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Weird as a Padded Envelope of Hair

Friday night, as I was unpacking the tote bag that I had carried around all day, I pulled out the bag of hair and showed it to Josh. “That,” he said, “rivals the bag of McBlood in terms of strange items in temporary residence inside our home.”

At least this one doesn’t need to be kept inside the refrigerator.

The morning that I went to donate my hair, I washed it and left it down. I should have made a t-shirt–Cut Hair Walking. I felt like my hair was on death row and it was slowly inching towards the time that it would be severed from my head. I cared for it and rubbed conditioner through it and took my time combing it out. The final meal.

When I dropped off the twins at school, everyone commented as I walked down the hall how pretty my hair looked that day. Each time I explained that I was cutting it off that afternoon and the person would do an astonished, “but why?”, I would second guess the decision entirely. I mean, no one comments on my eyes or lips or tiny ass (except for Julie). But everyone comments on my hair. Until Friday afternoon, it literally went down my entire back, serving an additional use as a curtain to block out the tan line that I didn’t take care of before wearing the backless dress for the turkey cutlet bra wedding.

The fifth person to give me the astonished “but why?” received the answer that I was donating it. If I was going to get my hair cut at all, I was going to go all the way with it. I mean, what’s the point in trimming off four inches? No one benefits from four inches. I certainly didn’t want my hair four inches shorter–I liked the length–and you can’t donate four inches. It literally would just end up on the cutting room floor.

This woman was standing with her ten-year-old daughter who sneered at her mother when she exclaimed, “my daughter wants to donate her hair too! She’s growing it out for Locks of Love. Sweetie, look at Melissa’s hair. Do you see how long that is? And she’s just donating it now. You have a long way to go.”

“My hair is just as long as hers,” the girl snarled at her mother.

“I don’t think it is. You’ll end up with short hair if you donate it now.”

“Mother,” she spat, as if her mother were this hopelessly cruel being who had just suggested that a good Saturday activity would be rubbing our thick manes in the faces of children with alopecia. “You know, some hair is still better than no hair. There are children with no hair, mother.”

The little girl stormed off and her mother sighed. “Charming, right?”

“I think it’s cool that she wants to donate it,” I said unhelpfully.

“Yeah, it’s cool until she winds up with a pixie haircut and tons of regret and cries for three days straight and I need to deal with her aftermath.”

Which sounded in that moment a lot like how I predicted I would react when I saw a ponytail of my hair hanging out of someone else’s hand.

I like having long hair.

Oh–I should have warned you at the beginning of this post–I am a complete baby about haircuts.

This was taken by Cooking My Life at BlogHer DC last week. I think that was my second bag of popcorn. Maybe my third.

Look at those long, luscious locks. Even tightly curled, it still went down almost to my waist. When I pulled it straight, I could almost sit on it. Yes…um…that is me getting popcorn.

After school, I picked up the twins and we went down to meet Nazly. She works at the Bethesda Row location and does fantastic hair. Just wanted to mention that in case you are in the DC area and are looking for a salon. She was standing by the door with my mother and a ruler. I sat down in the hair and she gleefully asked if I wanted a final photo.

By fuck! Seriously–long, luscious locks!

I have to admit that I had a secondary motive for donating my hair. I have always wanted to see what I would look like with a chopped off ponytail ever since I read Harriet the Spy. I love that book so much.

She measured out ten inches and showed me and I told her to throw in one extra. Why? I’m not sure right now. But at the time, it seemed like 11 was a better number than 10. When she first started cutting, I couldn’t even feel it. There was just the sound of the scissors and the pressure of her hand holding the ponytail taut and this strange sight in the mirror of my blurry, spectacle-free face asking myself what the hell I was doing.

And then it was done.

Nazly held my hair in her hand and showed me the ponytail. She slipped it into a bag and I stared at my uneven hair in the mirror. I asked her to take another photo, but she suggested that people may not donate to Locks of Love if they saw how my hair looked in that post-donation, pre-shaping stage. It was a fantastic horror-show of a haircut. I felt like I should have brought some lipstick to smear outside the lipline and a hatchet with me to go with it.

She conditioned my hair and cut it and shaped it and twirled it back into curls. And when it was done, I stared at myself in the mirror for a long time with the thought of that woman’s snarling daughter in my head. I didn’t want to cry, but I didn’t look like myself. I liked the idea that I had something to give someone else, but I was sad that I lost the one feature that people associated with me. And most of all, I hated that I cared about something like hair. I kept reassuring Nazly that it wasn’t the cut–she had done a great job–it was simply the Cut.

