jayellebee's Blog

January 31, 2013

It’s Only Hair

Medusa    Once upon a time I knew a man who had a hair salon and more opinions than all the women of The View combined.  Social and political commentary washed over his patrons like shampoo.  I, for the most part, let him rant because he had a unique talent for coaxing my unruly hair into submission.  My tangled locks entered his domain as belligerent as Medusa‘s snake-snarled mane and exited an hour later as obedient Rapunzel‘s golden tresses.

Alas, our fairy tale relationship was not meant to be and ended abruptly.  The local newspaper held my hairdresser’s rapt attention when I arrived one day.  An article about Planned Parenthood, high school students, picketing parents and the town’s police had him in a rage.  I had read the same article with interest that morning and was not surprised the two of us took opposing stands on the issues.

Never argue with a man wielding well-honed scissors.  The more we Hay Mowertalked, the less we agreed.  The longer he worked, the shorter my hair became.  By the end of my final appointment with this man, I looked as though I’d fallen head first into a hay mower.  The sheer horror (perhaps I should say shear horror) of my reflection in the mirror sent me scurrying home via back roads in hopes of not being recognized.

“It’s only hair,” I reassured myself.  “Hair grows.”

Born bald, tow-headed as a two-year-old, by my teens my hair had faded to American mouse brown.  At thirty, strands of gray proved Mom’s genes had triumphed over dark-haired Dad’s.  I tried to return to my blond roots for a time, but realized I was too lazy and too cheap to keep the gray roots at bay.  I used to think of myself as “pre-maturely gray,” but at this age I’m just plain gray.

It’s only hair.

I remember my tenth grade English teacher, a lovely but corpulent lady, carrying on the morning Beatlesafter the Beatles‘ US debut on the Ed Sullivan Show.  She shimmied and squealed in front of the class, shaking her head to an unheard rhythm as she imitated the group that would come to be known as the Fab Four.

“Their music wasn’t bad,” she said, “but couldn’t they afford to get their hair cut?”

Two years later I summoned the courage to prepare my father to meet my prom date.  Dad was a straight arrow, a no-nonsense kind of guy.  He knew what he liked, and it wasn’t long-haired hippies.

“Dad,” I paused, groping for the right words, “he’s very smart, even if his hair is a little longer than yours.”

Mohawk     My youngest son has never been one to worry about what others think of him.  At the ripe old age of eight he decided it would be fun to have a mohawk.  I shaved the sides of his head the same afternoon second grade recessed for summer vacation.  I tried to ignore the stares as our family walked into church the following Sunday.  The next day my boy began swimming lessons at a community pool some miles from our house.  No one there knew us.  I settled into a plastic chair to watch the lesson, positioning myself in the shade behind a group of mothers clustered in the hot afternoon sun.

“Who is that?” one of the woman screeched, pointing at the water.  ” Who’s the boy with the mohawk?”

I took my shaver to the final class and offered free haircuts for all takers, but not one mother took advantage of my largess.

“It’s only hair,” I called over my shoulder as we left.

Same son, fourteen years later.  His hair was shoulder length, wavy and dark brown.  Picture him with facial hair and a win-or-die attitude and you’ll understand why his Ultimate Frisbee teammates nicknamed him “Evil Jesus.”  Sitting in the bleachers at his final UCSB game, bursting with pride at his on-field performance and off-field mentoring of the younger “Black Tide” players, I had no trouble showing other parents which player was my son.

I’ve learned much from my kids over the years.  Baseball terminology.  How to belch on demand.  When to bite my tongue.  And yet I still have trouble ignoring bad hair days.  One good thing about winter is nobody stares when I wear a knit hat pulled down over my ears.

Bald.  Blond.  Brunette.  Gray.  Thinning.

It’s only hair.



  1. For me it was, Hair today, Gone tomorrow.

    Comment by Required — February 1, 2013 @ 1:04 am | Reply

  2. I love reading your expertly “coifed” slice of reality posts, Joanne. My son exhibited his fiercely independent nature in his early teens by weaving his red curly locks into numerous braids tied with bronze-colored twist ties. My husband was ready to go to battle on the hair. But as you so adroitly point out, it’s only hair. Let’s not die on that hill! When he started track, it took a couple of week before he found the dangling piggies bothered his pace and soon the braids were gone. end of issue.

    Comment by Chris Pedersen — February 1, 2013 @ 9:45 am | Reply

  3. When my daughter was in the 8th grade. She had lovely thick straight brown hair but she said she hated iit. Unbeknownst to me, she bought some blond hair color. Shortly thereafter I walked into her bathroom and she had all the materials out on the counter and was reading the directions.

    Since I have had colored my gray hair colored for decades, I had some knowledge of how it is done, so I decided not to engage in a battle with her at the thought of her beautiful hair being desecrated, and said I would help. What she wanted was highlights, so I picked up strands, brushed on the noxious-smelling concoction, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and continue until I had little foul-smelling plastic ropes all over her head.

    We waited the requisite time for the strands to turn blonde, but they beligerently stopped at a neon shade of orange. When we washed the chemical out and dried her hair, she burst into tears. “How can I go to school looking like this,” she shreiked. I said that I would call woman who colors my hair, and she would dye it back to brown. When I got her on the line, I told her our plight, and listened to her response with growing alarm. “You see,” she said, “you have to let the hair rest for at least a week before we can put more color on it, or you’ll burn the hair and it will break off.”

    I turned to my daughter and gave her the bad news. “So you’ll have to go to school for a week with your hair like this.” She took it bravely and, as it turned out, she was something of a celebrity at school for her “cool” hair. A week later, all was put back to normal.

    Sometime later, she asked to have professional highlights in her hair for her birthday, and I agreed. I think she had it done twice and decided that her lustrous brown hair was just fine.


    Comment by Bee Hylinski - Author and Baseball Fan — February 1, 2013 @ 8:09 pm | Reply

  4. Love this story. Never knew about “evil Jesus” but it’s perfect.

    Comment by Donna — February 2, 2013 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  5. Another winner down Memory Lane, Joanne! Funny, charming, true. Great descriptions and images. Delightful incidents. Thank you. Jean

    Comment by Jean Georgakopoulos — February 5, 2013 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

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