Saturday, June 30, 2018

Hair personality

This hairpisodes blog is subtitled "What we do to hair, what hair does to us" for a reason. Because it goes both ways. We style our hair for what we like and what we think looks good on us, and also as a form of self-expression. Meanwhile, hairstyle "authorities" are out there making claims regarding the impressions our hair makes on others. Generalizations run rampant:
Dark Hair -- You're thoughtful
Red Hair --You're fun-loving
Blonde Hair --You're a man magnet
Gray Hair -- You're confident
(from Reader's Digest, 13 things your hair could reveal about your personality)

Well, that's just silly. Quintessential White People Problems.

Cosmopolitan's article 20 Things Your Hairstyle Says About You is more intriguing, based on author Jean Haner's "studies in 3,000-year-old face reading derived from Chinese medicine."

Image from Book of Research
Wait, face reading? I am so going there. Apparently, Haner is interpolating her hair wisdom in the "20 Things" article from the Chinese ancient practice of Mien Shiang.

"The age-old Taoist practice of Mien Shiang is an art and a science that means literally face (mien) reading (shiang). It is an accurate means of self-discovery, and a great way to help us understand others. As the ancient Taoists said, the face records the past, reflects the present, and forecasts the future." (from The Book of Research)

The Book of Research web site offers a lot of info on Mien Shiang. Next to nothing about hair, though, except for discussion of the hairline (related to socialization) and eyebrows:

6. House of Siblings (Xiongdi Gong) -- Eyebrows and the areas directly above them represent it, and it also oversees your relationship with your friends and colleagues. The state of your hair has a direct connection to the physical conditions of your parents at the time when you were conceived, which means it has a lot to do with your genetic make-ups. Brows that are dark, thick, long, smooth, orderly and located high above eyes indicate a healthy hormone level that gives rise to affection, calmness and courage. If they look sparse, thin, pale, short, or chaotic, or too close to eyes, or marked with a scar, you could be tormented by your own physical or emotional states.
Okay, we're talking rampant generalizations again. But it's got me thinking about the reality of "hair reading," about the human tendency to generalize about a person's personality based in large part on their hair. It is what it is.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Garden hair

There didn't used to be deer in our neighborhood. I gardened for years happily oblivious to those soft-eared, black-nosed little predators. When my hostas began to disappear, I blamed snails. I encircled the plants with crushed egg shells. No luck. Within a season, my hostas were chewed to the nub, never to return.

I still was blaming snails when, a couple of years later, my tulip buds began disappearing magically, over night, just before they blossomed. Then my rose blooms. Always, the flower nipped off neatly, leaving the forlorn stem as a reminder of what might have been. Cut worms? I wondered. But how could they get so high off the ground?

"What could be eating my tulips and roses?" I asked an avid gardener friend of mine.

"It's the deer," she said. "They get my roses, too. I have to build cages around my rose bushes, or I get no flowers at all."

I hadn't seen deer roaming around, so it seemed unlikely. Then, one night coming home from a meeting after dark, there he/she was, munching through my front garden.

Who me? Yes, you.

This spring, as I began to plant my garden and ruefully prune my roses, and yes, watch my tulip blooms rudely devoured one by one, I began to look into deer repellents. As it turns out, deer rely on smell for foraging; powerful odors, especially the smell of other animals, can be successful in warding them off. And wouldn't you know, one of the most common solutions? Human hair.

So, last week when I got my hair cut, with some embarrassment, I asked my stylist David if I could take my hair snippings home with me.

"I've brought a plastic bag," I told him. "We could sweep it in there."

He got a funny look on his face, until I explained about the deer. Then, with a shrug, he swept my hair up and handed it over.


"I'll have to hear if it works or not, next time you're in," he said in farewell.

When I got home, feeling a bit skeptical, I spread my hair around as best I could.

Last Saturday, I came home from running errands and my niece's truck was there. She's been coming by on weekends from time to time to help me out with the gardening. We hadn't talked in a while, so we reviewed recent developments in the yard.

"And can I just ask," my niece said cautiously, like she'd been wondering whether she dared broach the subject, "about the red furry stuff around the roses?"

