Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Victorian hair

My grandmother, Emma Patterson, was born in 1891. When I was a young girl in the 1960s and 1970s, she impressed me as being old-fashioned, but until recently, I hadn't realize just how last century she truly was. Take, for instance, her opinions about hair.

 "The first time I cut your hair," Mom used to tell me, "you were only about two years old. I thought I'd broken your grandmother's heart. I don't think she ever did forgive me."

I always accepted the story without much thought. I knew Grandmother loved long hair. When I visited her, she used to show me her photo album and point out her long hair. She'd describe to me how much she loved braiding her hair, and combing it out at night. This photo of her from that album was taken in 1910, when she was around 19 years old.

But why did long hair for girls matter so much to her? In looking for the source of her beliefs, I learned that my grandmother's ideas about hair were Victorian. In the Victorian era, a woman's hair was a "thing." Feminine identities were very much tied into long luscious tresses, the longer the better. Grandmother was in her 30s when the Roaring Twenties, and bob-style hairstyles came along. She'd just never adapted.
The other day I came across this picture, taken around 1959, when I was about two years old. I'm wearing a dress Grandmother sewed for me. I've seen the picture plenty of times before. All at once, though, I truly noticed my bowl-cut hair style and it clicked. This must have been it, the first hair cut that shocked and appalled Grandmother. To be honest, I see her point. This hair cut would look bad in any century.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

My hair is being pulled

The idea of hair pulling might conjure unpleasant images, but there's a more sensual side to hair-pulling as well. As we head into this darkest season of the year, I'm lifting to the cosmos a desire to have the spiritual realm tug and tangle with my thoughts. As Anaïs Nin wrote in Fire: From "A Journal of Love": The Unexpurgated Diary of Anaïs Nin, 1934-1937, I'm wishing

"to be rent and pulled apart and live according to the demons and the imagination in me. 
I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again."

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Monday, September 30, 2019

Hair trending

Did you know the ancient Egyptians chose to have their hair care products (derived of plant and animal fats) and curling tongs buried with them?

Or that ancient Greeks produced hair highlights by painting hair tresses with olive oil, pollen and gold flakes, then sitting out in the sun?

Ever heard of the hair vacuum used in the early 20th century, intended to bring blood circulation to the scalp to minimize hair loss?

Or what about the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when people bought a "miracle" protein-dense capsule containing bull blood to stave off grayness and going bald?

The latter was hailed as a "miracle" cure. Now on my shower shelf I have the latest "miracle" hair product trend -- shampoo and conditioner touting argan oil. Argan oil? Yup. It has many benefits for hair and scalp. In an ad by Love Beauty and Planet, Argan oil is touted as "A Must-Have For Virtually Everyone. Learn What Argan Oil Is And How To Use Argan Oil For Your Hair. Vegan. Ethically Sourced. Cruelty-Free. Carbon Conscious. Types: Shampoo, Conditioner, Dry Shampoo."           

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Weike Wang on hair

When it comes to hair, it seems you can never run out of compelling ways it's entangled (pun intended) in our lives and relationships. That point struck home again when my writing partner Michele Genthon shared her copy of the October, 2018 Issue of Boulevard literary magazine, saying, "You just have to read the first story. I know you'll love it. It's about hair." She was right. "Hair," written by Weike Wang, covers a lifetime of hair in just a few hilarious, insightful, poignant pages. My applause is thunderous.

I should add that this story offers a mere glimpse of Wang's writing talents. Last year (2018), she won the PEN/Hemingway Award for her novel Chemistry, and her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, and other publications. For this month's Hairpisode I can think of nothing more appropriate than directing you over to Boulevard's website for a read of Weike Wang's Hair.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Hair differences

For some time I've known about hair differences after chemotherapy. During chemo, there's hair loss, which for most people is not permanent. After chemo when hair is growing back it often comes in differently: thinner and more brittle in texture, sometimes a different color, and quite often curlier.  What I didn't know (but should have realized)--there's an actual term for this. "Chemo curls." (Follow the link for the science behind chemo curls.)

According to the Naturally Curly website, many people are horrified about the curls. As someone who came of age in the 1980s "perm" era, this surprises me. Once upon a time I hated my straight hair and endured lengthy, smelly hours in the salon chair to get curls. Kathy Walsh, writer of the Naturally Curly blog post on chemo curls advises -- fuhgeddaboudit. She writes:
I encourage you to embrace your hair regrowth, especially if it’s chemo curls. May you wear them with pride.
In closing, I can't resist sharing a July blog post by my friend Janet who's been going through chemotherapy for the past year. It's titled "Normal" (yay!) And so far, she's experiencing absolutely no curl.

