Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Long Story Chopped Short

"Yo, Red!"

When I was a baby I had carrot red, bone straight hair. For the first day of kindergarten my mother had it cut in the fashion of the day - the "Peter Pan" cut. The carrot red had darkened. Instead of making friends everyone said I looked like a boy and I went home in tears. I didn't want to go back until it had grown down to my shoulders. It took all the bravery a five-year-old could muster to get on that bus for the second day. By second grade it was long again but somehow wavy and dishwater blonde??? This persisted until...puberty. Something about those crazy hormones. The red magically reappeared. For sixth grade graduation I was a strawberry-blonde frizzball. Thank god Stevie Nicks made this look popular!

I struggled through junior high trying to figure out what to do with it until fate and Mom, again, stepped in. I had to have a major operation on my spine and would need to be in the hospital for a long time. Mom thought a perm would tame the mane and ease the management. It was genius. The frizz went away - FOREVER - and the bramble bush became oodles and oodles of 'cascadading' curls.

When I at last stood upright from my convalescence the compliments began. My hair became my glorious crown. I would get stopped in the street several times a week by strangers "You have such beautiful hair!" they would say. I had to wear a body cast and then brace for a year. High school boys are no more kind than kindergarteners. I had terrible acne for years. But no matter what else went wrong I could always count on The Hair. After each compliment I would always say the same thing: "Thank you very much, but I had nothing to do with it. It's a gift. It just grows."

I had heard of Locks of Love many years ago and stuck it in the back of my head - 'I have to do that one day'. I kept thinking about the little girl who had the gift of The Hair she could always count on until leukemia or some other greedy illness robbed her of her crown. I had to share. But the one trait The Hair lacks is that it does not grow long very well. Locks of Love requires a minimum of ten inches in a ponytail or braid. It would start to get straggly and I'd lose my nerve.

Eight months ago I looked in the mirror and saw - gasp! - a few white hairs growing out from the top of my head. It was now or never. It was of no use to my strawberry sisters if it turned gray.

I have spent more money on conditioner in the last eight months than in any five years of my life. But it was so worth it! The Hair grew long and survived until it was long enough for the ten inch ponytail.

Weird, huh?

My lifelong friend, stylist Karen Mullen of Hair with Flair did the honors and a cute short cut.

I couldn't be happier.

Strawberry Sister, wherever you are, I lend you my crown. Beauty does indeed come from within but your road is hard enough without having to walk it with a cold head. You should have a choice of whether to be bald or not. All philosophizing aside every girl is entitled to feel pretty - whatever pretty means to her. Walk tall.

"Speak in French when you can't think of the English for a thing, turn out your toes as you walk -- and remember who you are!"
- The Red Queen from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

My ponytail will not be enough. It takes six to ten ponytails to make one wig. So if you've heard "You have such beautiful hair!" all your life then grow, grow, grow and give! You'll never regret it. And in this day of "going green" what could be a more renewable resource?

1 comment:

Trudy said...

I loved your story. I too had my crowning glory, long red hair. I worried when I was young what I would do when I was an 'older' woman and long hair wouldn't be stylish. Well, I got older and I didn't care, I loved my long red hair even though it was gradually turning grayer.

Then the horrible news. Yes, the breast cancer diagnosis was bad, BUT I WOULD LOSE MY HAIR?!!!

Long story short, I survived without my hair and even came to embrace my badge of survival, my now short, very curly, henna red hair.

I still have my 12" pony tail though. I haven't been able to part with it yet. Some day.