Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's Just a Hair Cut

With this past full moon, I renewed my commitment to myself by cutting my hair. It's something I mentioned in my first post, but now I have the occasion to go into it a little deeper.

First of all, as I said, I did have other reasons. It was also kind of a big deal for me to just cut it all off, so I'll get into that first.

My parents always encouraged my sister and I to make our own decisions growing up and for me, hairstyle was one of those things. I know plenty of people that didn't have that choice, so to them this must all seem a little weird.

I guess one of my first decisions along this line is that I wanted a buzz cut. Not understanding that with blond hair, getting it cut that short would basically make me look like I didn't have any hair at all. It must have been second or third grade and it was a pretty traumatic thing for me. Before I was able to form my own opinion of it, I had a birthday party to go to where the reaction I received was enough to make me regret it. Kids can be so mean. I'm not sure if that's when the seeds of my issues with how it looked began or not, but it had never been that short again until last December.

Another thing about my hair, is that it's not really straight or curly, just annoying. It's never done what I wanted it to. Over the years I'd ended up just about every thing that could be done to control it from plastering it in place to tying it back. It was a battle that I just could not win. I didn't really know how or have the desire to do what it would really take to control it because I didn't think I'd like how it looked.

It's also not entirely blonde. Growing up, I was always told it was "strawberry blond." It tends to change color between blond and light red for no real reason I've been able to isolate. As yet another aspect I had control over, I tried dying it with pretty lousy results.

The biggest irony has to do with me coming to terms with it falling out, though. Baldness runs on both sides of my family, so I had pretty much accepted from an early age that it was not to last. There is a possibility that this has something to do with me wanting it to look good while I still have it, but it's never been an obsession. I'm pretty sure it's stopped where it is, but I wouldn't really mind if I lost more of it.

The other battle I had to fight was with the powers that be, either the authorities at the private schools I attended or later, employers. The mandate was always to get it cut. Two jobs ago, I was desperate and gave in after letting it grow, for the second time, long enough to pull back.

It was once again pretty traumatic, but I got over it eventually. Unfortunately, just cutting it short to a more conservative style didn't make it conform as I'd hoped but that's where it stayed until the last big change.

When I got back into aikido, sweat would soak my hair. The thought occurred that the shorter my hair was, the less of an issue it would be. (I was wrong, I just traded one problem for another) Routine trimming was always put off as long as I could get away with and occasionally, I didn't have the money. If I cut it with clippers, that wouldn't be an issue, I'd just have to make it all the same length.

But the resolve to actually cut it was symbolic considering the commitment I was making. Along the lines of the theme of my first post, I was following the tradition of "cutting my hair" as it's refered to in classical Japanese literature. While less extreme than renouncing the world, I was drawing a line to cross to better my life and follow through on commitments. The biggest way, committing to practice, which I kind of feel began at that point.

So taking the leap, knowing if it looked bad, it would only be a short while before it grew back and I'd be "normal" again, I cut it to 1/4" and it's not too bad. (A couple months ago, I did experiment with 1/8" and that was too short. All the red was cut off and I just didn't like it.)

While I haven't formally taken any vows, to me it's the same thing and being honest with myself is all that really matters. Reminding myself of this once a month keeps that commitment current and present in my life. If there ever happened to be a time I actually went a month without sitting, cutting my hair would be that reminder just as I remind myself what I'm supposed to be doing when I realize my mind is wandering during zazen.

I'm not sure if I've won the battle with my hair or surrendered. I have managed to let go of the style vs. practical aspect of it though. I've heard that once you go utilitarian, you don't go back so this may be an easier commitment to keep than I thought as long as I remember what it's really about.

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