I warned you that I was babyish about haircuts.

Forgive the slightly glazed expression. It had been a long day on four hours of sleep.

I have this thing about my hair–it’s not perhaps at the level of Samson, but I really do think of myself as this long-haired person. And since the cut, I’ve felt abbreviated. I’m just Melis. Missing the sa. I’m not entirely sure what was contained in the sa, but doesn’t that sound all Eastern and profound? What is wrong with the girl? She is missing her sa.

Aaaaaah, yes. Her sa.

I’ve been trying to search for silver linings. It only takes me a few minutes to wash and style it now instead of a half hour. It feels lighter. Maybe your sa is simply a heaviness. It sounds like “sigh.” The haircut lends authenticity to a multitude of costumes. I am considering going as a buxom flapper for Halloween. A flapper who didn’t get the memo about dancing and cigarette smoking over picking all of the Snickers bars out of the bag of Halloween candy.

Here is something to think about: the hair at the scalp is obviously from 2008, but down at the tip, the hair is older. Vintage hair. I’m not sure how much older, but using the calculation that hair grows about a half inch per month, my split ends were probably four years old.

One day, probably soon, there will be a little girl walking around with my hair on her head and she will be carrying with her the birth of the twins. She will be carrying with her the NICU stay and those first weeks at home before I found my groove. She’ll be carting around my four month long project to teach myself how to cook from a professional cooking school text book. She will have with her the loss of my great aunt, many library story hours, the twins’ baby naming.

What a fantastic world where she will take all of the places my hair has been to and couple it with her own trip: senior prom? learning how to drive? horseback riding lessons? Barbie games? It is bizarre to think that this thing that has been a part of me, literally attached to me, produced inside of me and worn as an identifier outside of me, will now be hers.

I hope it helps her land the guy like it did for me.

Talking with the ChickieNob about her existential crisis from two ends of the staircase


1 Laura { 10.20.08 at 6:16 am }

I LOVE the new haircut!

2 soapchick { 10.20.08 at 6:25 am }

New haircut looks FAB! You rock! The recipient of your donated hair will also be drop dead gorgeous!

3 Bean { 10.20.08 at 6:28 am }

For what it’s worth, I think you look great with the new haircut. Also, it may be shorter, but you STILL have great hair that I envy!

4 Michael, Karen and Morgan { 10.20.08 at 6:34 am }

GREAT new haircut! How wonderfully generous to share your beautiful locks with a little girl with none.

5 loribeth { 10.20.08 at 6:52 am }

Looks great!! My hair was never as long as yours, but it's very thick. It was past my shoulders when I cut it about 25 years ago. I moved to southern Ontario for grad school, & the heat & humidity did me in. ; ) You can't do as much with short hair, but it is soooo much easier to take care of. I just wash it, put in some mousse or gel, style it with a comb or my fingers & off I go. I don't even have to blow dry it unless it is totally freezing outside in the morning (& sometimes I don't do it even then — shhh, don't tell my grandmother…).

6 Delenn { 10.20.08 at 6:54 am }

You have probably heard this already, but your haircut makes you look younger! And I LOVE long hair too…but your haircut does look wonderful!

And so great that you donated your hair…and the thought of the times it has had. πŸ™‚

7 Kim { 10.20.08 at 6:55 am }

Love the do! And love the ending of the story. Some little girl WILL wear it well and “sa” will live on.

8 Jendeis { 10.20.08 at 6:56 am }

I love it!!! It looks gorgeous! You look gorgeous! Shayneh Maideleh!

9 Heidi { 10.20.08 at 6:56 am }

I cut mine every two or three years for locks of love, and everyone always asks me why? They ask that because I spend two days afterwards whining and crying about my missing hair. Last time I did it a friends mom reminded me that what I did was extra special, because if that hair meant so much to me, yet I was giving it away to someone who needed it more, then it was a true sacrifice.

THank you four your sacrafice…you’ve made someone else very happy, and proud to be in their skin again.

And you look awesome to boot!

10 JuliaS { 10.20.08 at 7:08 am }

I love long hair too – but mine is so awful thin and stringy, no one would want it, not even me – though I do love the color and that it gets super smooth when I condition it properly.

I adore your hair – long and short. The short makes you look quite sassy and I think it suits you! (the sassy AND short!) Somewhere, someone is going to be in heaven with their “locks of love” from Mel. :0)

11 Mrs. Higrens { 10.20.08 at 7:10 am }

And your hair is why those of us with straight hair torture our uncooperative hair with chemicals and heat to even get the hint of a curl.

