I have a weird thing about hair. I don’t know if it’s derived from a lifetime of living in imagination, or maybe a hefty dose of growing up in the influence of the mystical Southwest, but there’s a thing I have about hair and it’s potent.
One of the things that amazed me about leaving AZ was the difference in the way Native Americans are treated. Down here the culture is strong and alive, a bevy of balance found in numbers and solidity. There is respect. The culture permeates everyday life, beliefs intermingling and open as long as you’re not an asshole. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s definitely not quite as … tragic.
I missed the quiet language of symbols that exists beneath the words spoken here. The watchful attention on subtle cues, an unspoken agreement of signs and motions and permeations of truth. White people are too busy in critique and conquest to take note, it seems. I find who I am in the rainbows of skin that co-exist in a place like this. Much easier to communicate.
Hair in Navajo culture is a symbol of power. In the old tradition, when a man cheats on his woman, she cuts off all of her hair. Stands in a space of blankness. This is a process I’ve worked through many a time in my days, the shearing of my hair. Not necessarily about cheating but always about power.
The way I give my power over to men.
The first time I shaved my head was when I left the city and ran off for the hills. I had hair down to my ass in those days, though it was tangled and snarly and wild most of the time. Always red. Learning to live without such an obvious token of femininity was difficult. Shocking, in fact. I had no idea how much a shift in appearance could alter my life.
It’s just hair, after all. And it isn’t.
I have a lot to say about that. The process of stepping into invisibility. But not right now.
All I have to say today is that my hair has been short for a long time now, ya’ll.
And I’m ready to claim it back.