My hair donation

There is something about having long, almost-to-your-waist hair that is a little like being pregnant. For some friends and strangers, the mere fact that it is there creates an irresistible invitation for them to invade your personal space. Like a protruding baby belly, they touch it without warning, admire it for whatever it represents to them. With a few exceptions, I’ve never minded this much. And for at least the last 10 years, it’s been a fact of my life.

A few months before I got pregnant in 2004, I was entertaining the idea of a master’s degree, and took a graduate class in folklore. We learned about ethnographic interviewing methods and the ethical issues inherent in studying people this way before setting out to work on our own projects. Others in the class interviewed homeless squatters, formulated ways to map out research they had done about the nature of the tourism trade in Egypt or examined century-old Irish folk tale chapbooks.

I chose to think about long hair.

I did preliminary research on what it can symbolize, what its value can be, how it’s perceived by others. There have been moments in the world’s history when a woman’s hair has been her family’s most valuable asset. It can have religious implications, as it does for the Amish – from birth, a woman’s hair is never cut, always swirled into an efficient bun and kept under cover. It can make people assume you are vegetarian (really!), a fan of particular music or nostalgic for an era you never actually experienced.

But most striking to me was the attachment to hair as a marker of time, as an organic map of life experience. We can chart our lives with every inch.

I looked at the ends of my hair last night. They landed about halfway between the base of my shoulder blades and my waist, so it was easy to pull them in front of my face. This hair was with me when I still had one living grandmother left. It was there when Dan and I stood on the high cliffs of Santorini looking into the caldera and I thought that the altitude and unfenced roads were making me nauseous, not realizing that I was about three weeks into the journey of pregnancy.

I could come up with memories that made me want to hold onto these few inches always, and others that made me want to banish them completely.

But then I think about what they can mean to a child without hair, who has Alopecia or is undergoing chemotherapy for Cancer, and I wonder why I haven’t done this sooner. In recent months, I’ve read words by brave souls on various blogs – parents with cancer, parents of children with cancer – and I am awed by their strength in times of suffering, their willingness to have faith in people, to share themselves so candidly. In the face of those things, this donation doesn’t feel like much.

If I could, with my few inches of hair, I would also donate the warmth of the Grecian sunlight that touched it, the overwhelming feeling of health and well-being that I enjoyed during my second trimester of pregnancy and the joy of hearing my baby son’s hysterical laughter when I’ve enveloped him in the cave of my hair and dragged the ends over his face and belly.

That is the wish I have sent with these few inches, anyway.

I went to Gina’s in Grandview, where they do a lot of Locks of Love donations. My stylist, John, was a really lovely person who seemed genuinely excited to lighten my load and make me feel pretty. Afterwards, we went to the extra swollen Griggs Reservoir so that Dan could take pictures of me that make me look like a country and western singer. (This is the calling I missed, people.)

I gave 12 inches of my hair, which is supposed to be enough to help make long-haired wigs for little girls, and there was more than I expected left over for me. Declan watched the ponytail come off. I wanted him to see it happen so that he wouldn’t be scared by a different-looking mommy.

It’s not nearly as dramatic (or traumatic) as I imagined it might be. I feel great.
And I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Take a look at some of Locks of Love’s other donors. Don’t you love that 80 percent of them are children?

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14 thoughts on “My hair donation”

  1. OH! I meet a new friend AND find out that we are both Locks of Love alumni, too! Thanks for stopping by to say hi — you look fantastic as a country and western singer. I gave up my own 14 inches of hair that took 4 years to grow in January 2006, specifically for this purpose. MiniMe has a spot of Aplasia Cutis right smack dab in the middle of her head and I thought there would probably be someday when she was really unhappy about it. So as soon as she was diagnosed at 3 months of age (MRI on a baby that tiny is hugely scary), I decided that Locks of Love would be the story I’d tell her to remind her that there are many others out there with worse problems.

    Great organization, great job on giving up your hair, and great fun to have you as a new friend!

    JMashwell, Bhoppin’ for the Weekend!

  2. You look awesome! And I love how you wrote how your hair comes with those great experiences. So true. My sister did the same thing a few years ago. She went Britney with it though. Shaved it ALL off. Scared my mom and grandmother half to death. Luckily for them, she grew it back.

  3. That was a wonderful thing to donate your hair. My younger daughter also grew out her hair and donated it to Locks of Love. She’s thinking of doing it again.

    The lady who sits behind me at work is a cancer survivor, and thus was on the flip side. My mom, too. They are very grateful for the wigs during the time they are struggling with no hair.

  4. oh wow, thanks for the follow on Twitter and now I just got SUCKED into your blog and read this post. My hair is now past my butt and I have been thinking about donating to Locks of Love and you’ve inspired me. I’m not ready to do it just yet, but I’m definitely going to donate it when I’m ready. I will definitely share when the time comes. Thanks for the inspiration. You’ve planted a seed for me 🙂

  5. Thanks to everyone for their kind comments.

    And Macmommy – yours makes me really happy! A couple of things that might help make you more comfortable when the time comes – 1) I would ask around or do some research to find out what salon in your area does it. It made a big difference to me that the place I went seemed genuinely excited for the donation and helping me look different. 2) When you see your hair measured, you may be surprised how much you’ll have left and 3) LOLove does accept layered hair now.

  6. You are beautiful inside and out! What a wonderful thing you have done. I am sure that your son is very proud of you as well!

    By the way, your new haircut really accentuates your cheekbones. You look stunning!

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