Lady Gaga devoted a whole song to it, there's a musical named in its honor... So what's with our relationship to our hair and why do we think hair really matters?
This weekend was all about hair for me- I got a straightening treatment done on my normally frizzy bob, and I caught the Vidal Sassoon movie via Netflix on Demand.... Which got me thinking about hair- why it matters and why we get so emotional about it.
One of my earliest traumatic hair memories happened in the fifth grade. My mother was obsessed with curling my hair and thought it would be a good time to experiment with my first permanent wave or "perm" shortly before our class portrait section. I think, in her mind, she was picturing Shirley Temple ringlets, but my hair was too thick and unruly for that style, and when I tried to brush out the super tightness of the rings post-treatment, to my horror, the volume of frizz around my head multiplied, seemingly overnight.
Picture me then, awkward personified, with pleated shorts, bright pink sweatshirts, plastic frame glasses and braces on my teeth. The hair situation only enhanced the awkwardness of the prolonged awkwardness of my tweendom.
For years, I have fought the natural fight or flight instinct of my tresses. I've indulged in permanent waves (more than once, despite my better judgment), Japanese straightening perms (or thermal reconditioning treatments), salon quality blowouts and DIY hair shapers such as curling and straightening irons. After ditching the super sleek look of my permanently straightened hair in the early '00s, I have returned to that look once again via a Japanese straight perm courtesy of a random Japanese salon I found in Chelsea under the careful guidance of Yoshi, my stylist with really keen intuition about my hair but limited English skills, which, in retrospect, could have turned out to be another hair disaster.
Why should hair matter so much to us? What does it say about our self-worth, our fragile sense of being? And why, for heaven's sake, can one person's mean, passing comment about that bundle of protein over our heads make us feel as if we have been mortally wounded; while one person's passive or casual comment about the chicness of our 'do can make us feel the very opposite- as if we have achieved something, that we are going places.
Have you ever felt empowered or weakened by a haircut? Why does hair matter so much anyway?