Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there, hair!
Shoulder length, longer (hair!)
Here baby, there mama, Everywhere daddy daddy
Hair! (hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair)
Flow it, Show it;
Long as God can grow it, My Hair!

My hair is long straight and black. It's long because I'm lazy. It's straight because no matter how many toxic products I put on it, it never curls. It's black for the same toxic chemical reason.

I remember going to the reception for maganda magazine and watching poet and performer Dennis Somera get his 2ft long hair get buzzed to nothing in 5 minutes as all the women in the crowd calculates the years it took to grow it that length and the number of brushstrokes and shampoo bottles spent. That's a sign of committment. Particularly for women, hair is a relationship, which is why we spend so much time on it.

At an Indigenous Women's conference I attended in Hawaii, there was a Native Canadian woman who spoke of what hair means to them. For them it contains memory and history. her grandmother said she was frightened of the white men with no hair, because they had no history or have deliberately forgotten that history. She was told to never cut her hair or else she'll forget everything she has learned. When she went to a government run school, they chopped her hair, it was the only time in her life her hair had ever been cut. She mourned for days.

It's not surprising then to hear so many stories of the way women transform their hair when their lives are changing. It's one of the easiest simplest ways to transform who we are. Cut it, color it, perm it. It's no wonder there are stories of women yanking their hair out of grief. They're trying to yank that memory from their minds. I'd probably do the same thing.

I think what was amazing about Sandy McIntosh's poem as well as Dennis Somera's performance is that these are men who were able to capture this resonant emotion that women have with their hair. It's not just about getting a new look, it's about letting go of an old life and starting with a brand new one.

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