Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hair unbalanced

In July, I forgot to schedule a hair appointment until it was too late so my regular stylist wasn't available. The salon suggested Kay, and I went for it.

"What are you looking for today?" Kay asked as I settled tentatively into her chair.

I had experienced moments like this before. Things could go terribly wrong terribly fast.

"I guess just more of the same," I said, surprised by the uncertainty in my voice.

"You know what would look really great on you?" Kay asked. "Just a minute, I'll go get a picture."

Kay seemed really excited as she showed me the photo -- a hip, sharp-looking blonde sporting an asymmetrical haircut, short on one side, long on the other. "You're already headed in this direction, we could totally do this," she said.

"I do need to look good for this conference," I said. "But not like I'm trying to look twenty years younger than I am."

"Oh, I won't overdo it," Kay assured me. "We'll keep it on the moderate side."

I left the salon feeling pretty good about it, but no one said a word to me about it, a sure sign things had gone awry. Except my daughter, about a week later. "Your hair is, like, all auburn and swoopy," she said.

We both laughed. "I know, right?" Worse, it was annoying; the part was so far to the side that my bangs were always in my eyes.

To address this, I pushed my bangs back entirely using a 99-cent head band, so my hair resembled windblown dune grass.

That was enough of that. At my next appointment, I insisted on, and regained, an appearance of symmetry and balance.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Things that blow my hair back

There have been plenty of items in the news these days to make my hair stand on end, so I liked to pause for a moment to reflect on a few things that blow my hair back. A few things that fill me with a sense of awe.

For starters, my hair was blown back by the voice of mezzo Sarah Larsen when she sang "Deep River" last Sunday. Sarah's just here from New York for a couple of months. If you're anywhere near the Seattle area, listen up. Sarah Larsen is giving a recital through the Seattle Art Song Society with accompanist Elisabeth Ellis and tenor Eric Neuville this Friday, July 28, 7:30 p.m. at Queen Anne Christian Church, 1316 3rd Avenue West, Seattle, WA, 98119. More details here.

A few other things that blow my hair back:
  • my sister-in-law Cheri is 3-scans cancer-free after struggling through a diagnosis of nodular melanoma last year.
  • son George just passed the 1,000 mile mark on the Pacific Crest Trail
  • Coffeetown Press has accepted my memoir "How We Survive Here: Families across time," the story of my quest to trace my ancestry, due out in 2018 
  • this coming September I'll be studying writing at Moniack Mhor Writing Centre near Inverness in Scotland with authors Amanda Smyth, Paul Murray, and Jane Harris
For it all, I feel a sense of fathomless gratitude.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Hair discrimination

It felt like a blast from the past, a furor over school dress codes. In this case, though, it wasn't a policy across the board against girls wearing pants in school as it was in my day. This dress code smacked of racial discrimination.

I happened to be visiting in Boston, Massachusetts mid-May when Malden charter school in the Mystic Valley area came under fire for discrimination against hair braid extensions, a relatively recent fashion trend. Here are a couple of examples of hair braid extensions from

According to a May 21 article in the Boston Globe, braid extensions were determined by school officials to be "unnatural" and "drastic" and "distracting." Students wearing braid extensions at school faced detention and possible suspension.

Students and parents cried foul. Why were braid extensions distracting on black and biracial students, while neon-bright dyed hair on white girls went unnoticed? There was also a hair-no-thicker-or-higher-than-two-inch rule. Wha - a - ? That policy also seemed to point directly at students with hair that could be styled as afros.

Under a flurry of protests and media exposure, within a week, the school lifted the braid extension moratorium. Oh yes, and after the Attorney General Maura Healey sent a letter to the school saying the policy was unlawful. In response, the trustees suspended the policy for the remainder of the year, but did not change or cancel it altogether. Sheesh. Get a clue.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Hair Recipes, Part I-b

Or maybe a better title for this post would be "Hair Comedy." Steve Carell busting a gut over FertHairLizer on Comedy Central.

And how about that head of hair on Jon Stewart. God, those were the days.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hair Recipes, Part I-a

When I see the title "Hair Recipes," I think of recipes with hair in them. Ew.

Are there such things? With all the hair being cut daily around the world, there oughta be. Think of the tonnage going to landfills otherwise. Recycle nation supplies the following data:
The average hair salon collects about 1 pound of discarded hair per day. In the U.S. alone, there are about 300,000 hair salons. That’s 300,000 pounds, or 136 tons of human hair per day, just in the U.S.!
What do they suggest? In addition to a few time-consuming, creepy-looking hair sculpture, clothing, and furniture alternatives, the site notes there is also FertHAIRLizer -- plant fertilizer with hair in it. Hair, it turns out, has a high nitrogen content. According to Recycle Nation:
Consider this stunning fact: about 6-7 pounds of human hair contains 1 pound of nitrogen — as much as 100-200 pounds of cow manure!
I've often wondered about the weed patch just off my deck. It's a shaded spot where you wouldn't expect such healthy dandelions, but it's also where I shake off the hair-clipping-coated towel after I give my son a haircut. Mystery solved. I've been feeding my weeds with nitrogen. And to return to an earlier hair repurposing, there's also using hair to clean up oil spills through Matter of Trust.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Hair signals

The hair on our heads grows continuously, a trait unique to our species. In evolutionary terms, countless millennia ago human body hair (aka, fur) was reduced to a relatively insignificant amount, while the hair on our heads began to grow, and keep growing, throughout our lives. What is that all about?

