Monday, July 21, 2008

On hair and identity

For months, I've been saying how I need to get my hair cut. Originally, I had said after my May marathon, I would get it trimmed. That rolled around, and it did not happen. So then I changed the date to June, July, and now October?

I was trying to ask myself WHY I was stalling on getting my hair cut. It's not like it is a big deal, right? I've gotten my hair cut before with no problems. I never had some kind of traumatic incident with a hairdresser, so there shouldn't really be any fear. And I'm not sure fear is really the right word, it's more that I'm having trouble letting go of my hair. Rationally, I know 8-10 inches is not a lot of hair for me, and whenever I actually do get my hair cut, I'm donating it to either Locks of Love or Pantene Beautiful Lengths.

So still, the question of why I'm stalling about it so much. I think I've realized that hair has really become a part of my Identity. It's the one part of me that never seemed to have suffered even through the worst of the ED. I know I am incredibly lucky in this way, and it's something I've never taken for granted. The only instance I've had in my life where my hair was damaged was after taking a potent medication which thinned out my hair. I seriously cried about that, now understood what my mom may have felt when her hair thinned out from chemo.

It is evident that many of us have an emotional attachment to our hair as can be seen here at the f-word blog. I'm not sure how many of us can say it is apart of our identity, but it is certainly important to many of us.

So for me, growing up, I always wanted "long-time" hair and for the most part, that's how I've had it. I've had a few changes here and there--my hair at my shoulder, bangs, and even interesting highlights of blonde, red, and blue, though not at the same time. However, still it's always gravitated toward being long and thick.

The interesting thing is growing up, I kind of had a love/hate relationship with my hair. As a kid, I didn't quite understand what was so special or interesting about it and expressed this to my fifth grade teacher. She couldn't understand why I was being so negative about my hair when it was beautiful to her. Other people in elementary school felt the same way. I don't know if it was so much that they really liked it or that it was different. Practically being the only Asian in school, well, they just didn't see Asian hair much. The place I grew up in was fairly conservative and most of the population was either Caucasian or African-American. Many of my African-American friends always wanted to touch or braid my hair. It was a bit insane at times, but I think I enjoyed it too? I remember another friend of mine who described me as a horse (we had to describe classmates as various animals) due to my ponytail which I always wore at that time. She said it reminded her of a mane of a horse.

In high school and college, I played around with my hair in different color of highlights. Eventually, I let the color grow out, so my traditional locks were seen again. It's only been the last few years where I've really grown to love my hair. It's now become part of my identity. It's how people recognize me. Just other day while checking out a book at the library, I ran into a woman who lives near me. She asked if I was out running that morning since she was out walking. I told her I was. She said she thought so since she recognized my long hair. Awhile ago, someone else said the same thing. Then some random person at a store said how much she liked my hair even when it was barely brushed and was sweaty from a run.

Rationally, I know of course, that I am still somebody even if my hair was cut to my chin or something, but it's just the letting go of it that seems so hard to me. Although different, I kind of equate it to a person with an ED who has always been viewed as "anorexic," the "skinny girl," "the girl who doesn't eat," etc. It becomes a part of their identity, and without it, they are unsure of who they are.

I know I'll eventually get past this. Even though this is an insanely small issue compared to other things in my life, it still somehow holds a lot of importance for me. After all, hair is symbolic of many things.


Vickyann said...

No matter how much I have loathed myself through the ed, my hair has been my grace; long, short, black, blonde, red, curly or straight, I love it.

And if you can love one thing about yourself you can love everything. It makes me thankful for my hair.


Tiptoe said...

Vicky, thanks for your response. You are right about loving one thing about yourself. I'm glad you also love your hair. :-)