I Donated My Hair (Sydney Salter)
A few days ago, my hair was the longest it's ever been. Pandemic hair.
Styling long hair puzzled me. I mostly piled it on top of my head, often wandering into public with Seuss-ish looking updos. Yet I hesitated to cut it--long hair being prized as a symbol of femininity, one I'd finally obtained due to a worldwide crisis.
Inspired by my sister-in-law, who hacked off her pandemic locks while visiting me over Christmas, I decided to donate my hair too. She flew back to teach overseas with a bag of her hair, and one of mine. We're going to get a letter of thanks from the President of Malta's wife whose charity makes wigs for cancer patients.
Now my hair is the shortest it has ever been. Spiky short!
Never have I ever experienced such unadulterated joy from a haircut. I love rubbing a hand through my hair--like fresh-mown grass in the summer. I giggle every time I see myself in a mirror. I look so different from the way I have always seen myself.
I look like someone who rides all-terrain vehicles. Someone who knows a lot of dirty jokes. Someone who gets away with sassy comments. Someone who can throw--and catch--a ball. I look like Bart Simpson. Grandma from Napoleon Dynamite. I have had so much fun parading around the house with excellent bed hair. Fauxhawk, anyone?
I am performing my gender in a new way. People make all sorts of assumptions about women with short hair--some positive, but mostly negative. This haircut would have made me sob at many other points in my life. What's that line from Little Women--the one about Jo's one solitary lone beauty being her hair? I always related to that sentiment, being terrified to lose whatever bit of attractiveness I'd been granted.
Turning 55 a few days before Christmas released something in me. I cannot be bothered to be bothered about so many little nonsenses anymore. Like a funny haircut. Who knew that I would literally find this haircut so dang funny? I freaking love being 55.
The haircut has also made me think about the way I use appearance cues to create characterization in my writing. Stereotypes tell the easy story, not necessarily the interesting story. I'm working on deepening a character in my WIP. That means substituting tropes with interesting back story, complex motivation.
Maybe the character has short hair because she wants to get a letter from the President of Malta's wife...