Saturday, January 4, 2014

Shaving My Head, Dying My Hair, Part 1

Day 4 of Fun-a-Day: the ArtClash Collective's amazing art-piece a day commitment for the month of January. I chose blog-a-day.

This will be a 2-parter, friends.

So I'm 40. A mother of a three year old, a white middle class bisexual ciswoman committed to a cisman, renting a sprawling family house on 23 acres in East Montpelier, Vermont. I have 2 higher ed degrees, have worked and lived in city, suburb, community, apartment. I'm not working outside the home right now. I am working on planning this farm and community project, but it's not paid. Who gets paid for birthing, well, anything?

And I shave my head and dye my hair. I've done this since I left my job in June.

Why, you might wonder, would a middle aged mom be interested in having unnatural hair color and shorn locks? Aren't I done with that childishness? Aren't I worried about how my son will be effected? Aren't I concerned about how my new business will be viewed?

Well, I am, a bit, concerned about what folks think. Depending on the day, I can feel embarrassed by the differences you see on my body, or my body in general. Or I might be afraid for being judged for not working for pay, or read as uneducated or unemployable. Lots of stories I can tell myself. I'm creative in my neurosis.

But there's a lot in this head shaving and coloring. I am not to speak for anyone else who does these things. I don't want to, and wouldn't try. I will speak through my own story.

I am aware, because of my social location and privilege as a white woman with resources to not do paid work, I get to make these choices, that for many are never allowable. I feel gratitude for this moment which allows me to explore my appearance with relative freedom.

The job I left in June was the first, and hopefully last, attempt at working within an institution. It was, as institutions go, a pretty loose one-- a Quaker boarding school with lots of quirky traditions and romping play space for young and old committed to building a learning community based in Quaker values. But, as time progressed (I was there 6 years), and the institution continued to evolve and shift and respond to economic crises, things became rapidly more complex. I have written about my experience  here and here and here. I found myself shutting down there, as the ethos of the school, and the direction of the program that I was leading, was shifted out of alignment with my skills and calling.

In short, I spent too long trying to fit into a context that did not fit me. It took one of my students actually saying to me-- You are a non-conformist, why would you want to be in a place that requires conformity? for me to really get that my decision to leave was the right one.

And once I was finally, after so many years, without a job at all, and coming from a space of what felt like real constraint on my person, and real rejection of my gifts, I exploded with relief and joy. This was, and is, the first time I have not had a job as an adult. And more, it's the first time I am not even looking for a job. It was a revelation.

And so, the hair. At the school, there were strict rules about natural hair color. I had to not only abide by, but also enforce rules I did not believe were necessary. But I did it. My refrain often was-- These are the rules for now. Believe me, when you get out, you will have so much fun.

And so, the hair. I think I have been wanting to do this since I was a teen. But I started working summers at 16, and never looked back. I have always been acutely aware of appearance for jobs. No longer.

So, the hair. I started with blue. I went to a salon, after calling a number of times to get reassurance that yes, they shaved heads, and yes they dyed hair blue. I sat with a 20-something woman who knew a number of my students, and I did it. It was so much fun, and the perfect road trip hair.

I shaved my head in mid-July, with the help of dear Quaker farming friends, because I was too annoyed to keep on dying it, and it had faded, which I had no idea would happen. I planned to let it grow out from there, see what happened. The amazing and dear Stefanie Canadia and Raur came to visit us when we first landed in Vermont and brought along a gift of blue hair dye, which expanded to green and purple through the mail-- but I wasn't planning on using it. It was a whim, it was passed. Time to settle down and focus on the work at hand.

But that was not to be. More tomorrow. Until then, stay real, short, and colorful.

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