Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis, or skin. Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. Most common interest in hair is focused on hair growth, hair types and hair care. Attitudes towards hair, such as hairstyles and hair removal vary widely across different cultures and historical periods; but is often used to indicate a person’s personal beliefs or social position, such as their age, gender or religion. (Source: Wikipedia)
Why this article on hair? I witnessed an interesting dialogue between two women. One was enquiring about the other’s hair. Apparently the second woman had trimmed her hair and she faced lot of issues at her marital home. She explained her parents were against her cutting or styling her hair, and after marriage her mother-in-law took over the role of guarding her hair! Her husband had no say in the matter.
I asked her isn’t it her hair, does she not own it, so why seek permission to style or trim? In any case, hair does grow back. She told me she is aware of all this; but since her mother told her she needs her in-laws’ or husband’s permission to even trim her hair, she had a tough time explaining the hair trim. She had not cut the length or even styled it. Only trimmed the ends.
Yes, I can see her point. Where you see many young women who style their hair, go for flattering cuts that frame their faces, there are also a large group of women who have no permission to cut their hair. The parents or rather the mother ensures her daughters have long, healthy hair. Lots of maintenance and care goes into this upkeep of hair. Hair is one contributing factor in marriage; the luxurious the tresses, the brighter the chances of getting married. Sounds inane, but this is a reality.
I have seen young ladies who have long, thick hair that must be a heavy burden on their slender frames. But they assiduously maintain and care for this hair. Even trimming cannot be done too much. Only a couple of inches. Even this they need to seek permission, cajole the mother or mother-in-law and then they sometimes get permission. Here too, no beautician does the trimming; this task is undertaken by the mother or some other family member. With a hawk eye calculation.
So another area of dominance and control over young ladies. Here the mothers too are guilty. On the one hand young ladies color their hair, cut it short, even go for complete shaved look; there are those who need a cut but are not able to indulge in it. It is not easy to maintain or care for long hair. It requires regular oiling, shampooing and conditioning. And very long hair when left open will lead to tangles. So they need to be braided. I am sure a large part of grooming for young ladies is taken up with this hair care. Oiling and washing of hair is a weekly affair. I am sure the ladies will be exhausted at the end of the weekly routine.
In our culture, women with long and luxurious tresses were considered an epitome of beauty. And fragrant flowers were threaded into these tresses. Also some small trinkets which would ring or tinkle when the braid moved.
Since hair is considered the epitome of beauty, it is also offered to God. One is willing to give up one’s beauty in return of a blessing. Most temples in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh take hair as an offering. And this accumulated hair is picked up by companies to make wigs. The better maintained hair of course gets more money. It is said that hair coming from village ladies carry a premium. In villages the concept of styling, and adding different colors is not there. Till now. So the hair is healthier, well maintained and so better suited to convert into wigs.
Recently a group of women college students had their heads shaved and donated their hair for wig making for cancer patients. Chemotherapy leads to total hair fall, so wigs are in demand, unfortunately. There was a newspaper article that said a young man shaved off his hair and offered it for wig making in UK. His school suspended him!
Many people suffer from hair fall. More than acceptable shedding. Then you also find hair on bathroom floors, towels, pillows, combs, in rooms and sometimes in food. There are apparently more than thirty reasons for hair fall. Can you imagine? Many people get stressed when their hair color changes. From black/brown to Grey or white. So this process will be interfered with. Because you see, Grey/white hair is a sign of aging. And who wants to be known as old?
Many resort to ridiculous lengths to hide hair fall. And many also opt for scientific or not ways of rebuilding hair. All because a shiny pate cannot be accepted. There are so many tips offered by hair oil/ shampoo companies and alternate therapies for hair growth. Many turn out to be duds.
There is long hair, straight hair, wavy hair, curly hair, coarse hair, thick hair, thin hair, scanty hair, etc. There are different hair styles and hair colors. Natural and otherwise. So as a topic, hair can be discussed for hours. There can also be debates on what is the ideal length of hair, who has control over whose hair, etc.
Hair is considered the crowning glory of one’s beauty. And so many are so attached to their hair. Even obsessed with it. You get to see how people handle their hair; always stroking, tossing the tresses; adjusting the style; pushing back strands with a finger; allowing strands to fall over their faces, (does it not tickle?) and any glossy surface and this leads to hair grooming. Before meeting someone the combs come out for a quick redress, and generally playing or setting hair.
Many young people do not like to wear helmets while riding a bike. The reason? They feel helmet wearing leads to hair fall. The helmet protects the head; what use hair if there is no head?
And so many young ladies are still trying to wrest the control of their hair from the elders in their lives. They are willing for care and maintenance provided the length is manageable. Because these ladies do love long hair, but at a length they can manage, I think. And each decides her length, it is only fair.