heartbreaking joyful beauty of goodbye.

—Bruce Holland Rogers

Friday, July 31, 2015

Hair in my own backyard

I admit "hair in my own backyard" is a groaner headline, but when I heard about the "Free Your Pits" movement started by Roxie Hunt and Rain Sissel of Seattle, I was giddy with glee.

Hair trends can be fads with an "oh, wow!" factor that quickly fades. Not so the Free Your Pits movement. The movement to dye armpit hair began intentionally as a way to celebrate feminism and body hair. The manifesto of Rain and Roxie:
"We would like to use our pits to start an evolving conversation about feminism, identity, body positivity, judgement acceptance and freedom of choice."

News about the Free Your Pits movement, and photos of colorful and creative armpits, are posted on Instagram. Since November of 2014, it's has been news in The Guardian, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, LA Times, Time, among others, and most recently, in The New York Times. It's grown beyond U.S. borders to spots around the globe, including Korea, Australia, Russia, Germany and Denmark.

How lovely to behold.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hair and blood-sucking insects

Hats off to Melissa for her post at Gizmodo.com called "Why don't humans have as much hair as other primates?" I couldn't have (and won't) say it better.

Instead, I'll summarize her write-up in bullet points:

  • Debunked theories as to why humans have less hair are a.) the "aquatic ape theory" that posited we lost it in order to swim better during our aquatic phase of evolution, and b.) we lost it in the early days on the African savanna to allow our body sweat to more easily cool us off. To find out how these theories have been disproved, click here to read the Gizmodo post.
  • A third theory is more likely -- that our hairless bodies are less attractive to lice, ticks, and fleas, helping us itch less and also preventing the spread of disease.
  • Or a fourth, that humans have an exceptionally long childhood, so our hairlessness is simply prolonged prepubescence. (Actually, we aren't hairless, of course. Our body hair is just really fine.)
  • Most intriguingly, recent research suggests that we humans signal one another via our bare skin. Here's a quote from a 2013 article in USA Today called "Why Aren't People More Hairy?
"After all, the pattern of hair density in humans results in a unique (within primates) visual presentation," says King, the author of How Animals Grieve. "As other anthropologists have noted, we humans possess a whole 'skin canvas', a place of vibrant self-expression, that may well have played a significant role in our behavioral evolution."
It's very cool, the idea that humans lack hair the better to read one another's rages, blushes and bruises. But reflecting on the misery of those blood-sucking insect bites, I weigh in heavily for theory number three.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

In praise of leaving my head alone

by guest blogger Kelly Davio / kellydavio.com

Throughout my life, my relationship with my hair has involved a certain amount of magical thinking.

Take, for example, the time in middle school when I unleashed a full can of my grandmother’s Paul Mitchell mousse (the one that smells like rancid coconut) on my stick-straight hair in hopes that I’d suddenly have a head full of curls. What I had was a crunchy, tentacled slab of dirty blonde mess and a nine-foot radius of odor that just about knocked my classmates over in the halls.

(Photo from www.foodnetwork.com/
recipes/alton-brown/
crown-roast-of-lamb-recipe.html)
Then, in high school, in the mercifully isolated cultural moment when toothy, stretch-comb headbands were all the rage, I invested in a multi-pack of the things and gamely attached them to my head each morning. Because I didn’t have enough hair to hold adequate tension in said headband, the combs would creep up my skull throughout the day until, before I realized it, the entire apparatus would be protruding from the back of my head, looking unsettlingly like a crown roast of lamb. Although I realized I wasn’t achieving the look I was after, I kept wearing them, day after day, thinking something would change.

We can be forgiven, of course, for our teenaged hair ineptitude, but my lack of hair awareness stretched on a bit longer into adult life, from my interest in bleaching my hair in the bathroom sink to thinking that I could mix up a nice raven black from a box of curious looking powder on sale at Sally Beauty Supply. (If you’re tempted to try either of those options, by the way, please choose the bleach. A professional should be able to color over the banana-colored mess you’ll make. But when you henna yourself into the likeness of General Gadaffi, with that same black-hole of a hairdo that seems incapable of allowing any light to escape itself, you’re on your own.)

