In high school, my friends used to tease me about my hair…among other things. My buddy, Dwayne, once asked, “How come you don’t just wear it the same every day?” For starters, I hated my hair. It was fine, thin, straight, long, and a dark, dull shade of brown. It wouldn’t hold a curl without a perm, wouldn’t stay where I put it (especially if it was clean), and started going grey when I turned 18.
I never learned to braid more than a few strands of my own hair, so my go-to style has always been a pony tail. But I’ve incorporated all manner of things, including clips, bands, scrunchies, and the occasional hair net to hold it up and out of my face, and have experimented with colors ranging from platinum blonde to auburn red, and even shot it with a little purple back in the 80s.
I’ve had highlights and lowlights, bangs, no bangs, pixie-length, shoulder-length, and an afro or two. Before our trip to the U.K. in 2002, I had it corn-rowed and braided, with extensions that reached the small of my back. I found these little seashells that attached to the ends. It was very Bo Derek in “10” (Google it). I loved it. Had I not lost so much hair pulling the damn braids out, I’d have done it again.
My husband and children think I’m crazy. In their defense, there’s a lot more goin’ on with me than just hair. For starters, I talk to things. I apologize to lizards if I frighten them. I say good morning to the cats and squirrels. Since I had an imaginary frog as a pet when I was a toddler, I pay them special attention, though I’m still squeamish about touching them. I’ve even been known to thank a flower for being extraordinarily beautiful or aromatic, and I’m appreciative when a tree protects me from the rain.
Maybe it’s because I grew up on a farm in the woods, hiking, climbing, and passing the time building tiny stick-forts for slugs. Maybe more of my father rubbed off than I thought. Or maybe I listened to too much John Denver. Whatever the cause, I feel a kinship with nature and the things that live around us, and I believe all of it deserves respect and admiration. If that makes me crazy, so be it.
What I’d like to know is what’s so crazy about pulling the car over to watch a sunset? What’s odd about pausing yard work to roll in the grass with the baby dog? Or saying hello to an armadillo bumbling along the path in the park? When I saw my first Florida firefly last week, I almost cried. Given all the development throughout the Everglades and everywhere else, it’s long been thought they were gone. I felt such elation seeing the little guy flash around our back yard. But Scott was there. I knew he’d tease. So I didn’t cry. But I wish I had, for the firefly; somebody should.
After last year’s oil spill, I donated my long hair to the cleanup. For me, it was emotional; I hadn’t cut it for years and was resentful of the people and processes that drove me to have it cut. For my daughter, I think it was a relief. A few months prior, I’d started putting my hair up in pig tails, which came about after fighting with my bangs one day and being fed up with knocking my pony tail on the driver’s seat headrest (and the couch and the lawn chair…) every time I sat down – I swear the back of my head was bruised. She and I had gone out shopping one afternoon and, at some point, she made some comment about clothing, I said something about her ensemble and how she stood out, and she countered with something like, “Right, Mom, everyone’s looking at me – you’re the 45-year-old in pig tails.”
Sometimes I wonder if I’m not an embarrassment, to myself if not to my family. And not simply because of my hair. But then I think, “Fuck ‘em.” I don’t have to explain myself to anyone. I figure, like Carrie Fisher does, at this age I’ve earned my craziness – which one day I hope will be referred to as eccentricity. I do what I do, because it’s how I know to do it. It’s who I am. I can’t stop talking to lizards any faster than I can switch to brushing my teeth with my left hand. If I show up in public wearing a halter top, Daisy Dukes, and thigh-high, unmatching socks, I hope someone will pull me aside and feed me medication, but, until then, I plan to wear my hair any damn way I want to.
If that’s a problem for anyone, speak up now. Otherwise, stop staring at the pig tails and pass me a beer.