Hair is Not the Answer

The woman parked next to me at Office Max stopped me as I was getting into my car. “I just have to ask you about your bumper sticker!”

“Which one?” I have several, all with radically liberal leanings.

“This one here–‘Hair is not the answer.'” She pointed to her mop of curly dark hair which the wind had styled creatively. “I have lots of hair; I hope you’re not telling me to shave my head!”

“Well, it actually says ‘War is not the answer.’ It’s from the Quakers.

She laughed, a bit embarrassed, and agreed that war is not the answer to the world’s problems. But I began to wonder, as I drove away, what wisdom could be found in her original interpretation?

I have never liked my hair. It’s too curly to be straight and too straight to be curly. Perms make me look like an aged Shirley Temple. The color went from strawberry blonde in my teens to dull light brown in my 40s, with one splotch of white which I acquired while teaching junior high science. I have a large, stubborn cowlick at the center part, so I can’t have bangs or part it anywhere else. I have resorted to coloring it; in fact I have an appointment this Friday to go slightly darker instead of trying to keep up the strawberry blonde illusion. The money would be better spent buying a hundred more bumper stickers from the Quakers, since the money goes to anti-war lobbying.

The goal of a retreat is often to work on those problematic areas of self-esteem. Take a good look in the mirror, or worse, look at pictures of yourself. Note what makes you squirm.

The truth is, people who care about you love you for who you are, not how you look. They take in the whole package and don’t focus on the shape of your nose, the clothes and jewelry you wear, and whether you remembered to put on lipstick that morning.

It’s fun to play with your personal style, to find that great pair of shoes, the super comfortable Hawaiian capri pants, the elegant gown for a great price in a thrift store. If self-image is a huge problem for you, it’s worth taking a day of your retreat to play dress-up again. Take the hours those actresses on TV need to look the way they do on film, and enjoy making yourself look great.

Then remember:
Hair is not the answer.
It’s what’s underneath that counts.


Author: 1womanretreat

Kathryn is a freelance writer, musician, and Latin tutor based in the Sierra foothills. She enjoys performing and teaching early music on recorder and flute.

3 thoughts on “Hair is Not the Answer”

  1. Love this. So much rich material around our hair, you could probably have a blog devoted just to that! I have to comment on my own story. I became salt and pepper early in my life. I didn’t mind and let the gray come in until well meaning friends convinced me how much better I would look dying it. So I did and the process began, something challenging to undo once started. I think I must have dyed it 20 something years before feeling like I was hiding out and wanted to be me. This is not a comment on anyone else’s experience or a judgement, just my experience. I started toying with the idea. I wondered how I would look – I got so many comments about my curly (natural) red hair, what would it be like? Finally I did it and I love it and I would not go back. It was interesting to notice how much of my identify was tied up in my hair and the coincidence of me rediscovering or uncovering my true self while undergoing that process emotionally.

  2. My mother had the same experience; she was a natural redhead, and she attempted to maintain that in her fifties, but when she went natural her hair was a gorgeous silvery blonde. She bought a new wardrobe with all the colors she never wore as a redhead. This all coincided with a major life change; my father retired; they moved from Montana to Sedona, and she blossomed in her new life!

    Inspired by my mother, I did try going natural for about three years but found my “real” hair to be a dull mishmash of light browns with no life. So I now color it very close to the color of the roots; the dye just gives it a bit more glow. I have one swatch of white which refuses to hold the color, so I can still be proud of my mark of wisdom. And I can support my stylist, a good friend who just opened her own salon!

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