From Janet's Blog:

Narrating my cancer journey – Stories, Pictures, Thoughts 


Hair: I KNOW you all want to know what’s going on with my hair! somehow hair seems to be what a lot of folks focus on. Perhaps it’s easier and more light-hearted to talk about hair than other physical effects of the chemo. Or perhaps it’s the most obvious chemo effect. But to me, the hair is a fairly minor thing. My hair is coming back EVERYWHERE… eyebrows are good, eyelashes are good, hairy legs, armpit hair and, unfortunately, chin whiskers! I didn’t appreciate NOT having chin whiskers until they started to come back! The hair on my head is coming back, gradually, as a baby-fine mixture of dark and white hair with absolutely no curl. I have actually had one “haircut” (neck shave and tidy it up over the ears) already, but as you can see it’s quite short, and still needs to fill in some spots. It is what it is, and I don’t bother with a hat or bandana anymore, unless I’ll be out in the sun for more than a minute.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Hair do's and don'ts

Staying at various Airbnb's can be enlightening. This spring at an Airbnb on Whidbey Island (where most houses must rely on septic tanks) I got a steady view of the sign pictured here every time I used the commode.

Don't flush hair? It had never occurred to me doing so was somehow problematic. At the aero-stream web site, I found this explanation:

Hair is comprised of tough strings of proteins, somewhat similar to what fingernails are made up of. For a variety of complex reasons, these proteins are not as easily broken down by bacteria as organic waste is. They certainly are not even close to being broken down within the twenty four to forty eight hours they are held in the septic tank (the typical hold time in a septic tank for most septic systems).
As a result, hair survives pretty much intact for many months within the pipes, septic tank and drainfield of a septic system. Hair, in fact, can survive for hundreds of years if the environment is suitable. There are countless accounts of human remains being found in peat bogs that are hundreds of years old and the hair is still intact!
Apparently, pet hair is especially problematic, because it mats more easily than human hair.

The website Houzz has a conversational thread (albeit posted 10 years ago), on the hair-in-septic-tanks subject. One commenter had a suggestion for what you can do with all that unflushed hair. He related how his 83-year-old neighbor had a secret recipe for growing prize-winning roses. Galvanized nails and ... wait for it ... hair.
She said she went to the local barber college once a week and swept up the hair for the day, then brought it home. About once a month she would till up the soil around the base of the rose bush, then bury a wreath of human hair and a couple galvanized roofing nails. She swore that the hair provided protein and nitrogen and the galvanized nails provided zinc, and that was the only fertilizer she used aside from a little bit of dried cow manure in the spring.  ...  the local garden club had previously asked her not to compete any more because they wanted to give others a chance to win a prize. (posted by Lazypup at Houzz)
Meanwhile, Inspectapedia has an even longer list of things not to flush than my Whidbey Island Airbnb did. Dryer lint is included, in part due to its heavy hair content. Here's something you can do with dryer lint. Make lightweight, easy to store and backpack, firestarters.

  • Using an empty paper egg carton, place a wad of dryer lint in each egg nest. 
  • Recycle old candle stubs by lighting them and letting wax drip over the lint in the egg cup.
  • Once enough wax has coated the lint so its secured in the egg cup, move to the next.
  • When all the cups have been waxed over, tear the carton into 12 individual pieces. 
The next time you build a fire, place one of these lint egg cups in the middle of the kindling and light it. In moments, you'll have a healthy blaze going.

Friday, May 31, 2019

What *is* it about the Kardashians?

Knowing how keenly I'm fixated on the topic of hair, my friend Eric recently sent me this Youtube link of a guy getting a very weird haircut (by Rob The Original).
My apologies for not following the episodes of Life with the Kardashians. I had to turn to Bustle.com to learn the faces are of the Kardashian and Jenner sisters: Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Kylie, and Kendall.

Actually, it was easy to find posts about the Youtube post to figure that out. What was less easy to find was a google search for what, exactly, it *is* about the Kardashians?

Eventually, I landed on an article on The Daily Beast. The article, titled "The Dangerous Kardashian Effect and the Profound Impact of the Superficial," is written by documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, on the subject of her movie "Generation Wealth." A very worthy article, and film.

Here's just one quote she offers, from American billionaire David Siegel, who said "money doesn't make you happy. It just makes you unhappy in a good section of town." I read this insight out loud to my husband. He laughed with me, then said "we should put that on our door."

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

1970s hair

I've been working on a narrative history write-up of the family, and as I've pored over photos, I've been struck by how dramatically hair styles shifted, especially between the 1960s and 1970s.

In 1967, my brothers and I wore short crops. Mine was called a pixie cut, theirs were called crew cuts. Clearly, the Beatles' hairstyles hadn't caught on with our family.

By 1972, though, my siblings and I had adopted the long-hair fashions. 