Love the new cut!

12 Cara { 10.20.08 at 7:12 am }

Gorgeous! Shiek! Very Melis – sa!

I have to report I fought the urge to scroll down for a post-cut preview!

I read the WHOLE story first…yeah me!

13 Michelle { 10.20.08 at 7:18 am }

I love your new do! You look great!

14 MsPrufrock { 10.20.08 at 7:29 am }

Hey – do you like popcorn? I’m just wondering. No reason.

Let me just say, you look hella foine. Not “fine”, that’s for people who get like, 7 inches chopped off. Nope, you are definitely foine. I have no idea how else to type that sort of pronunciation of “fine”, so that’s all you get.

In short (HA!), you look lovely miss lady. The shorter hair suits you.

15 sky girl { 10.20.08 at 7:31 am }

I think that it looks fantastic! 3 cheers for you for doing something that’s so hard.

16 DD { 10.20.08 at 7:43 am }

If people were associating you with your hair, then it was high time to cut it. You have so much more for people to know about you then what was growing on your head.

Obviously I do not have an attachment to my hair and I frankly have little patience for those who do; however I know that the recipient of your hair will be one proud sister and rightfully so.

17 angrycanrn { 10.20.08 at 7:44 am }

I love it!

Thanks for sharing not just the pics but the story and emotions that went along with it.

Think of what beautiful hair that girl will have going to her senior prom….


18 Sam { 10.20.08 at 7:56 am }

hey well done and congratulations to you!! Love the new bouncy hair look.

19 Bobbie { 10.20.08 at 8:04 am }

Your hair is gorgeous long and short. What a great contribution!

20 MrsSpock { 10.20.08 at 8:10 am }

It looks good!

My hair used to be down to my waist and 3 years ago I cut it to shoulder length. It looked good, but took getting used to.

21 barrenisthenewblack { 10.20.08 at 8:20 am }

LOVE IT! You look great.

22 A.M.S. { 10.20.08 at 8:23 am }

Ok, two things.

First, you look fantastic! See, if I knew I’d end up looking that good, I’d go get a haircut.

Second, Harriet the Spy. That’s it. That’s why we’re friends, right there. I read that book so many times my copy fell apart. I started eating tomato sandwiches because of that book. Did you wish you had an Old Golly too?

23 Carrie { 10.20.08 at 8:45 am }

Oh – I love the new haircut! Honestly – I think I even like it better than the long, luxurious locks. Very cute!

24 Soupy { 10.20.08 at 8:45 am }

Oh, Mel! I love the new look! You look amazing! And the length of your gorgeous hair- WOW! It is sooooooooo beautiful and whoever is lucky enough to be the recipient of that gorgeous hair is saying a prayer of thanks to you someday!
I love what you did and your new “do”

25 luna { 10.20.08 at 9:04 am }

I think you look fantastic. and I’m addressing the essence “sa” of you that was not lost in a bag of hair.

I love how history is rooted in the hair, like the ring layers of a tree. what you did was an amazing thing. now you get to carry that around with you.

the other incredible thing is that hair grows back. so now you’ll have to decide how long you really want to keep it.

26 Wordgirl { 10.20.08 at 9:16 am }

Oh I understand about hair — I feel that way too — and your hair — both ways, is lovely. I think about that post that Lori put up about the 29 days of giving — and to give away something you think you can’t live without – -because that’s the only way it really becomes a profound experience — and to give your hair — it’s so powerful. And I love the way you talk about what it holds.

Beautiful Mel, in all ways.

27 Vacant Uterus { 10.20.08 at 9:36 am }

I love, love, love the new haircut! You look amazing! Lighter, younger, freer. A little sad too, but I get that.

I’m a baby about haircuts, too. My hair is very fine and takes forever to grow. It took me four years to grow it out to my shoulder blades and when I got it cut to my shoulders right befor Sam came home, I nearly had a breakdown as I walked into the salon. My hairdresser had been patiently waiting as I waffled over the decision for a year and a half. But I look so much better now. In my case, I lost my “da”. And I needed to. I hope putting away your “sa” for a while makes your burdens lighter.

28 Lori { 10.20.08 at 9:48 am }

It looks great, Melis, just great!

You explained the feeling so well, of giving up something that simultaneously means a LOT and is kind of inconsequential.

Live the tiny ass, too, by the way.

29 Another Dreamer { 10.20.08 at 9:52 am }

I love the before hair, and I love the after hair!

You know what I love the most about hair cuts?The feeling of weightlessness that comes after. The freedom in those short locks.

