What Is Your Hair Identity?

I was going to write about the three main reasons America failed in Iraq:

1. We disbanded the Iraqi army leaving a bunch of 20-year old boys without jobs, but with lots of guns.

2. We cut too deeply in the de-Baathification of Iraq, not taking into account that many people were registered Baathists so Saddam wouldn’t kill them.

3. We didn’t close the borders between Iraq and it’s neighboring countries allowing militants to enter to fill the vacuum Saddam left.

But instead, I decided to write about my hair while eating a Klondike Reese’s bar.

Because in many ways, my hair has profoundly impacted the woman I am today and I suspect your Hair Identity may have had an impact on you as well.

This is my hair when I was 8:

Shannon Camping 1973pic

How I loved my long, soft, manageable, braidable hair. People always commented on what a pretty child I was until I turned 12.

I was simply minding my own business when puberty pounced upon me.  

Zits on my forehead and chin, pimples on my back and chest, legs so hairy one could clothe an Inuit family of 5 with their shaved bits, no discernible breast growth and this, my hair when I was 15:

Me big hair high schoolpic

I blame this hair for disrupting my burgeoning narcissism and conceit.

I hold this hair responsible for not having the courage to try out to be a Songbird in high school (well, and also my lack of rhythm and flexibility).

I often attended school wearing do-rags to hide my bush, hence ferrying in an unprecedented era of gang bangers at Pioneer Junior High.

I ascribe my virginity at age 19 to this hair (actually, I hope my daughters get this hair too, poor ducklings – the best birth control ever).

I incriminate this hair for making me feel inferior to my football player college boyfriend.  In fact this hair was probably the culprit for his infidelities.

This is the hair I wanted:

Peggy Lipton

Peggy fucking Lipton.

Oh Goddess, how I revere you, want to be you, hip, edgy, cool under fire with silken locks one could drape across one’s shoulders, like an ermine cape worn whilst meeting a KGB operative in Red Square in Moscow speaking the Pomor dialect into a headset before a rendezvous with Sean Connery in a confessional at Saint Basil’s Cathedral.

No, no. That hair would never be mine. Here I am again in college:

Bad hair twopic

What in the name of all that is holy was I thinking with this haircut?

Someone actually dated me with that hair cut. But I had no self confidence. Except when I tried to get cast as an extra in the movie Gremlins. I fit right in.

Years of ignominy went by.

When I was a struggling actress casting agents would say .. we’d hire you if it weren’t for that hair. I’m not kidding.

Five different casting agents said that to me. I have all of their names.And their home addresses. (cue Twilight Zone theme music).

But then one day, whilst once again minding my own business (aka sitting on the toilet) reading Allure magazine, there was an article about what to do with thick, frizzy, intractable hair.

It was as though the author reached out from the pages of that literary work of art and led me toward the light.

What I discovered upon my journey, was that I should only wash my hair twice a week. Not every day.

That I needed to immediately put a silicone based product in my wet hair. That I could then let it dry naturally or blow it dry.

After which I needed to use a 1″ ceramic curling iron and curl the entire thing!

The process takes between 30-40 minutes twice a week and that’s all. In the morning I simply pull my fingers through my hair and this is what I get:

Blow dry

Peggy Lipton can suck it! Finally, in my 40s, I love my hair again.

On a good hair day, I can be seen balancing the federal budget and birthing peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Has your hair shaped your identity? Have you changed your hair when you needed to change your life? Have you made peace with your hair?

17 thoughts on “What Is Your Hair Identity?”

  1. Seems we always want what we don’t have – hairwise, bodywise. I *wanted* thick sable-colored curly hair like the Montoya girls down the street, but picked the wrong ancestors, mostly stout German peasant stock.

    I grew up with super-fine Johnson’s baby shampoo blonde which snarled horribly. SO, my mom made me wear a pixie cut, though I rebelled as a teen and grew it out for that Peggy Lipton hair look, anyway. Dyeing and perming it was too much work.

    Now I mostly want to spend minimal time on it. Would love to hair hair with the body and curl to it YOU have.