According to an Evolutionary Anthropology article "Hair Grows To Be Cut," continuous hair growth allows us to manipulate our hair to send signals to others that "herald the cultural identity of their bearer, providing cues about tribal belonging, rank in the community, marital status, and value or history of individuals."

In a related article, "Hair Signals," it states:
Truly untended hair implies that the wearer is desperate or insane and, furthermore, has no friends. Pseudo-untended hair signals ritual mourning in some cultures or, more often, cultural revolt (hippy ponytails, dreadlocks).
By contrast, tended hair, no matter the method, broadcasts one or more signals.

Take the photo above. One haircut can produce a variety of looks: business woman, adventurer, fun lover, come hither ... It all depends on how you present your message.

But not all messages are intentional. Several years ago, I shifted my hair color from brown to red, in part on the recommendation of my hair stylist. Right away, men started doing double-takes when they hadn't before. Was I sending some kind of signal? The next time I went in for a cut, I mentioned it to Jeff, thinking he'd have the answer, but apparently not.

"Really? No way," he said.

"Yes way. I mean, it's never happened before. I really think there's some weird attraction men have to red hair."

"That's kinda creepy," Jeff said, but I could tell he wasn't entirely convinced. Like maybe I was imagining it.

Regardless, the double-takes weren't leading to anything untoward, and I even found it a bit flattering, so I hung onto the red.

I've since found it wasn't my imagination. There is indeed something about men experiencing an increased attraction to women who wear red. In 2008, psychologists at the University of Rochester studied men's reactions to women in red, as compared with men's reactions to women in gray, green, and blue. Hands down, red was the hot color of choice.
Under all of the conditions, the women shown framed by or wearing red were rated significantly more attractive and sexually desirable by men than the exact same women shown with other colors. When wearing red, the woman was also more likely to score an invitation to the prom and to be treated to a more expensive outing. ... [However,] red did not change how men rated the women in the photographs in terms of likability, intelligence or kindness.
The study also looked at women's reactions to women in red, and found the "red effect" only happened for men. The article concludes "As much as men might like to think that they respond to women in a thoughtful, sophisticated manner, it appears that at least to some degree, their preferences and predilections are, in a word, primitive."

As primitive as the origins of our continuously growing hair, and the many ways we choose to flaunt it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Long hair in the big leagues

I was pretty impressed the other day when I glanced at the front Sports page of the Seattle Times and saw they'd published an article on hair.

Yup, columnist Larry Stone pontificates on how this year's Mariners team have shown up for Spring Training looking like: "The Titans of Tress. The Monsters of Mane. The Leviathans of Locks."

Pitchers in particular, Stone points out, can make sly use of their long hair.

"Certainly, the Mariners had an outlier in the button-down 1990s when Randy Johnson used his wild locks as part of a calculated mask of intimidation," Stone writes. And, a little further on:

For a pitcher, there might be a tactical advantage to having hair that whips back and forth, Willow Smith style, during delivery. One anonymous ballplayer told the Bergen Record last year that he was distracted by deGrom’s cascading hair.

“You can’t not look at it,” he said. “It’s everywhere. It bothers me when I’m trying to pick up the ball out of his hand. All I see is hair.”
Check out the full story here.

The Seattle Times also did a poll to learn what readers think on the subject. The results are in:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cowlicks and whorls

Cowlicks and whorls. Reminds me of the Lewis Carroll Jabberwocky poem:
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves.
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe.
Cowlicks, aka hair whorls are about as whimsical as Carroll's gyre and gimbel. A cowlick is actually a spiral, or whorl, of hair. We all have one. Blue-hair girl above is sporting her whorl/cowlick quite obviously, where it originates at the top center of her scalp. We have these whorls from the day we're born.

Since hair whorls are both clockwise and counterclockwise (more rare), research has been done to to see "if there is a genetic link between handedness and hair-whorls." People have actually studied this stuff. Amar J.S. Klar's research showed "8.4% of right-handed people and 45% of left-handed people have counterclockwise hair-whorls," indicating that "a single gene may control both handedness and hair-whorl direction." (from Wikipedia)

Thing is, other animals have hair whorls too, notably horses and cows. According to the "Word Detective,"
The first appearance of “cowlick” in print found so far was way back in 1598 (“The lockes or plaine feakes of haire called cow-lickes, are made turning vpwards”). (A “feak” is a dangling lock of hair). The cowlick is so-called because the disruptive lock is said to look as if it had been produced by a lick from a passing cow. It’s also commonly called a “calf-lick,” but in that case it may be a reference to the effects on a calf’s coat of grooming by Momma Cow.
That said, other languages do not appear to mention cows in relation to hair whorls, so the term is pretty much confined to English. (Again, the Word Detective.)

Anyhow, some of us have two (or more) cowlicks, which is where things get tricky. My second cowlick is dead center in front on my hairline.

It can look okay.

Or it can look silly.

Or downright weird, depending.

Hair stylists are always trying methods of making it disappear, but it never works. As far as I'm concerned, it's hair personality shinin' through.