birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Hair Up There

I have an uneasy relationship with my hair. I wish I could forget about it, just let it do its own thing and never have to worry. But I picked a career a long time ago that requires one to adhere to certain standards, and my hair is one of the major ones. So I get it cut, shorter than I care to, every three or four weeks, and I shave, but basically the minimum necessary.

There was a time in my life that I didn't have to care about my hair. I was out of the Army (active or reserve), and as a consequence, for the entirety of calendar year 2007 I did not cut my hair. It was nearly shoulder-length by the end, and I pretty much always wore a hat, and it was great. I shaved every now and then, so I wasn't a complete Grizzly Adams-looking weirdo, but I still have as my primary Facebook and Twitter picture me near the end of that year, when my hair is long as hell and I've just recently shaved, and most of the times that I add a new friend and they see that photo, they comment something like "Wow, what the hell was THAT all about?"

But mostly I don't care. I brush it a bit, just to make sure it's all going in basically the same direction after I shower, and that's it. I don't think I've ever used a hair product beyond shampoo, and more often than not in my life, I've gone without even that. I didn't wash it at all for a couple of years when I was in grad school (the two things had nothing to do with each other; I just read somewhere that you didn't really have to, so I didn't), until I started getting dandruff. I keep telling myself that I'm going to try doing that again some time, but I haven't.

I don't think much about hair on other people, either. I'll notice it when it's particularly out of the typical -- a non-natural color, an asymmetrical cut, an extreme length or lack thereof -- but that's about it. I'm stereotypically male about not noticing changes to my significant other's hair, but I've largely been lucky that they don't get mad at me. Or at least they learn not to show it.

It's a funny thing, hair. We give it so much weight in our society as a gender and class marker, but it's just obsolete insulation. So much of our technology that we would herald as separating us from the animals is literally just replacements for fur: fire, shelter, clothing, grooming...

Every generation finds a new way to dislike previously ignored hair or rediscovers previously scorned hair. I was a Grizzly Adams-looking weirdo a decade ago, and now I fit in virtually anywhere with my not-quite-month-long beard, unkempt as it may be. And as much as I don't care about my hair and try not to care about anyone else's, I feel like I can't help but care about it, now that the rest of American society cares so deeply. I hate it when that happens; when my laziness becomes a statement in and of itself.

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