Full disclosure: I am a hair freak. Anyone who knows me can tell you I am a royal pain about my hair — and always have been. Winter hats and good hair days don’t mix; neither does humidity, which obviously precludes southern living. And hair is the reason I’d never get a convertible.
A friend, used to hearing my sudden outbursts about needing a haircut NOW, once perceptively asked ‘what’s wrong?” What? Nothing’s wrong – except my HAIR! But, after we hung up, I thought about it. She was right. Yes, it IS all about my hair.
All over the world, hair documents different life phases, from personal evolutions to ways of expressing life events. In a weird way, hair, every single strand of it, echoes life, death and rejuvenation. People worldwide express grief and sadness through their hair, either consciously changing it or completely losing it during a life crisis. (No, I’m not talking about bad haircut grief – that’s another tale) The Sioux cut off all their hair in a time of mourning, (sorry, honey, but no, not even for you.) Celts believed hair had magical powers and the Cree claim hair is another part of the soul. Now that would almost justify my fixation.
When things in my life are most out of control, I’ve always wanted to just grab a scissors and snip away. No, I’m not THAT crazy but I have been known, to my hairdresser’s chagrin, to make little ‘tweaks’ when her calendar is booked. What could go wrong? Normally, I remember to “keep calm and call the hairstylist’ but you know those days when you just have to have chocolate NOW? Well, substitute hair.
We all find out certain things. “Hair grows back” but with the speed of a golf game. Two white hairs will NOT grow back in the place of the one you pulled. Rinsing your hair in beer might give it body but it also makes you smell like a brewery. And because YOU know you had a haircut, you can’t fault anyone, even your husband, for not noticing. In truth, it really doesn’t look much different. Still, my emotional temperature is calibrated along the state of my hair that day. Hair flat to my head could totally ruin the climate. That is, (mostly) before I had much bigger things to worry about.
When life seems totally out of control, a bad hair day seems pretty insignificant. But where you can’t control a big increase in your gas bill, a foot of snow or yes, the love of your life dying – hair is something you can. So, you channel Rapunzel — and Miranda Lambert who attests that “What doesn’t kill you, makes you blonder.” Aces.
We joke that life is too short to have a bad hair day. Life is too short. Period. Seeing a dear friend and in-law with long, gorgeous hair lose it all to breast cancer, can’t help but put things in perspective. And every child we saw in the hallways of Sloan Kettering, whose hair also disappeared through chemo, broke our hearts every time. That’s when bad hair days get real and you check your own shallow vanities at the door.
I never thought I’d ever quote Johnny Depp, but it does make a pretty apt public service announcement. “Breathe. It’s only a bad hair day; not a bad life”.