I had a lot of time to think today. I was bag-holder-in-chief at Luna Park. I’d like to say that I smashed all the rides with the kids but, since riding in the passenger seat of a car now gives me nausea, hurtling myself in every direction in a small, metal bucket may actually be the end of me. So there I was, perched on a seat near the Scenic Railway, or on a seat near the Enterprise, or on a seat near the vomit inducing Power Surge, just thinking all the thoughts one thinks while watching the microcosm of life at Luna Park go by.
And there is quite a lot to see. If you’re anything like me you can happily people-watch for an obscene amount of time, falling ever further down the rabbit hole of ‘what’s their life like?’ and creating infinite backs stories for these strangers.
What caught my attention today though was a young boy, perhaps a teenager, and his hair was remarkably similar to mine. Super curly on top and shorter around the sides. It got me thinking about the journey I’ve been on with my hair and the way hair seems to be so caught up with a woman’s worth.
A few years ago I shaved my head to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation’s Greatest Shave. I’d done it once before but this time was different because I was using my platform at the school I worked at to raise more money. It felt different in another way too. This time it wasn’t just about raising money for cancer research. This time I felt compelled to do it to show people that absolutely nothing important about me is visible from the outside. My hair, face, weight (my teeth!). That is all superficial and inconsequential.
Everything important about me is visible through my words and my actions. My hair does not make me a ‘better’ person, or more worthy of attention, praise or love, but society tells us that it does.K Portier
In the lead up to shaving my hair countless people told me how ‘brave’ I was. I understood what they were getting at but I didn’t think it was brave. Why should it be ‘brave’ for a woman to cut her hair or shave her head? The fact that so many people saw it as a brave act only served to highlight my point – that a woman’s hair is irredeemably entwined with her worth and without it we’re somehow less than we were.
The day arrived, my head was shaved, and the students cheered. I raised somewhere over $5000, and loved the feel of the wind on my scalp. For about 2 years I kept my hair at number one or two length. I got used to the ease of it and I liked it, much to the surprise of many who couldn’t help saying things like: ‘Oh you’re keeping it shaved? You like it then?’ Um, yes. I do. But thanks for letting me know you don’t.
When I decided to grow it out, or at least try to (the possibility of me hating the awkward middle stage meant I was likely to strip it all off again) I decided to visit a barber. I wanted to keep the curls that had grown back on top, but get a fade on the sides. I found a place, local to me, that was reasonably priced. As I expected, all the barbers were men and I found the experience intimidating. I have begun a poem in an effort to capture my discombobulated feelings. It’s not finished or polished, but I needed to write it. It’s called ‘A Barber Cuts My Hair’
Entering the barber shop
No one looks up
Shavers dance across mens heads
And I sit down
A man waiting next to me
Sniffs and snorts loudly
Scissors trim wiry beards
And I sit quietly
A poster watches over me
She winks from behind her cascading curls
Dark, discarded hair makes patterns on the floor
And I sit timidly
There’s no one left but me now
A barber calls me over
‘Does your husband like shaved heads?’
And I sit straighter
‘I don’t have a husband,
But my boyfriend thinks it’s lovely
Not that I asked him’
And I sit thoughtfully
‘I guess you wouldn’t like it then?
If your girlfriend shaved her head?’
‘Oh no I prefer it longer’
And I sit bravely
Clippers shave my wooly curls
I feel it coldly skim my scalp
His fingers gently move my head
And I sit calmly
People’s eyes are on me now
A woman in the chair
I wonder if he resents me?
The barber that cuts my hair.
I haven’t decided whether I’ll keep growing my hair or go back to the delightful, wash ‘n’ go ease of the shaved head. I guess at some point, no doubt on a scorching hot day when my hair is irritating my neck, I’ll fly straight back to my barber and have him shear it all off again.
Until then, it’s time for a cup of tea and a rest for this weary Luna Parker xx