The Hairs, They are A-Changin’

So! My recent post about my long hair was spawned from something I’ve been chewing on lately: having long hair at all.

See, I borked my neck a few years back, resulting in a swollen disc. When it’s bad, it pinches a nerve and sends shooting pain up the side of my head. I’m prone to neck-related headaches anyway (mostly stemming from the base of my skull), so having an unhappy neck is really shitty.

It’s been acting up lately, and I noticed something: when I wash my hair, my neck hurts. My hair is too heavy when it’s wet.

And that made me realize that I get a lot of head and neck aches, and they’ve been getting worse and worse since I started taking good care of my hair and it started getting so damn long. If I pick up my braid, my head and neck feel better immediately.

I’ve had long hair for almost thirty years, no lie. When I was little, I wasn’t allowed to have long hair because I tangled my hair in my sleep.

Ealasaid and Great Uncle Mahlon

Here’s me with my great-uncle Mahlon.
No idea how old I am, but it’s not very.

Eventually, I was able to not tangle my hair, and was allowed to start growing it out. Oh, I felt like such a big kid!

Ealasaid and Kathryn - date uncertain

Me with my cousin Kat. Check that longer hair!

I started wearing barrettes to hold my bangs out of my face so I could grow them out, too. See, my mom and her sister both had (have!) really long hair (see below) and I wanted to look grownup, I think.

Ealasaid and Ellen - date uncertain

Me and my cousin Ellen. Dig those barrettes!

My hair got longer and curlier, and nobody in the family really knew what to do with it. It mostly got fluffy.

Sunny at a year old

Me and my cat Sunny. We both look a little nuts in this photo,
I kind of love it.

I wore my hair in braids a lot in elementary school, especially when I was riding.

Ealasaid and Pippi - spring 1987

Me with my pony Pippi!

I don’t have any digital photos from high school or junior high, so y’all are spared my brief flirtation with poofy bangs and my acne-ridden, perpetually-baseball-capped selves.

In the mid ’00s, I got serious about my hair. I got a book all about curly hair and started following its instructions and taking careful care of my hair. I’d had it colored a couple years previously for a friend’s wedding, and you can see below how fried it was.

Side view, July 27 Back view, July 27

2006

Even with minimal encouragement, my hair was pretty darn curly:

Curly!

Also 2006

I mostly wore it with the top half pulled back in a clip or a little braid, and the better care I took of my hair, the curlier it got:

Ealasaid vs. Brandon(?)

2007, at a Guitar Hero release party.
I’m in the middle of pwning this dude.

It also started getting a lot longer. I wish I had proper documentation, but these candids will have to do!

Rocking out

Me and Nate rocking out at a party in 2008.

I still wore my hair braided when I was at Aikido or doing other physical things, but otherwise it was down.

IMG_11467

Kicking ass and taking names, also 2008.

My hair kept getting longer and longer…

IMG_4029

At a wine tasting shindig in 2009.

And longer…

Me with baby tiger!

At a company picnic in 2010. Yes, that is a baby white tiger.
You can see my hair between my arm and my body
in the larger versions of the photo.

And longer! It was still curly, but if I didn’t help it out a little with some gel, it was mostly straight up near the top because of the weight of the hair.

Ealasaid taking a photo

2011

Some time around 2011, I started wearing my hair braided more and more. Once it was down past my waist, it just… got in the way. And overheated me.

Batty Sweater

Showing off the first sweater I ever knitted!

I loved how it looked down, though, and wore it that way for an awesome set of photos by the fabulous Jillian:

It never really occurred to me to stop trying to get it as long as possible. For one thing, my mom and her sister both have really long hair, as previously mentioned:

Ealasaid and Twon's wedding 2007-05-12_14-06-37 Mom with Elvis!

Left: Me and my aunt at my wedding.
Right: Mom and an Elvis impersonator

My aunt is kind of the gold standard for me when it comes to hair, hers is so thick and looooong (Seriously, look at that! She can sit on it, even when it’s braided!) She really ingrained in me that if you want long hair, you don’t cut it. Ever. So I didn’t. I’d snip split ends from time to time, mostly when I was bored, but that was it. No cutting it, no trimming, nada.

But then the neckaches and headaches got worse. I got tired of my hair getting in the way:

Wow. Driving with the windows down is f'n metal!

My hair doesn’t get “a little” windswept.

