Hair, Hair, Beautiful Hair


​Hair and comfort. Not so much. I used to have kind of longish hair. There are a few cute pictures from my childhood where my hair goes at least to my shoulders, maybe a bit longer with those straight, severe bangs, but they actually sort of worked with my face and the rest of it.

I even have a school picture of me in a pink jumper with a shag haircut. Very Jane Fonda now that I look back on it.

Sometime in the fifth grade it happened. The knots could not be tamed. I hated brushing my hair especially when a really large knot would form. I tried to hide it under the rest of the hair, but it was eventually discovered.

And that was it.

I remember my fifth grade or maybe sixth grade class picture. A brown outfit, a wide collar; some kind of striped atrocity beneath it, and short hair. Very short hair. Not a cute pixie, but a “boy’s”. Not a bowl cut, but not much better. Page boy? Who knows? It was…ugh

I let it grow in middle school so I could wear a ponytail, but that got tiresome. I couldn’t wear one all the time, and I couldn’t not wear one. What a mess.

I wanted Indian braids for awhile, that was very popular in the 70s, so I let it grow some more. Thinking it would work because my hair is straight and dark, I discovered  that I didn’t know my hair at all. I was wrong because while my hair is straight, when it gets to a certain length, it begins to stick out on the sides, and there’s no fixing it. I have a picture of me when I was two or three, and my hair is exactly the same sticky-out way over the ears.

It was cute when I was three.

I cut it.

Sometimes I cut it myself. Put it in the ponytail and snip. It was not great, but amusingly still better, although not by much.

There was high school and feathered back, and don’t forget, I graduated in 1984, so … perms. Big perms and in actuality mine wasn’t really all that big.

I don’t know when I cut it all off. At some point, I decided I needed it gone.

My hair has had silver in it since high school. I never minded it. It gave me character. It used to be copper until it changed to silver. I planned on never dyeing it. It really never bothered me.

One Halloween, my friend had his annual holiday party. That year’s theme was Super Heroes and Villains. My boyfriend at the time, now my husband went as Green Lantern. I went as Poison Ivy so we kinda matched. It took me forever to decide to dye my hair red to be that character, although I would not let it grow out. I finally relented and dyed it red. I hesitated until the very last minute, but I did it, and when I looked in the mirror at my full face, yellowy-hued skin, not olive of the Mediterranean, but an undefinable not brown, not tan, not pink either, just kind of sallow and tallow and yellowish, and the red just there, framing my face, whatever big, plastic late 80s glasses I had at the time reflecting the red subtly, and I knew:

I’m a redhead.

Genetics had made a mistake, and no one told me. Why couldn’t we be one of those Jewish families with the one odd, youngest red haired child? They’re everywhere, but not us. We all had brown eyes like our Dad, dark, dark hair, like our Dad, and silver in high school, like our Dad. My middle son has a couple of strands of silver in his thirteen-year old head, but I think that’s from worry and stress that goes along with his personality. I think my mother’s hair was brown, but we never saw it. She either dyed it or wore a wig. Those were very popular. She had heads with wigs in her closet; at least three. I liked to play with them. I remember her being red for awhile, especially in one of my favorite pictures of her, so I guess our reds are hereditary.

But my short hair, my red hair, it’s me even if I had to create it myself. I wake up and I go. I almost never brush it, and I almost never look in the mirror. Some days that is not such a good thing, but it feels good. It is the one thing of me that is my comfort.

I wasn’t planning on going until closer to Thanksgiving, but this prompt gave me the opportunity to get my hair colored and cut last month, so I could end the writing workshop in comfort and with a much more tamable bedhead.

I once got it cut in Scotland. Pitlochry.

The idea of having a stranger cut my hair was almost anathema to me. And her hair…she was seriously 80s punk, and when she asked what i wanted, I said just do what you want. She did, and I loved it. I kept joking that in six months I’d have to return to Scotland to get my hair cut again.

It was the first time I’d done it on my own, and it created the mantra I live by today:

It will grow back.

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This was in response to a free write for the prompt scent in the theme of comfort. In other words, write about a scent that gives you comfort.

​I would not have expected to be writing about incense being a comforting scent. I was never a fan of incense. Perhaps, it was the specific scents that I was exposed to. Perhaps, it was Allan, who lived across the hall from me in my first year in college who used it to mask his pot smoking. At the time, I was so naive that I didn’t realize that’s what it was for. I thought he was just kind of dopey and laid back, and the incense was just him being a late blooming hippie.

Either way, the smell of it was enough to put me off both pot and incense.

When I visited church for the first time that they used incense was probably around Advent, maybe Christmas Eve. I remember the sounds of that day more than I remember the smells. Our music director is an amazing musician, and it is a joy to listen to his carols before the Christmas Eve Mass. I don’t know if there was incense that night, but I know that it’s been there as the liturgical season warranted.

Every Tuesday, the Host is incensed and a hymn is sung before adoration. I try to watch the smoke rise until it dissipates on its way to the skylight. I try ot make sense of the shapes it makes and the directions it flows in, but usually it just goes, and I continue to meditate on it.

After the Mass of Christian burial, the casket is incensed on its way out of the church to the burial or interment. 

The incense is carried in a bowl through the church during the Sunday procession during Lent. I know it is offered up with a solemn hymn that just touches me deeply. The whole process of the incense rising, the low singing of the prayer, the hush that falls over everything. It is very similar at Advent.

During one of the RCIA rites, I was standing in the back with the other catechumens while we waited together for our time to bring our oils to the altar. It may have been the rite of welcome, or perhaps, during the Holy Thursday Mass. I can’t remember at the moment, but I do remember looking to the front of the church where the incense was being carried, and i distinctly saw the smoke rise and form the shape of a Jewish Star of David. It was one of many signs that I received that I was making the right decision to go down the path of conversion.

While at first, the smell bothered me, the more I became engrossed in the Catholic liturgy and ritual, the more comfortable I became with the scents and the smells of the church and the incense.

I would not expect it during a service, and then I would smell it, and a warmth would come over me, a comfort, and it reminded me of what I found in the church, but not so much in the building but in the pews.

As we are often told, we are the church, and I find a small part of myself floating through the air along with the incense.