Photo by Richard Philipkoski
My mom has been telling me to get my hair out of my face pretty much my whole life. When I was in second grade, my hair reached past my waist, and my mother hated combing it. She informed me that she’d tolerate it only until after her wedding that year, in which I would serve as “junior bridesmaid.” After that, I was going short whether I liked it or not. I cried in a corner of the playground during recess at the prospect.
At 8-years-old, my hair was already my security blanket.
Now, a few decades later, it’s still is. I almost never wear my hair up. Shrouded behind hair, my imperfections are less evident, or at least they feel that way from beneath the mane. So it was kind of a big deal for me to be out in the world with French-braided hair. But I knew even without my mom telling me that I needed to get it out of my face for travels from Pennsylvania back to San Francisco with a toddler. Having my head exposed to the general public may have been disconcerting had the extreme volume and energy of my child not dominated every last one of my senses.
But the experience got me thinking of all the hairstyles I sported during my school years post-shag: I had a Dorothy Hamill cut circa 4th grade. That grew into a “feathered” style up until 7th grade when my older cousin from New York taught me the magic of a curling iron. The tool transformed the flat feathers into barrel curls that I then brushed into two big wings, one on each side of my face, until they met at the back of my skull in a vertical line that resembled a butt crack.
Then came the mullet. We called it “ears cut out.” It felt very cool. The following year or so I let it grow in to a shoulder-length bob with bangs and a perm. In my senior year of high school, I had it all chopped into an extremely short-in-the-back style that was longer on the top. I swooped that long part onto one side and sprayed it stiff. In my first year of college, I let one side grow longer than the other for an asymmetrical hairdo. Eventually it grew longer, possibly because of limited access to my stylist and/or lack of funds. I let it grow super long and got my first spiral perm circa 1988. I’ve had nearly the same hair, minus the spiral perm, ever since.
What I’d like to know is: where did I get the confidence to chop off all of my hair my senior year of high school? I remember boys in my class looking at me with wonder asking “why?” “Because I like it!” I said. I didn’t feel one bit self conscious and I didn’t regret the cut for one second. I only wish I could have bottled that confidence so I could take a dose of it now!
I did enjoy the French braid for a change though. My hair didn’t get caught under my bag strap and Frida didn’t get food in it. I could also see when I searched for diapers and toys and tranquilizers (just kidding) in my carry-on.
I wore this particular outfit the day before our travels following a French braid test-run. The jeans are Gap, booties are c/o Freda Salvador, I bought the jacket at the Alameda Vintage Fashion Faire, and the turquoise earrings are from the Susquehanna Trading Post.