Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - February 15, 2019


Hair today, gone tomorrow

“Where did my eyelashes go?” husband Art called from the bathroom. Then he laughed and said when he was young, older girls in his neighborhood commented how they wished their lashes were as long as his.

My lashes have always been short. But my two siblings and I have been lucky to have thick hair on our heads, probably a gift from Mom’s dad Nels, who had a full head himself.

Art often makes comments about how thick my hair is, telling me I could be turned upside down and used to brush out large test tubes. My “wash-comb-air dry” style combined with no coloring means it’s very low-maintenance.

But it was not always so. During our growing-up years, Mom put pink rubber curlers in sister Gaila’s and my tresses every Saturday night to give us curls. In high school, we took over, but used larger scratchy rollers that clung to the individual strands. The look we were going for was “big hair” that flipped up at the bottom. Brother Dave had it easier, wearing his in some version of a crew cut through most of his high school years, as did Art and most of the boys of that time.

Art said when he was young, even a mustache marked a fellow as a rebel, so few men had any facial hair and most had nicely-trimmed head hair. But as the 1960s and 1970s arrived, unhappiness arose with the Vietnam War. Long hair for men became a form of protest. The musical “Hair” was popular, and even the lyrics to the theme song made a political statement:

... I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy
Ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming
Streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied ...
... Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair ...
Flow it, show it, long as God can grow it, my hair ...

In college, many of my girlfriends had long silky manes. I opted for a “Jane Fonda shag.” No smiling here - that was what it was called! - while Gaila and others had what were then-called “Afro” styles - thick curls that came from getting permanents.

When daughter Mariya was little, she had long golden tresses she often pulled into a ponytail. Over the years, she has alternately had a Mohawk, a shaved head, and short dark-red hair, but now she has settled into a short dark-brown style.

When daughter Katie was small, she was always on the go, so Art had to cut her hair. He’d put her in her high chair and, within minutes, she was transformed from shaggy to “bowl cut.” Once she was able to style her own hair, she tried a lot of different looks and colors. She grew it long after high school so she could donate a 10-inch bundle to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair. Katie’s is now a little longer than shoulder length so she can leave it down or put it up, depending on her mood.

Friend Deb’s girls look at their 1980s childhood photos with their big curled bangs and wonder how their mom could let them look like that.

Well, I was being a cool mom and letting them have the current bang fashion at the time. Indeed it is amazing how hair is such a statement about the times we live in.

How true. Even the Bible weighs in on hair. Corinthians 11:14-15 says, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory...”

Art’s mother Donna was called out in her church when she bobbed her hair as was the fashion in the 1920s. She was mortified, but her dad, the congregation president, just laughed and said while their minister usually gave great sermons, sometimes he went overboard.

Different treatment of men and women in regard to hair isn’t limited to the Good Book. Art’s barber Dick has a daughter who is a hair stylist. Dick said he asked her what the difference was between the cut he gives men and what she does. She said the difference is he charges $15 and she charges $30!

Women have always been charged more and have to make salon appointments a month in advance, while men can walk into their barber shops almost any time.

With Presidents’ Day this month, my thoughts turned to George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s coiffures. We all are familiar with photos of Lincoln with his black wiry locks. But Washington lived before the time of photography. So what we remember are portraits of him with his white puffy hair pulled back from his forehead. I thought he wore a wig until I read a 2015 smithsonian.com article that said it was his real hair and he powdered it to make it white.

Evidently, strands of his real hair still exist. A Feb. 4 article from thehill.com said someone purchased a strand of hair that was supposedly his for more than $35,000 at auction. According to Lelands Auctions quoted on the site, “... the hair from America’s first president was attached to an 1870 letter signed by former Secretary of State James Alexander Hamilton. The wax-sealed note from Hamilton - the third son of Alexander Hamilton - said the hair from Washington was included as a mark of the ‘respect and regard’ its sender had for the woman receiving it...”

Back then and into the Victorian era, people often kept locks of loved ones’ hair to fashion into flowers or wreaths. Two years ago, I wrote a column, “From creepy to intriguing,” about the practice.

I have to admit that I would never think of keeping someone’s hair as a remembrance. I guess I’m pretty much a “hair today, gone tomorrow” type.


Left: no shortage of hair for Gloria, left, and friend Deb in their room during their time as Kansas State University undergraduates. Right: postcard Katie received from Locks of Love after her hair donation.



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