No, I don’t mean the musical, though a school friend played in it lo these many years ago. However, it was a lot about hair and how it affected the culture at the time. I was thinking of course about my own hair, since I got it whacked again this past week. Especially for a woman, hair is very important (unless, of course, one is a balding man). Unfortunately, baldness runs in my family and my son became bald early, like my father– one more thing to blame me for. However, I am more interested in hair for women and how length goes with age.
There is a woman at the pool who still has long hair, which she wraps into a bun when she is swimming. I use to have long hair and I used to have curly hair. When I was a small child people would comment on the cute curls. Those same cute curls drove me crazy when I was a teenager and I recall trying unsuccessfully to iron them, before abandoning the idea.
I had short hair for most of my childhood, probably because my mother wanted me to have carefree hair and also because it was probably how girl children at the time were supposed to wear their hair. However, by the time I was a teenager, long hair was in and of course I let my hair grow longer and longer. By the time I was in university it was almost down to my waist. I usually let it flow, but as time went on I started to bundle it in a knot on my head and stuck a pencil in it to keep it there.
When I was in high school, hair became a big issue. Some boys started to grow their hair long (like maybe an inch long, possibly parted in the middle) and the school administration had a fit. There was a struggle which the boys finally won. However, people looked at them askance and considered them troublemakers and, gasp, hippies. This was just when the hippie mode was starting.
While my children were small and wont to grab my hair, I wore it long but with a head scarf to keep it back. I often thought of this when I lived in Turkey, as head scarves are a big issue there. Now it is a religious issue, though Christians forget that it used to be the case that women had to cover their hair when they went to church. I certainly remember my mother wearing a hat and gloves to church, as she tried to get my sister and me to do. When I was confirmed into the Anglican church (a wasted effort, it turns out), I wore a little veil on my head, like a mantilla. But mostly for women, a head scarf kept the hair out of one’s way, as one sees in photos of women immigrating through Ellis Island, for example. Upper class women did not need to have head scarves and probably wore versions of hats to set them aside from the working classes. For me, the head scarf was practical and later I wore hats in winter to keep my head warm.
In my thirties, my hair started to get shorter. I wanted a change and got it. I tried to grow it longer a few times, but it looked like hell, as my hair was also starting to get thinner and it was certainly not curly anymore. There was still a little bit of a wave, is all. In my 50s I decided to try to let it grow a bit and even curled it, but it was not nice. I got it cut short and so it stayed. Then, of course, there was the decision on whether to have bangs (or a fringe, as the Brits say). My bangs came and went, as often I liked to rake my fingers through my hair and bangs were not conducive to this.
For several years, I got my hair permed. Although I still had some natural curl, I wanted the full curl. Sometimes it got a little out of hand, but mostly I liked it. One time in my first year in Turkey I went to a hairdresser in my neighbourhood. A woman with long blonde hair was already there, having just had her hair dyed. She wore leggins and a big top and looked very fashionable. Therefore, I was very surprised to see her put on a long coat, bundle her hair into a ponytail, and cover it with a headscarf. So you never quite know what is under the covering!
Also in my thirties I started to dye my hair. At first I used plain henna because I had heard that it was a good conditioner. Then I started to use red henna. At that time, I could go to the store and get one of several shades of red. However, when I moved to Turkey, I found that I could get only RED! henna and I decided it was too red. The first time I used henna there, a friend was with me. We had bought a package that also had a bag of herbs to go with it. We slathered on the henna and I was so afraid that I had bought the wrong kind and that my hair would be black. Luckily it wasn’t. I might note here that a lot of older (and old) village women henna their hair red. You could see it peeking out from the headscarf. I had also discovered by then that if I used henna I could not perm my hair because the two chemicals (natural or not) did not mix. The combination made my hair break off. So in Turkey I started using L’Oreal, because I was worth it. I usually dyed my hair myself, as it was a lot cheaper, if a little messy. I never did quite find the colour I liked, so often it was darker than the natural had been. I stopped colouring my hair last year, since I was in transition anyway. My daughter’s hairdresser sort of reverse foiled it, bleaching it in layers so as the natural colour came in I would not have a band of gray to deal with. That worked pretty well.
Now I am in my sixties and a few months ago I decided to get it cut really short. I had been growing out the gray and wanted to get the last pale strands of colour taken off. I had the hairdresser cut it very short. She was nervous about doing it, actually, and I was a little nervous about how it would look, but resigned to it, since hair always grows out. It actually looked fine. And what a discovery– it is so easy to care for! My hair is the same length as many men’s hair and I am experiencing the joys of wash and go. I don’t have to blow dry it, as it dries quickly (as the last hairdresser complained as she was cutting it). I use little shampoo and conditioner. And it looks pretty good. Now when I wear earrings, people can actually see them.
As I look around in my aquafit class, all of the women (who are in their 60s or more) have short hair. These days it is considered ‘not done’ to keep one’s hair long if one is older. I think mostly it is more convenient to have it short and it is certainly more convenient not to have to dye it or perm it. Some women change their hair style according to the prevailing fashion, something I generally did not do, since I was a natural woman. However, now that I am an older woman, I am glad that I don’t have to mess with it.