Saturday, March 14, 2009
From Simon Cowell's hair ritual to Aaryn Belfer's tale of combing her daughter's hair, to Photographer Brenna K. Murphy's attempt to evoke her mother's memory by playing with her own hair, one thing becomes clear: hair is more than a means of keeping our heads warm.
We gather in the name of hair as an excuse for social interaction. We commit to certain regimens to give ourselves a sense of order and even control. And as far back as Samson, we have equated our hair or some aspect of it (length, color, curl, shine) to some quality about ourselves (strength, confidence, fashion sense, desirability) that we either want to minimize or highlight.
Obviously, a single blog post could never address this topic adequately, but I was recently struck by how incredibly willing, even eager, so many of us are to adopt a very defined procedure for doing our hair. Take a look at any of the descriptions provided by the women I featured in the Cold-Weather Hair Care series, and you'll see what I mean.
We love our hair. And even when we hate it, it's only because we want to love it but can't find a way. The ritual, we often think, is the way.
All hail the ritual!
On one of the curly discussion forums, I once saw a post about how one curly swore that if she scrunched product into her hair with no less (and no more) than eight pulses per section, she got better curls. She could have said five and she could have said 103 -- people would still have jumped on the advice and immediately tried it the next time they washed their hair. (And yes, I did try it. I never said I was immune to the lure of the ritual. Eight did not prove to be a magic number.)
More recently, a long thread at naturallycurly.com informed all interested parties that by bending forward to apply and rinse product, better curls and clumps were formed. The thread became a fascinating glimpse into the quest for exactly the right procedure to achieve the often-elusive goal of clumping. Women were willing to get water up their noses and endure back pain if it meant their hair would look great. Questions about precisely how much conditioner and what brand came up often. Experiments were launched and results reported. More questions ensued until finally everybody in search of a ritual had tested this one. Some adopted it, others undoubtedly moved on to find a more successful one. (I tried this one, too. And you know what? It worked quite well! And so far, I've managed to avoid swallowing any water.)
The most common hair ritual, though, is the deep treatment. Some of the homemade potions are a real testament to the desire to make this experience special. Coconut milk and Lustrasilk, egg and honey and mayonnaise, cassia and yogurt -- you name it, and somebody has thought to combine it for a unique concoction all their own. Women set aside time for this act and often combine it with a relaxing bath or a manicure or maybe a great movie. The deep treatment for hair is part of a woman's "me" time, it seems. Even aside from the fact that they have to wear something profoundly silly on their heads to undergo the treatment, they prefer to be alone while the beautification happens. One can only assume, then, that the soul as well as the hair is getting the attention it needs.
I started to think about my own hair rituals and realized I have several. (I know you're stunned.) The scrunching technique is one but here are some others:
- Every morning while I wait for my hair to dry, I wear my robe belted and off the shoulders. This does nothing to keep me warm (and believe me, my house is cold) but it keeps my curls away from the microfiber collar of my robe. My boyfriend thinks it's sexy but to me, it's what must be done in order not to disturb my curl formation. I do this regardless of how cold I am.
- Every four weeks, I go to the salon to get my hair colored. I don't like the smell of hair color and I don't like shelling out money to keep my gray out of sight. But I think I do like sitting in the salon, drinking tea, and reading trashy magazines that I never in a million years would otherwise read. And I like catching up with my stylist, who I sincerely enjoy.
- I diffuse my hair holding the dryer in the same eight locations on my head. I never deviate from this. I must think it works.
What are your rituals and why do you think you observe them?