Nancy in Camden wants us to address this question: What is our relationship to our hair?


Marc’s answer:

Like most subjects, our relationship to our hair can be superficial or deep.

On the superficial side is the quest for the current fashion in coifs. For the ego, hair is often about vanity, looking cool or smart or sexy. Up here in Maine, we happily don’t seem as concerned about the latest styles as those city folk.

A person’s hair is frequently a projection screen for one’s inner critic. People with straight hair want curly hair and people with curly hair want straight hair. And of course it’s part of our collective consciousness that blonds have more fun. That is unless they are the butt of a ditzy blond joke!

On the deeper side, we see that hair has a rich and profound symbolism, both psychologically and spiritually. Let’s explore the deeper story.

In my own life and in the lives of my clients I’ve seen that the cutting of hair or the changing of hairstyle often coincides with large life changes; with rites of passage. It’s one way of showing ourselves and the world that we aren’t the same person anymore. I think this must go back to actual initiation ceremonies like tribal male puberty rites. In aboriginal Australia, when the boys are preparing to become men, they’re taken away from their familiar landscape. Isolated in sacred space, they’re given instruction in the mythic spiritual traditions of the tribe. After this initiation into the dream time they are mutilated to show that they are men. The mutilation can be a tattoo, circumcision, extraction of a tooth, scarring of the skin, or the pulling out of their hair. Perhaps some of those men who are shaving their heads are hearkening to the call of this ancient practice. And haven’t they picked the most painless choice.

Practitioners of the ancient arts of Tantra believe that when a woman fastens or unfastens her hair it can trigger cosmic forces of either creation or destruction. In parts of Scotland, women don’t comb their hair if they have brothers at sea because they believe that it might cause a storm and sink the boat. Perhaps the most famous story about the symbolism of hair is Samson, whose hair was the source of his strength.

A beautiful pagan belief is that a comet streaking through the night sky is a shining strand of the Great Mother Goddess’ hair.

In Judaism, hair is considered so alluring that as one of the practices of tzniut (modesty) an orthodox Jewish woman who is married will cover her hair in public. This also creates a sacred private zone that only her husband is allowed to see.

Lovers will give a lock of their hair to one another as a of vow of love, sometimes to be placed in a locket.

Poets are fond of waxing lyrically about their lover’s hair. And haven’t we all experienced, or at least seen in a movie, one or more of those intimate moments of hair being braided, brushed, or shampooed. Ahhh….


Kathrin’s answer:

I love Marc’s answer because it reminds us that something that might seem superficial at first, our relationship to our hair, may and often does, have profound significance.

I remember the days, when younger, I would cut my long hair short. I felt lighter, and felt the world was full of promise. Good friends of mine would walk right by me, not recognizing me because my hair was so different. That would please me because I felt that cutting my hair signaled a new era in my life.

Because I have spent most of my life in an urban environment, the question of hair style, hair products and how often I washed my hair was at the center of my life. Would I have time to dry my hair if I washed it before work and if not, would I have the guts to go to work with my hair wet? In the summer, I had carefree hair – just wash and walk out the door, letting the hot humid air dry my hair until it was big and curly. I felt a bit wilder and daring with my summer hairdo.

Now that I am older comes the question of “going gray.’ Lots of ink has been spilled on this topic. And it is a subject of conversation with many of my friends. Some of us believe, along with P.G. Wodehouse, that: “There is only one cure for gray hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.”

Bald men question whether they might have hair implanted so that they are full-headed again. Younger men with full heads of hair shave off their hair and have handsome bald pates. Other younger men grow facial hair and let their hair grow a bit; they are business men with a bit of growth, like their Hollywood counterparts. But, let’s remember what Shakespeare said, “There’s many a man has more hair than wit.”

Women who have suffered hair loss due to cancer might choose to leave their heads bald. My friend Elinor looked gorgeous with big colorful earrings, lots of makeup, dressed to the nines and bald. Other women buy wigs or wear scarfs.

Women in Texas, and in some southern states like big hair. Maybe they agree with Aretha Franklin who says: “I’m a big woman. I need big hair. “

And finally, let’s talk about politicians and hair. Would we like Donald Trump better if he understood how ugly his hair is and decided to do something about it? Hillary Clinton is amusing on the subject of her hair, ”I’m undaunted in my quest to amuse myself by constantly changing my hair.” And speaking of Hilary, check out her profile photo with her newly long hair in the latest edition of the New Yorker. I thought, as I looked at the picture, I could vote for this new Hillary (with better hair) for president! Who said hair was irrelevant?

It is clear we are all paying more attention than we might admit to our heads of hair. As Marc says, this instinct, this relationship, has a long history. It is rich with meaning and symbolism. Poets, comics, tennis stars, actresses, politicians all have strong opinions about hair. What is your relationship to your hair? Have fun with this thought, but do take it seriously. It’s got more meaning than you might imagine!