This is how my hair looked at one time -and what a cool identity !I loved having red and blonde streaks falling about my face ,and red glasses to match

…..only God ,my dear, could love you for yourself alone and not your yellow hair“WB Yeats For Anne Gregory

So why not blog about hair and life ,and how hair, or lack of it, defines identity. Or maybe I should say contributes to defining a part of the self. Outward appearance is governed by body shape and movement, and dress. Hair is a highly visible and easily changeable component of dress .

So now I have the shortest hair I’ve had since I was 18.I f I can find the shot I will put it up : a family photo taken after my graduation, mortarboard sitting heavily on top of a flat bowl haircut and a round face. Why? Well from memory I think it was a gesture of independence and difference.Yes my parents who until then had gone on about my Veronica Lake hair style that would make me blind in one eye, were shocked and upset. It would spoil their daughter image.I was not beautiful, nor outstandingly talented ,and was amongst young women at university who often were (or I thought they were). I got attention by dressing strangely, arguing, and cutting my hair.

Over the years I have had hair of varying lengths and colour, but never that short again -until today. Once before I cut it from long to shorter and that was not a gesture of defiance, just getting older and wanting a change. I regretted the cut immediately(See Barcelona Haircut below)

That was in my 60s when I had completed a long walk on my own – the Camino Frances, a striking out for adventure away from family. I left home for the second time .

I am ambivalent about this most recent shearing .The reason for the cut is that the hair growing during and after chemo is baby hair, fluffy and tufty. I look like a half bald clown when it sticks up around my head. A deluded saint, sporting a lopsided halo. The local barber did a good job of cutting off those downy bits.( See photo above.)

Now when I look back at the old photos where my hair was varying degrees of length, I just feel a recognition of the person I was. I acknowledge the mix of identities I grew into along the way. The loving, romantic, soft mother and wife was one I liked. There is some nostalgia in looking at family photos not seen for many years. It”s like viewing a documentary of interconnected lives. However the pervading feeling is of a sort of contentment, and huge gratitude for the special people in my life. Also for the person I was, with all the imperfections. Family then and now loved me for myself alone. And I hope God loved me too.

The paragraph above does not contradict what is the crux of this blog. Hair for men and women holds several possible connotations in relation to identity. One of them is mentioned above -women with long flowing hair of a certain style may be perceived as owning, or position themselves as having, all or some of these qualities : romantic, loving, gentle, fey, vulnerable, mysterious …….The most transparent and frequently held belief around hair concerns sexuality. The hair of women and men commonly diminishes with age, But it is interesting that whilst bald men may be seen as as sexy,bald woman are definitely not.

Even short haircuts in women are seen as a sign of the end of sexual activity; women cut their hair as long hair framing the face “drags your face down”,”makes you look older”,”makes you look like mutton dressed as lamb ” . “Its too hard to maintain”.

While I don’t necessarily agree with any of the above sentiments, I admit to holding them at some stages in my life. I also recognise that times have changed, views have changed. Short hair is back in. My very short haircut is “elfin”.

Hair is one of the easiest elements with which to hide deficiencies in appearance: imperfections like weight, wrinkles, sagging breasts, double chin. Men still don’t have to disguise all of these ? Maybe I’m making sweeping judgements again. It seems from the perspective of an old, married, happyish, sexually Ok woman that older men don’t agonise about their hair or about their appearance generally.

Women,in my experience, like dressing up. We contemplate changes in appearance because our external self mirrors a number of assumed identities, our multilayered selves. Style of hair, length and colour figure prominently in our make believe. And a periodic reinvention.

Generally we like longer hair because it can be altered. Unless we are Sinead O’conner, young, beautiful with an exquisite bone structure .

Barcelona Haircut

This is not like the Waifs song

I haven t cut my hair to avenge

Or just to test

Your love for me without

My multicoloured strands

Long.

 I didn’t cut it to atone

Or make a point 

Not a symbol of moving on 

Or finding God .

Perhaps a little wish to explore

Possible reinventions.

Oh how I wish 

I‘d kept the swish

Against my cheek 

Untidy hair falling 

Held together by a scarf 

With all my womanly art 

Of looking groovy. 

Couples everywhere 

Holding hands, eating out

Sipping sangrias in sunny  Spanish squares 

And there’re women with hair

Long hair in bits hanging down 

Long hair smooth 

Long hair curled 

Long hair coloured, tied in bunches, plaited, twirled 

Long hair everywhere  

On every street and square

This cut ain’t groovy at all 

 It isn’t even cool

It’s an unremarkable

Haircut

Will you still love me?

Ha!

Suzette Thompson

Note : Credit to Australian band The Waifs.Donna Simpsons song was an inspiration for this poem.

Also WB Yeats poem For Anne Gregory “Only God ,my dear, would love you for yourself alone and not your yellow hair”.

1967 Graduation and proud parents

Hair gone again .feels naked

The old days