In fact, I was in my 30s before I quit abusing my own hair in one way or another. When I learned I’d be spending much of a recent summer laid up in bed after a pretty nasty surgery, I decided that my best option was to cut my hair very short, then let it grow back in its natural color. I didn’t want, after all, to be fooling around with my roots in the middle of a recovery. So, for the first time in much of my life, I left my head alone.


What grew out, at the end of the summer, was a perfectly nice strawberry blonde bob. Who knew that had been lurking under all that box color and product all that time? Sure, my hair is still straight and still thin, but you know, I’m starting to like it. 

                                                                                 

Kelly Davio is the Co-Publisher and Poetry Editor for Tahoma Literary Review, and former Managing Editor for The Los Angeles Review. She writes the column “The Waiting Room” for The Butter,and also regularly contributes to Women’s Review of Books. Her debut collection, Burn This House is available from Red Hen Press and from Amazon, Barnes And Noble, Powell’s, or your local book retailer. She also co-runs Gailey and Davio Writers’ Services.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Controlling the fluff

My friend Bill is a snappy dresser with very good taste. He's retired now, but had an illustrious career designing display windows for J.C. Penney's. Yesterday we were talking about how he'd been feeling lately.

"I'm pretty much okay now, but for about three weeks I had walking pneumonia. I couldn't leave the apartment, I felt so exhausted. The worst part was my hair. I didn't have the energy to go get it cut. It got so bad, I decided to cut it myself, to control the fluff."

He turned his head to show me the result. "See this? This is what happened. I couldn't see what I was doing so I got too close on this side. Now it's fluffy on one side and shaved on the other. And I couldn't reach the back at all."



I laughed, and asked if I could take photos for a hairpisode. He didn't know about my blog, so I filled him in, and he was glad to oblige. And, as often happens with Bill, my hairpisodes sparked a memory.

"Oh, I've always had hair issues," he said, smiling. "For one whole year in high school, I had DA hair. It must have looked awful, but my mother never said a word."

I'd never heard the term DA hair, so it was Bill's turn to fill me in. I guess I'd only known the euphemistic term "duck's tail." But by golly, there's even a Wikipedia entry on DA (duck's ass) hair.

Bill had another memory as well. "Then there was the era, I think it was the 1970's, when it was okay for men to get perms. I got one, too, it was curly all over, like an afro. I'd just gotten it, I remember, and went to some party. I went into the bathroom at one point. There was a lit candle in there, right next to the mirror. I was trying to freshen up by splashing water on my face. I leaned over, trying to be really careful not to make a mess with the water, and out of the corner of my eye I saw this blue glow. My hair had caught fire. I smacked my hand on the top of my head, which put it out. It left a big burned patch right in the top center."

Thanks, Bill, awesome memories.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hair and pregnancy

I'll overhear people talking about their hair and start scribbling notes. (I write hairpisodes, after all.) One such conversation went like this:

"When I was pregnant, my hair changed from straight to curly."

"Really? Mine did the exact opposite. I always had curly hair, but during pregnancy it fell flat."

That surprised me. I'd never heard of such a thing. This weekend at a baby shower I remembered those notes, and wondered if hair really did change during pregnancy. I mean, doesn't my friend pictured here have that third trimester glow, right down to her soft, lustrous hair? When I thought about it, I'd experienced pretty good hair days during my pregnancies, too.

