Thinking about one’s identity is such an interesting perspective of self. What makes me who I am? Who makes me what I am? Is it possible that the things that I think make me who I am, actually do not? Being away from everything that I know, everything that has formed “me” up to this point, has allowed some time for interesting reflection. Maybe the things that I have used to define me for so long are not really as important as I once thought them to be.
Identity point one: Hair. Aristaeus talked a little bit about this in his blog recently. For some of us, our hair defines us. Not in the Cousin It kind of way, though I’ve pulled that look for laughs in camp skits before. But its really easy to say, “You know Liz, the girl with the looooong curly hair?” Not anymore you don’t. Ever since I was a little girl, my hair is what people remember me by. Little old women in the church always come up to me commenting, “I remember when you were born. We were all amazed at all the hair on your little head! You had more hair on your head at a couple of minutes old than the doctor who delivered you ever did!” Christmas pictures over the years cataloged my growth, not in height, but in hair length. I didn’t have my first hair cut until I was almost ten years old. And it was really traumatic! Since then, I have never been the girl to get a hair trim. I often go years without a cut. When I do actually break down, the hair cuts usually precede a major event or move in my life and are really dramatic (think anywhere over 10 inches at a time). And I never like it. People seem to like the short hair, but I don’t. I have “phantom pains” where my hair used to be, like a missing limb or something. I vow every time that I’m never cutting my hair again. Then four years goes by and I forget my promise to my scalp. Before moving here to Hong Kong I cut almost 14 inches the day before I left. My missing mane always goes to Locks of Love (a wonderful organization by the way, and if you ever find yourself with 10 or more inches of hair to spare, please check them out!!!), but even doing something good with my excess, I find myself a few hours into my new “do” with regret. The day before I left, after cutting my hair, I had to go out a buy a hair brush for the first time in four years. With the long hair, it was wash, comb, Sprunch, and go. Now, my mornings go like this: wash, comb, let dry, brush, curse self for not having hair long enough to pull back anymore.
<—-my nubbin’ ponytail
It is an odd sense of self, I realize this. And I am not just a head of hair. Well, not anymore at least. I know that its the thoughts of my mind, the actions of my heart, that make me who I am. And yet. And yet, knowing and believing that, I still miss my hair. I still miss the recognition it used to bring. It may be vain, but if we’re being honest here, then its true.
My boyfriend has a similar unhealthy relationship with his hair. I can say for the first time since we’ve started dating that his hair is definitely longer than mine. For most of our relationship, it was always neck and neck, or strand and strand if you will. And he loves having long hair – donning the nickname “Hippie” because of his long locks and full beard. He also loves proving other preconceived notions of “long-hairs” wrong. He is a manager of a restaurant, and very good at what he does. He can be very professional, and is always polite. (in public anyways! 🙂 He is incredibly intelligent and thoughtful, and it always throws people off guard when they get past the look of a man with long hair, and they really get to know him. He loves to keep people on their toes. It is a part of his identity. It isn’t who he is. But for now, it certainly is a part of who he is. The same goes with his beard. A piece of art, the pride of his face – he spends more time trimming and grooming his beard that most women do on their makeup. One day, I got a phone call. “Um, Liz, I have something to tell you. I messed up.” That’s a scary phrase to hear from you boyfriend of 4 months. “I had an accident shaving this morning. I apparently had the wrong guard on, and well, I don’t have a beard any more. More like, chops and a partial beard.” Its a look that we laugh about now, but that he was anxious to get rid of, because it wasn’t who he was.
<—showing off the perceptions that often come with our hair….in reverse:)
My friend David recently had to shave his beard. He is living/working/ministering in Israel/Palestine. Identity, physical identity, is a big deal there. That is not a place to have something assumed of you because of the way you look. So, under the suggestion of his co-workers, he shaved. There were lots of pictures, condolences emails, and jokes about his baby face to follow. But I would be interested David, do you feel your identity has changed any? Do you miss that being a part of who you were?
<—-reflecting on what it would mean to lose the beard, or praying…one of those.
My family as well, kinda has a thing for hair. Pictures of my father in his younger years are hard to tell if he’s wearing a helmet, or if it is actually his hair. A teenager in the 70s, he pulled the fro, maybe not always by choice, but just due to the fact that he has super thick, curly hair, and lived in the heat and humidity of Florida. My brother has inherited the hair-gene. He is 16, and there is the constant battle over cutting his hair, keeping it out of his eyes, etc. etc….My brother, much to his dismay, has found his identity not in his hair (though that is part of it), but in his height. I think he probably tries to distract from how “freakishly tall” (his words) he is by his wild hair.
<—A good shot of the curls, the mop, and my brother totally showing me up on guitar
I really didn’t mean to turn this into a hair-post. There are other parts of Identity that I wanted to talk about, but I guess I will have to save those for another post. It is just interesting to me how much of my identity I have allowed to be wrapped up in something so physical.