I Am Not My Hair*

For the majority of my life I have loved my hair. I’m sure I had frustrating moments as a teenager where I screamed about hating it, but it was probably just because my hair wouldn’t conform to whatever torture I was putting it to. My hair isn’t dramatically thick, nor is it thin. It’s got a fine texture.  There’s just enough natural curl to give it body and shape, but not so much that I could pull off a River Song Cosplay.

Hello, Sweetie.

Over the years I have worn my hair very, very short and I have also let it grow to quite long lengths (nearly to my waist). I have had bangs and gone without. My hair has been blond, red, black, highlighted, and one brief autumn, it was even purple, but my natural color is a medium brown. Pretty, but not dramatic. When I was younger, I LOVED my hair to be dramatic. Now, I’m too tired to put in the effort dramatic hair requires. Pesky things like blow drying and styling products are elements of hair care I don’t have much time for these days. My hair care regime involves washing, conditioning and combing it out with a large tooth comb. If I had one major complaint about my hair, it’s that it tangles easily and I’m quite tender-headed, a one-two punch that led my mother to the decree during my childhood that I was not allowed to have long hair until I could care for it myself.

I know a lot of women get caught up in the importance of their hair.  It is the mark of femininity (along with a couple other obvious markers). I have seen/read as friends lost their minds over their little girls taking scissors to the their hair in childish curiosity. All I could think was, “What’s the big deal?  It’s JUST hair.  It WILL grow back.” I guess I’m not quite as attached to my hair as a definition of self the way some are. Maybe I have that attitude because I’ve done so much with my hair over the years and I didn’t die as a result of a bad haircut (or dye job – of which I’ve had a couple). My dad would say, “The only difference between a good haircut and a bad one is two weeks.”  That’s probably more true for men with short hair than women, but the sentiment still applies. 

Now, I would probably be upset if the choice to lose or keep my hair was taken out of my hands. But that’s really more about control and free will rather than the state of my hair. 

Right now, I’m in the process of letting my hair grow out. I’m going to be turning 40 this summer, and I’ve got some plans to make 40 Absolutely Fabulous. I’m looking forward to it. I think I can do a bang up job at being 40, primarily because I’ve been 40 on the inside since I was a teenager. But part of my plan for 40 involves my hair.

Last year, one of my high school friends lost a battle with cancer, and during her treatment process, she lost her hair. Not only did she mourn the loss of her hair, but so did her mother, and they both wrote extensively about it in a blog. My friend, she had beautiful hair that most women would sacrifice their pinky toe to have.  

I also have contact in my life with several other women who have had cancer and lost their hair during treatment, and every single one of them has been torn up about losing their hair. They all seemed to handle the treatments and the diagnosis with courage, but losing their hair left them feeling helpless.

I can’t fix that. I can’t even help someone feel better about that. It’s deeply personal and everyone has their own coping mechanisms. But I learned this past year that I CAN help. It’s a small thing really, but I can take something I love, my hair, and help a woman who is grieving the loss of hers. I’m letting my hair grow so that I can get it cut, and once it’s cut, it’s being donated to an organization that makes wigs for women going through cancer treatment. 

I’ve done this before, years ago I made a donation to Locks of Love.  This time, my hair will be going to Beautiful Lengths, which is an organization that Pantene has been working with and running a hair donation campaign. The donation criteria for Beautiful Lengths is as follows:

  • Ponytails of hair donated must be at least 8″ long
  • No dyes, bleaches, or chemicals
  • No more than 5% gray

I have to wait a few months to make the Big Cut, because a I have about 4 – 5 inches of highlights at the ends of my hair that will need to be removed.  By this late summer / early autumn, I should have enough length to meet the 8″ criteria. 

There are organizations that will accept gray and color treated hair, but I wanted to take this opportunity while I still met the less than 5% gray criteria to make a donation that will make a difference. 

If you’ve got 8″ of hair to spare, I encourage you to consider making a donation as well.  It takes 7 ponytails of hair to make one wig. And that one wig could bring courage and comfort to a woman fighting for her life. Some will win, some will lose, but they all deserve a little beauty during hardship. I can help make that happen, and so can you.



*Thanks to the India Arie, “I Am Not My Hair” for the title.  If you’re unfamiliar with the song, check it out here



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