And really, if I wear it braided all the time, you can’t even tell it’s long from the front:

Zephyr and me

Zephyr and Me

Furthermore, I have had long hair for almost thirty years. I was about five when I started growing it out. Five. The last time I measured a hair that came out of my head (Wednesday afternoon!) it was 37″ long. Thirty-seven inches long. That’s over a yard.

Part of the reason I’m so attached, besides the family thing and the whole “long hair is what adults wear” thing, is how often I’ve had to defend it. People get really, really into judgements about other folks’ hair. I’ve had people threaten to cut it off (guess what? that’s assault, and I will fucking file charges against you if you try it), I’ve had people harass me about how much easier/simpler/better/whatever short hair is, you name it. I’d become so entrenched that just the thought of cutting my hair would make me anxious.

But I haven’t had short hair in ages, and change is good. Plus, I was able to take my hair from brastrap to butt in about five years, and now that I know what my hair likes (no shampoo, non-silicone conditioner, and to never, ever be brushed), I imagine I could get back to long hair even faster if I wanted to. I can always grow it back if I decide short hair isn’t for me.

So, it’s coming off. I’m donating it and trying short hair for a while. It’s time for a change.

Good-bye to:

  • Long hairs wrapped around the brush of the vacuum
  • Long hairs clogging the drains in my bathroom
  • Hair getting caught in the car door (or my waistband)
  • People at Aikido stepping on my hair (admittedly, it’s only happened twice, but both times were very memorable)
  • Overheating when my hair is loose
  • Finding long hairs all over the apartment
  • My hair getting caught under Nate’s arm/shoulder/head when we’re curled up together
  • Hitting myself in the face with my own braid (more sadly: hitting other people with my braid. I’ll miss that.)

Hello to:

  • Amusing bedhead photos
  • Hair that dries in under half a day
  • Hair that doesn’t require special weapons and tactics to keep out of the water if I go hottubbing
  • Being able to run my fingers through my hair without them snagging
  • Hairstyles that don’t require upper arm endurance (being able to wrap your braid around your head is pretty cool, but getting it to stay there and look nice is harder than it looks)
  • Wearing lots of scarves and hoodies without my hair getting matted at the nape of my neck

I’m off to the hair salon tonight, to meet with a guy who specializes in cutting long hair for folks who haven’t done it before (or in a long time). I have a board on Pinterest full of ideas for short hair. I’ll let y’all know how it goes. 

 

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5 Responses to The Hairs, They are A-Changin’

  1. kathy says:

    I hope you love it!

    I’m on the other side of the same experiment – after a number of years growing mine out (not as long as yours, in time or inches… and I’ve had it many lengths over the decades), I had it cut much shorter (chin-length in the front, several inches shorter in the back) a few years ago. After a year or so, I grew it back out to shoulder-length and then had it cut again… and now, two more years later, I’m growing it out yet again.

    What I personally found was that, while it looks best shorter *when “done”*, it has to *be* “done”… no rolling out of bed, throwing it in a ponytail or twist, and rushing to work.

    So, I’m totally with you on the “work” aspect. I’m guessing people who say that have never had long hair and are basing their opinions on an extrapolation of [how long short hair takes] x [wow, so much more hair].

    I also found that I like my hair as a work-in-progress… on the way to an imaginary better place I never reach. Whoops, that’s the crazy showing, isn’t it…

  2. Jen says:

    I have some photos of you from junior high and maybe high school as well, if you want them. One of them involves light up sunglasses if I recall. :)

    Good luck! I can’t wait to see you in short hair though it will take some getting used to. As long as I’ve known you, you’ve always had long hair.

  3. Alex Summers says:

    Cue people telling you that you should have left it long . . . .

  4. AM says:

    Yo E
    Congrats on donating your hair. I’ll miss it.

    Your experience with the headaches sounds exactly like my mother’s Great Aunt Hannah (your G-G-G-A). Her hair fell past her knees. It’s reported that in her 50s she went to the doc and said, “I have neck and headaches all the time.” His immediate advice was, “Cut your hair!” So it runs in the family.

    Thanks for the cool pix of me and Cliveden too. I never see me from the back. :-)

    Personally, I adore whacking people with my hair. Other things you might miss include getting your hair caught in the stall door of a restroom and thinking, “I’ll fix that when I stand up,” catching your hair on the mirrors of passing cars while driving, catching your hair on doors and getting far enough away that your momentum when you’re jerked to a stop can really tweak your neck …. And I once tripped the next 3 people in line in a dance when I did “set & turn single” but my hair had admittedly been artificially lengthened with ribbons at the time.

    Fun times!