My favorite among the long gone Burma Shave ads (a series of highway posts, each with a line of doggerel) was one that read:

In this vale

Of toil and sin

Your head grows bald

But not your chin.

Burma Shave.

I have been thinking about hair lately.  Actually, I think about hair a lot and have done since I was a child.

When I was a child of 8 my mother daily brushed and braided my hair into long pig-tails.  My parents were divorced and I spent the first summer afterward with my father and stepmother.  They lived in rural Virginia, where there was a risk of Rocky Mountain spotted fever which is carried by ticks, so this meant that somebody had to look through my hair every night to make sure there were no ticks hiding there.  My stepmother refused to do this or to have anything to do with my hair, so my father checked for ticks, but he couldn’t help with the braids.

Hairdo at age 8

Hairdo at age 8

When I went back to my mother’s house at the end of the summer the back of my long hair was a large tangled mat.  It took hours to get the tangle combed out.  My mother was mad.

The next summer I decided to get my hair cut.  Again, when I went home my mother was mad.

Hair is one of the defining characteristics of the taxonomic Class Mammalia, the class to which humans belong.  I have often wondered what the evolutionary cause could be for the pattern of human head and body hair.  Since there are sexual differences in hair distribution and patterns change with the hormonal changes that occur at puberty, I suppose the cause is related to mating and reproduction.  There is apparently some innate sexual preference for long head hair and lack of facial hair in the female.

However it came about, we have a lot of head hair and patches of body hair.  Most people, both men and women, lose head hair and gain chin hair with age.  And most people spend a lot of time and money changing hair.

Mostly we like to have head hair and not body hair or face hair.  People do all sorts of funny things with their hair, like coloring it purple and putting goo all over it making it stick up in spikes.  Fashions come and go.  There have been times in history that men have sported long beards, handle-bar mustaches and side burns.  And there was Hitler, whose appearance was defined by the hair on his upper lip.  These days, chin stubble can be fashionable on the he-man type of guy.

In my youth pubic hair was desired.  A few strategic scribbles on a nude drawing could make it look interestingly naked.  In those days pubic hair was shaved before babies were delivered.  I was really glad to have it grow back after my babies.  My brother, who was sent to a “progressive” school because he rebelled against almost everything, was punished at that school by having his pubes shaved.  But today some women, some in my family not to be named, have all body hair, including pubic, waxed.  That has to hurt.

In a recent conversation with a young woman I learned that most modern young people, both men and women, (especially American men and women) remove all body hair, including all pubic hair. I said, “Gosh, when I was young, men thought chest hair was a sign of virility, and they used to leave the upper buttons on their shirts undone to reveal a tuft or two.”

In the same conversation I was told that a famous actress (my informants couldn’t remember which one) had waxed her pubic hair so often that it wouldn’t grow anymore, and for a nude scene in a movie she was making she had to wear a pubic wig, a thing which is called a merkin.

Before I went to New Zealand I had my hair cut.  It had grown quite long and was dangling down my neck, but my British daughter insists that it looks better on the long side, so I didn’t get much cut off.  It looked good when I left the hairdresser.  She uses devious tricks to make it look as if there is more hair than I really have.  She puts “product” on it, and back combs it and poufs it out.  I can’t do that myself, so by the time I got to New Zealand it had flopped.  Badly.  Long wispy thinning gray hair is not beautiful.

New Zealand hairdo

New Zealand hairdo

The first thing I did when I came home was get it cut again.  My hairdresser is my friend.  She used to do my mother’s hair, and she mostly works at an assisted living place in Bellingham.  She is really good with old people, and she loves dogs.  Her corgi comes to work with her, and her clients love to pet it.  We always have a good gossip about life and love while she works on me.

When she cuts my hair she washes it first, then turns me away from the mirror and tells me to put my head down.  She asks me how I want it cut.  This time I told her “about like last time only shorter.”  She went to work.  It seemed like a lot of snipping was going on, and what I could see (without my glasses) of the bits that were falling on the floor there was quite a lot of hair.

She finished, swiveled me around in the chair and gave me my glasses.  I looked at the mirror and gasped.  It was so short.  Very stylish, but shorter than I have had it in years.

New Hairdo

New Hairdo

Jerry and the British daughter both said it looked good, but perhaps they were just being nice.

Next I took the dogs to the doggy hairdresser.  They were shaggy and matted and she had to cut them so close that now we are afraid they will get cold outside.  Everyone says they look like little rat-dogs.  I think they look cute.

My next hair project is to cut Jerry’s hair.  That is a pretty quick job.

Jerry's hairdo


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9 Responses to Hair

  1. Jan says:

    I think your hair is lovely! It looks better than mine does, most days.

  2. wisewebwoman says:

    Absolutely gorgeous. Keep the hair!!!
    You have a lovely neck, if mine were this lovely I would get your hairdo, but mine, well, less said the better!

  3. Marja-Leena says:

    You look lovely in both photos, Anne, but I know what you mean about haircuts. The hairdresser always does a lovely job but I can’t ever match it and keep it that way with my naturally frizzy locks. Jerry looks great too!

  4. Darlene says:

    Great photos and now I can really picture you and Jerry. I love your haircut and may print it out to take with me the next time I get mine cut.

    I have worn it short for years, but it was impossible for me to get to the beauty parlor after breaking my hip so I am letting it grow. It’s a pain to take care of and looks like hades. My thick auburn hair has turned white with brown still there.

    I remember one Burma Shave:

    School zone, go slow.
    Let the little shavers grow.

  5. Dee says:

    I love your new haircut/style. Both you & Jerry looked wonderfully healthy & energetic. Do you both take vitamins? 🙂 Love the blog. Dee

  6. Your stepmother was not a very nice lady, was she?

  7. Friko says:

    what a lovely and handsome couple you look – and undoubtedly – are. Didn’t you say you were ‘old’?

    Shaving pubic hair is not something I’d ever volunteer to do, it itches you so abominably when the regrowth starts!

    Hair in humans is obviously one of those sexual markers which make us attractive and strong looking when it comes to reproduction.

  8. Tessa says:

    I like your hair, Anne. I would love to have distinguished grey hair like that, but all I have is a couple of greyish/blonde streaks. My grandmother’s hair was white before she left her 40s and I always hoped mine would be the same, but no such luck – it’s just mousey, alas.

    Your take on body hair is interesting. Although my mother was of Italian stock, she had very little body hair, although she always had a grand head of thick, shiny hair. It’s one of her little genetic bequests to me (along with grooved fingernails and DuPuytren’s Contracture.) I only have to shave my underarms about once a year and have only plucked my eyebrows once in my whole life. (Unfortunately, I was only 14 at the time and had no clue what I was doing, so I’ve had to live with the consequences for a long time!) The hair on my head is quite another matter – so thick that it takes me almost an hour to blow-dry it.

  9. Taina says:

    Interesting post! I loved walking with you through your hair tale–especially as today after my shower, I looked in the mirror as I wrestled with my much much too long hair and said, this hair has got to go.

    The women of the middle east also remove all body hair except for what is on their head. I was chastised once when my arms had a fine down on them for having a fine down and not getting rid of it. My Egyptian friend was disgusted with me; she said, how can you walk around like that? You really have to do something about it.


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