A more thorough overview of the hairstyles of the 1960s and 1970s are found at these blessedly uncluttered websites:

Recently I shared the photo below taken in 1972 with my writing group. "Oh dear," my friend Sue said when she saw it. "We all looked like that back then, didn't we?" So we did.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Crockett hair

I've had to face it. My childhood was not politically correct. Growing up in the 1960s we played many games where we were frontiersmen carrying long rifles and fighting off the Indians. All three of us kids were totally obsessed with Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.

The Daniel Boone TV series started in 1964 and ran for the next six seasons. Every week when the next "Daniel Boone" episode was showing, we kids gathered in the family room to watch, and while we were at it, destroy the couch. Our couch was a mid-century modern sofa day bed. It was probably an original Herman Miller -- Dad being an architect, he liked to have only the finest.

Sure, we'd start out sitting on the couch, but those foam-stuffed back cushions were loose, so as the show got going, my brothers and I would pull them off and ride those cushions like horses. If a fight started happening, which it often did, we used them to wallop each other with them, and pretty much tear the whole family room apart. No wonder that couch didn't last.

All these memories came flooding back the other day when my friend Eric Lord sent me a picture -- a picture postcard, maybe -- of a kid with a coonskin-style Crockett hairstyle. And I thought I was a true fan.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hair sideways

Image in public domain, courtesy of Ryan McGuire
In the spirit of full confession, in the past few years I've learned a lot about genealogy research and my own family history, but I've not yet entered the realm of DNA testing. In my naivété on this subject, I've always assumed that if I ever did, the source of my DNA would be a strand or two of hair snipped off my head. That hair, I believed, was my distinctive marker of who I am as a person, especially because it contains my DNA.

Not so, as it turns out. First of all, scientists need to have a strand of hair that is plucked from the head at its root, because the DNA resides at the bulb of the hair, rather than in the shaft.
The hair follicle at the base of human hairs contains cellular material rich in DNA. In order to be used for DNA analysis, the hair must have been pulled from the body -- hairs that have been broken off do not contain DNA. Any body tissue that has not been degraded is a potential source of DNA. (from DNA Forensics Problem Sets)
But even then, it's not foolproof. Take identical siblings, for instance. Their DNA is indistinguishable.

Anyhow, the morphology of hair, that is, the microscopic comparison of hair forms, has been receiving much scrutiny. (Writers of detective novels, take note!) Over time, the use of hair in identifying a person, especially one who's committed a crime, has been a somewhat murky science. In the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, hair analysis could be enough to warrant criminal conviction. Even in the early 21st century, Tani Watkins, Richard E. Bisbing, Max Houck and Bonnie Betty published an article titled "The Science of Forensic Hair Comparisons and the Admissibility of Hair Comparison Evidence: Frye and Daubert Considered," which pointed out that, in addition to hair DNA testing: "forensic hair comparisons also provide an excellent means of discriminating between individuals." Perhaps, the argument was posited to validate forensic analysis of hair performed when no DNA was present?

However, an article in the April 2004 Science & Justice argues this isn't good enough: "Forensic Hair Morphology Comparison -- a dying art, or junk science?:
There has been debate in both the judicial and forensic fields concerning the admissibility and reliability of the so-called forensic comparison sciences such as handwriting, tool mark analyses, and hair analysis. In particular, there has been increasing controversy over the use and interpretation of hair comparison evidence and it has been held partly responsible for miscarriages of justice.
Etc. etc. (Follow the link for the full article.)

So, is forensic hair comparison a dying art or junk science? Both, it would seem. Take, for example, this 2017 case study by Colin Campbell Ross and James Driskell titled "Is Microscopic Hair Comparison a Legitimate Science?":
There have been several wrongful convictions caused, at least in part, by flawed or exaggerated microscopic hair comparison expert testimony. In the US, the FBI has been under fire because testifying agents have overstated the value of hair evidence. In some instances, hair analyses that were correctly conducted and accurately reported to courts and juries have resulted in the convictions of innocent defendants.
Please, for heaven's sake, no more wrongful convictions.

But wait, forensics just may be proceeding apace, via hair proteins. The article Hair Proteins Under the Microscope, by Seth Augenstein, shows an emerging science for establishing distinctive identities, even among identical siblings, by analyzing hair proteins. If that doesn't blow our hair sideways, what will?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hair puns

We've all seen them: clever marketing and punny names for hair salons. If you're trying to come up with something clever yourself, but don't have a witty pun on the tip of your tongue, no worries. There's a whole list of clever and fun names for hair salons at Bellatory.com waiting to tease your brain, haha. They have even divided their ideas up by theme: music- and entertainment-related, movie-related, inspired by Shakespeare, etc.

In Seattle on 6th Avenue I've enjoyed the artfully designed messages on Capelli's Barbershop signboards, just two of which I'm sharing here. 

While puns aren't usually my modus operandi, in 2019 my plan is to "live colorfully, or dye trying."