"Oh, that's my hair," I said. "It's supposed to repel the deer. Apparently, hair smells enough like humans that it keeps them away? It probably won't work, but I thought it was worth a try."

So far so good.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Bearded wonders

In April, a friend from Germany and I made a bike tour in the northeast along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and Great Allegheny Passage bike trail systems that run from DC to Pittsburgh. Our trek took us through pretty remote areas, like Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown, West Virginia. During an overnight in Frostburg, Maryland, my friend and I had a beer at Dantes Bar. All at once she tapped me on the shoulder and dragged me to the next room to point out a man sitting alone, drinking a pint and staring at his cellphone.

"What?" I said. "What is it?"

"The long hair and beard. What does it mean?"

She was referring to the man's long, bushy white hair and voluminous white beard. "All kinds of guys have long hair and beards," I told her. "I don't think it's any one particular group. In America, it has more to do with personal preference."

"Oh, but no one looks like that in Germany. I never see this," she said. She seemed to think the long hair and beards were a political symbol, like the Phrygian cap meant liberty to the French.

I couldn't prove it didn't represent a political statement, but I did find the Urban Beardsman for her ("Our Urban Beardsman blog explores topics for beardsman, as well as beyond the beard, including style, grooming, travel, community, and insight from the founder"). Check out this blogpost: "5 reasons long hair and beards can be found at the same bars." FWIW.

Once she'd pointed it out, I started noticing big beards everywhere.



These beards aren't scraggly. They look so lush in part due to product -- conditioners, oils and balms. Ever since, bearded wonders have been cropping up everywhere I look. Even at the Dayton Art Institute.

Painting by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (1612).

Marble sculpture of Christ (attributed to Cristoro Solari 1468-1524)

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Hair energy

Is it just my imagination? Whenever I get a haircut, it takes several days for my hair to adjust. I leave the salon with everything in place, but the next time I wash it, my hair won't behave. It seems to recoil, the ends blunted and awkward somehow. It usually takes a week or so for it to calm down.

I thought of this weird haircut backlash recently, when browsing "hair energy." The third entry on Google showed up as: "Is there a spiritual importance to hair? / Secret Energy." The article leads with: "Hair is certainly an antenna," followed by this graphic image link to a cross-section of a hair (on wikipedia), and the statement that hairs have "tentacles for sensing not only physical objects in proximity but are sensitive to the more subtle fields of etheric energies." Wow.

Another web site about the spiritual nature of hair elaborates on the antenna principle thus:
Hairs are the antennas that gather and channel the sun energy or prana to the frontal lobes, the part of the brain you use for meditation and visualization. These antennas act as conduits to bring you greater quantities of subtle, cosmic energy. It takes approximately three years from the last time your hair was cut for new antennas to form at the tips of the hair.
Ouch. No wonder I'm so often in a daze. I don't have hair antennas, and haven't since my mid-twenties.

Another web site -- The Healing Powers of Hair -- offers an 8-point list of things you can do to maximize hair energy, concluding with 8.) Cutting Hair. "If you absolutely have to cut your hair, do so when the moon is waxing. This will help stimulate your hair to grow back quicker and more luscious. Also, avoid cutting your hair after the sun sets."

Originally, I searched "hair energy" because I was thinking about how hair takes a lot of energy--washing it, styling it, periodically going to the salon. Hmm. It would seem my hair will supply me with plenty of energy, if only I let it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Cue the Queue

The other day at a used book sale, I picked up A Military Miscellany by Thomas Ayres. "The Battle over a Haircut" was the prime reason, a few brief paragraphs clueing me in as to the existence of hair queues, otherwise known as pigtails.

Author Ayres starts out by explaining that "in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, soldiers traditionally wore their hair braided in the back and secured by a ribbon." According to the Revolutionary War Journal, this practice was part of the uniform, born of the popularity of wigs in the 18th century. So important was it to the military uniform, if men didn't have hair long enough for a pigtail, they braided one out of leather.

Photo from the Revolutionary War Journal blog

The "battle" in question took place in starting in 1801, due to an edict by General James Wilkinson ordering all U.S. enlisted military men to cut their queues.