So I decided to browse around for info. As usual, trying to learn one thing leads to learning another. On my first hit, at Webmd, I discovered hair grows in phases.
Hair normally grows in three phases: active growth, resting, and shedding. During these phases, people typically shed 100 hairs every day.
That surprised me, too. In all my hairpisodes, I don't remember coming across the three phases of hair growth. Webmd goes on to explain how hormones in the body during pregnancy alter the phases. And, the hair gets thicker. Literally.
When you're pregnant, the extra hormones coursing through your body shift your hair cycle. Your hair grows or stays on your head and doesn’t shed. This is why your hair seems longer and thicker than usual.
Some research also suggests that hair strands actually thicken during pregnancy. "The diameter of the hair increases," Mirmirani says. "We measured hair diameter in the third trimester and after pregnancy, and it's definitely thicker during pregnancy."
Sometimes, a woman's hair becomes more or less curly during or after pregnancy.
"We don't understand the exact mechanism," Mirmirani says. "There's a lot of thought about whether hormones during pregnancy can alter the shape of the hair follicle. The shape of the follicle dictates the shape of the hair fiber."
Another site at kidshealth.org adds that hair grows faster during pregnancy. And in more places -- on the face, belly, back and nipples. The main culprit to all this growth is the hormone estrogen, plus increased blood circulation and a more hyperactive metabolism.

So during pregnancy, when it comes to the hair on your head anyway, most women experience nine months of good hair days.

Sadly, however, it doesn't last. The whattoexpect.com web site puts it like this:
Your good-hair-day run ends with delivery, when the normal daily hair loss that's suppressed during pregnancy resumes with a vengeance. Once your baby is born, all that hair that didn't fall out during pregnancy will.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Living a double life

I've been reading Joy Hakim's A History of the U.S.: From Colonies to Country. A revelation. In my education back in high school, the mid-1700s in American history was much overlooked. For instance, I'd never heard of Warraghiyagey (Mohawk for "he who does much"), aka William Johnson.

William Johnson arrived in New York territory, near Albany, at age 23 in the year 1738 from Dublin, Ireland. According to Joy Hakim's history,
William Johnson was an unknown young man with a rich uncle and no money of his own. Right away, he did a very sensible thing. He met his neighbors, the Mohawk Indians, and learned their language. Immediately, he liked them, and they liked him. ... Johnson soon learned the ways of the Mohawk and was named as one of them. Johnson's biographer said, "Sir William was a well adjusted European man; Warraghiyagey thought and acted as an Indian. These two personalities lived together without strain in one keen mind and passionate heart." Warraghiyagey married a Mohawk wife, Degonwadonti, also know as Molly Brant. And he worked hard on treaties with the Iroquois, persuading the Indians to fight for the British, promising that their land would be protected.

Hakim adds: "and he thought he could honor that promise." Well, we know how that turned out. Still, it is intriguing that the man could be a landowner, living "like a feudal lord in a great big mansion," but also meet with the Iroquois at a council fire lit on his property and lead those same Iroquois to British victory against the French and Indians at Lake George.

However did he manage it? Here's a picture in A History of the U.S.: From Colonies to Country.


The caption notes that "In the 18th Century, any man having his portrait painted wore fancy clothes and a wig."

Does he wear a mohawk haircut under that wig? I wondered. Since he had a town named after him -- Johnstown, NY -- I looked on their website and found a second, less wiggish portrait. Or is that another wig? Hard to tell.

In any event, "the painted warrior named Warraghiyagey became a romantic hero, and the English king made him a baronet." Sir William Johnson.

Okay, quite possibly, it wasn't the hair that made the man. It's said what William Johnson cared about was not what people believed, but the way they behaved. "Anyone kind and decent became his friend" regardless of their station in life. When it came to character, it seems, Johnson wasn't duplicitous in the slightest.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Swing hair

At high school graduation, my hair was shag short. I've always hated this picture, it's downright humiliating, and worse, the photo will always appear to haunt me, every time I open my high school yearbook to reminisce. Talk about suffering the consequences of bad fashion choices...

I didn't know how long it would take to grow out my hair, but as soon as I left for college I started on the project. Which basically meant suffering through bangs in the eyes, and that in-between phase where the bob is too short for a ponytail, and pigtails look stubby and ridiculous.

Three years later, I'd managed the switch. It was everything I'd been hoping for.