Posted by: Maryann McCullough | March 1, 2013

March 2013






They say you can learn a lot about a woman by examining the contents of her purse. Any thief who grabs mine is sure to be surprised. While he would find very little cash, he would discover three or four combs. This is silly since I have only one head, with short little snippets of hair atop it.

But I am one whose self-concept is intertwined with her hair. Good hair day? Good day. Of course, they have not all been good days. It’s just a hair thing – no other real vanities. I wear sensible shoes, little make-up, and adorn my ears with costume jewelry. I attribute my lack of fashion to not having given birth to daughters.  Daughters give lots of unsolicited advice, sometimes with a simple rolling of the eyes and a “You’re wearing that?” As a mother of three sons, I’ve had to live by my own counsel.

 Hair has always been a priority. My high school friends would drag themselves into their semester exams, after all-nighters of test prep, sleepless, un-showered, and with dirty hair pulled into a ponytail, I would always arrive fresh from a good night’s sleep, clean, well coiffed, and looking reasonably cute, ascribing to the philosophy that if you look good, everything will turn out just fine..

Not that high school was without hair traumas.

In my junior year I came to realize that blondes have more fun. Being somewhat cautious and wanting just a little more fun, I left the peroxide on my hair for only half the prescribed time.  The result was carrot-colored hair. With my green gabardine uniform and white blouse, I looked like the flag of Ireland.

I was something of a slow learner concerning hair issues because I topped that misadventure in my senior year with a stupid moment involving scissors. While others may drink or eat in response to stress, I generally cut my hair. In mid-January of 1960, amidst a perfect storm of stressful events (term papers due, semester exams, college applications), something special happened. I was selected by my school to be Sweetheart of the Valentine Dance. At the time, I had a pouffy sort of pageboy which necessitated sleeping with a head full of brush rollers. Possibly the pressure of all those sharp little points poking into my head was the real stressor. In any case, a week before the big dance, I cut my hair. In less than half an hour, I went from long curls to an inordinately short pixie haircut.

The next day at school, a younger girl named Ingeborg Rottenbuher, told me that I had to resign my Sweetheart title because I looked so bad. It was the end of my world until, many tears later, the school principal. Sister Francis Mary, convinced me that it wasn’t my hair that the students had voted for.

I don’t believe these hair traumas were the reason I chose to enter the convent in the fall of 1960, but that decision certainly made my hair a non-issue for the next seven years of my life. Except for that 1964 Christmas gift from my mother, who knew I no longer had hair to “play with.” The superior of our convent thought it inappropriate for me to have a Tressy Bessy doll, so I reluctantly allowed Bessy to move on to brighten the life of some younger hair-fixated female.

I am quite certain it wasn’t spite about the doll thing that caused me to leave the Dominican order. But in the summer of 1967, I did leave the convent and re-enter the world where women had hair. In the ensuing years much has been done to mine.  My hair has been painted and wrapped in foil and cooked under lights to the perfect shade of blond. It has been gelled and moussed and sprayed. Tugged and pulled after “too short” haircuts, as if like rubber it would stretch and whipped full of air, as if like eggs, that process would increase its volume – this poor head of hair has suffered a lot at my hands.

My prayer is that – in a moment of spite – it doesn’t decide to up and leave me! I’ve seen that hairless head before and it’s not to be shared with a seeing population. Besides, what would I do with all those combs?










  1. I never leave home without a comb, my friend!

  2. I laughed out loud at the March reflection.

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