One Revolutionary War hero of record, a Colonel Thomas Butler, Jr. refused to follow orders. He got away with it for a while, because he had friends in high places -- George Washington, members of Congress. But eventually, in 1803, General Wilkinson refused to look the other way any longer, and put Butler under arrest.

Colonel Butler's friends stepped in, including Andrew Jackson, and pleaded on behalf of the recalcitrant Butler. Their objections gained the colonel a reprieve and restored his rank. But General Wilkinson couldn't let it rest. Again, he erupted in outrage and ordered Butler court-martialed for refusing to cut off his pigtail. The colonel was found guilty. Before he could serve his year in the brig, however, Butler came down with yellow fever.

According to A Military Miscellany, Butler then instructed his friends, upon his demise,
to bore a hole in the bottom of his casket. 'Let my queue hang down through it so that the damned old rascal may see that, even when dead, I refuse to obey his order,' he told them. Colonel Butler went to his grave with his pigtail dangling defiantly beneath his coffin. He would have been disappointed to know that Wilkinson was not there to see it.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bad hair day

It's a cloudy, gray day, enough to depress just about anyone. As I head off to a hair appointment, the usual cut and color, I already have a down and out mood. My day goes quickly from bad to worse. On arrival at the salon, I learn "there's been a mistake." My usual stylist has the day off. The news comes as a shock, as much to them, it seems, as to me. Am I willing, the front desk staff asks, to just get a cut today, or maybe just a color? Like they don't even have a way to fit me in at all.

Emotional turbulence gusts in. I'm truly unnerved. I stand there, glaring, saying nothing.

"We tried to call you. Didn't you get the message?" the woman says.

"No," I erupt, gesturing impatiently. "As if it would make a difference. I planned my day around this." I'm almost growling. I have a hunch I look just like my father used to when he got angry, mouth set in a grim line, jaw tense and scary. Seriously? Over a hair appointment?! C'mon, Claire. Get a grip!

"We're so sorry, can we schedule you in another time? It's really weird this happened," blah blah blah.

"I'm really upset right now," I say, when she looks at me expectantly. It must be my turn to talk, but I've lost the thread. "I just need to step outside for a bit."

Out in the drizzle, I stare blankly at the gray. Gray street, gray cars, gray concrete parking garage, gray leafless trees, gray sky. What are my options? Walk down the sidewalk until I come across a hair salon that looks promising? Hopefully one with a "walk-ins welcome" sign? Or, give up and go work at the library? Live with bad hair (white roots, dull, hair-in-the-eyes tresses) for as long as I can stand it?

I realize I have little energy for that, physical, emotional or otherwise. Hair takes a huge amount of time and thought and care. And trust, too. I just don't have it in me today.

Turn around and go back in, I tell myself. Just deal.

I push open the salon door, worried now that when they see me coming, fear will cross their faces. A salon is like a fishbowl. Everyone knows when a client's in a snit.

"Oh, good!" One of the front desk assistants says, smiling. "Here you are. We've just had a cancellation, a stylist can take you in right away. And today, it's on us."

"Oh," I say helplessly. "Okay." I stand there limply while one of them comes around the counter, removes my coat for me, takes my backpack, and hands me a smock. Someone else brings me a cup of hot tea and leads me to a chair. Yup, the salon workers are all subtly checking me out, no doubt braced for more drama. As I sit down and gaze into the mirror, I recognize the stylist about to work on me. I've seen her before, and think she's more than competent. But I'm still feeling put out, the emotional disturbance pumping away inside.

In the next chair over, the woman getting her hair done is laughing gleefully and chatting away, with her stylist and with mine. I'm not quite ready for reckless joy, although when she tries to draw me in, I offer what I hope is a pleasant enough smile. I feel better already.

On the way out, as the assistant hands me my coat, I thank her.

"Sorry I imploded earlier," I say.

"You know," she says. "I really admire how you stepped outside."

A few hours later, I tell this story to a friend.

"That's an atta girl!" Cathy says. "Good for you."

I suppose it was. And for all that, my hair isn't half bad.