    I also wanted to be petite and fine-boned and graceful. (See German peasant stock, above.)

    1. I am of a hearty Czech stock which I believe is where all this hair came from. Unfortunately it’s finding its way onto my face — that’s going to be a whole other beauty regimen (I almost wrote “regime”) requiring some flaying of the flesh at the waxologist’s torture chamber. Great to meet you last night Beverly. I can tell, just from your comment, that I’ll be doing a lot of reading on your site!

  2. I have a love/hate relationship with my hair. I’ve always loved the color, dark brown, almost black. It’s shiny and healthy looking. But it’s fine and straight. I had a student today ask me if I straightened it. Ha! I spent years in sponge curlers trying to get any kind of curl going. I’d still like some volume. Where does one sign up for volume??

  3. Oh, Shannon,
    What a timely post – it hit close to home. My dear friend A. – the kind you talk to daily – who’ve I known forever (our mothers were friends before we were born) has your wonderful hair. I was genetically blessed with a full, dense head of hair, but it is fine, straight as a board and mouse brown (except in summer as a child where it naturally highlighted itself).
    As A,.and I reconnected in our 40’s, I confessed my envy of her fabulous hair and her beauty, only to find out she would have killed to have my hair (and my boobs). While I was spending hours in hot rollers, she was bent over the ironing board while her sister pressed her hair. My sister (the bitch with the natural, fine and full strawberry blond curls) did the same thing to her beautiful mane.
    Cut to recent history. While I spend a small fortune, quarterly, to recreate those summertime childhood highlights, A. has had her ‘natural’ hair – no ironing, curling or coloring – for the past 30+ years, only getting a cut every few months. She has allowed the gray to creep in and wears it proudly, without concern, as I perform the hair gymnastics every other day.
    Late last year my dear A. developed a severe form of psoriasis, which she had had in a mild form for years. This time was devastating, affecting her head to toe, literally, and as painful as shingles. At one point she could not walk because it had attacked the soles of her feet. It also went to her scalp, and the shampoo she was prescribed wrecked havoc on her lovely hair. She has presently lost about 2/3rds of her hair, but I keep telling her she still has more than the average citizen. She’s worried it won’t grow back, but I’m trying to convince her it will double. Didn’t our leg and pit hair multiply once we shaved it? Obviously, I’m grasping at straws to console my dear friend.
    Thanks for letting me vent. You’ve always kind of reminded me of A. – brains, beauty and that fabulous hair!
    Keep writing your wonderful posts. I look forward to checking back in a couple of weeks and reading your great material. I’m off to Spain Friday with another long-time girlfriend. Leaving house, mean cat and sweet dog to the care of un-husband. He’s gonna miss me!
    Hasta luego!
    Joanne

    1. Joanne — so good to hear from you, but I feel for your dear friend A. It’s stories like hers that remind us to be grateful just to feel good in our skin. Send her my best best wishes. And oh how I envy your jaunt to Spain. I actually speak fairly fluent Spanish which I feel entitles me to a summer in Spain. Now if my finances only agreed.

  4. you should be happy to know, i saw Peggy LIpton on a show today and at 65 her hair looks super thin and she is still sporting that hairstyle which does not look good on her. She looked better with a shorter cut from several years ago. Your hair looks great now!!

  5. Yes, you do have gorgeous hair.

    Mine is just meh. Nothing can be done – no product will give me more of it, and extensions only add length and no volume to the front (plus I’m allergic to the silicone). All I can do is keep taking vitamins and drinking water and dyeing the grey out. Luckily my husband loves me anyway.

    1. Hi Miss Jennie — I seem to recall you having a lovely head of hair. You’re just lucky I didn’t start stroking it while sleeping next to you. You already know I have wandering feet!

  6. Your hair is so much prettier than Peggy’s.

    I do admit to wanting to be able to throw my hair up in a sleek, high ponytail my whole life. Unfortunately I need a little height on top so I always have had layers, which just ruins that look.

    I think we all want what we don’t have. It’s taken me my whole life to make peace with my hair!

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