30 battynurse { 10.20.08 at 9:54 am }

The haircut looks fantastic. I love (and maybe covette (I think I spelled that wrong))your curls. They are so fantastic no matter what the length.

31 JamieD { 10.20.08 at 9:58 am }

You hair looks fantastic! I cut about 8 inches off my hair a few years back. It was my first ‘real haircut.’ I really liked how it looked and it was so much easier to take care of. But for some reason, the next day in the shower I had a complete meltdown. The was something about reaching back to squeeze the water out of my hair and there not being anything there really freaked me out.

I wish my hair had been quality enough to donate. It is an amazing gift you gave!

32 Amanda { 10.20.08 at 10:00 am }

Your new do looks wonderful! You look so sassy, now!

I always feel so badly for those that are traumatized by haircuts (like you and my Mom). I’ve always adored getting a new haircut (especially since I realized I could wear a short cut)!

33 Leah { 10.20.08 at 10:07 am }

Your new haircut ROCKS. Seriously. I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass, sister. It is gorgeous.

34 Jess { 10.20.08 at 10:18 am }

I love the new cut! You look so fresh and…EASY GOING now! I love it! I think it makes you look younger, as well!

Not to sound as if I think you’re old and batty. πŸ™‚

11 inches is CRAZY long!

And how cool and strange a thought that your hair was with you through all those things and that someone else is carrying that…and adding to it.

35 Deathstar { 10.20.08 at 10:28 am }

Straighten it, get a makeover at a MAC counter, put on some thongs and pour yourself a glass of champagne – you deserve a medal, girl! I know what your hair means to you in a strange way – I’m a black woman who has spent more than the gross national product of a industrialized nation on my hair – in weaves, braids, relaxers and jeri curls. I loved the part of what stories your hair had to tell – to give away what you value only adds to your storehouse of the heart. You are more beautiful than ever.

36 LJ { 10.20.08 at 10:31 am }


You look divine! I love it so much! I can’t wait to sproing your curls!

37 Kristin { 10.20.08 at 11:03 am }

You look FABULOUS Melissa! I really love that last pic of you talking to ChickieNob!

I love how you talk about her carrying your past with her.

38 Feliz Dianne Flutter { 10.20.08 at 11:28 am }

I love the cut. And I love the donation.

Personally, I always think of a new hair cut as a fresh start :).

39 Kim { 10.20.08 at 11:40 am }

Well, I love it! And it will grow back, don’t worry :O).

40 Jenn { 10.20.08 at 12:23 pm }

I think it looks fantastic.

41 M. { 10.20.08 at 1:15 pm }

I’m with everyone else — I think your hair — and you — look *more* gorgeous with your hair like this!!! Totally cute, sassy, smart, bright. A close friend of mine, a rabbi, just did the same thing and gave a high holiday sermon about it, hair and identity, and personal growth. Rock on.

and who knows — maybe that little girl will land herself a girl of her own… πŸ˜‰

42 Jen { 10.20.08 at 1:16 pm }

I like it! It looks great.

I donated mine to Locks of Love too. This is my third time and the shortest I’ve ever gone. I still hate the shortness. (And it is like three inches longer than it was!) Also, Locks of Love lets you stretch out curly hair to donate ten inches, so you might not have to have as much next time. My hair is wavy and the stylist never stretches it out. They always insist I have barely enough to donate when in reality, it is more like 14 inches.

I’ve never had to mail my own hair in. The salon has always done it for me.

43 serenity { 10.20.08 at 1:42 pm }


44 Alex { 10.20.08 at 1:47 pm }

It looks great! It’s so weird getting a major change in hair length (I guess those are always long to short, aren’t they?). I hope as you grow accustomed to it, you’ll find it suits you better — I think it looks just perfect.

45 Brenda { 10.20.08 at 2:11 pm }

Your haircut is GREAT! It looked beautiful long, and I am sure that it must be a wonderful feeling to have hair that looks lovely when it it’s long. However, it really does look fabulous shorter as well. And it really does highlight your face. From your long hair picture I really only looked at your hair. With your shorter hair picture, I felt like I was looking at you! πŸ™‚

46 My Reality { 10.20.08 at 2:25 pm }

The new cut is fantastic! And what a wonderful thing you did!

47 chicklet { 10.20.08 at 2:33 pm }

I think it looks way better, and that’s not a backhanded compliment, just a compliment that I think it looks better. It was good before but too easy to hide behind. This is stylish now and frames your face:-)

48 Vee { 10.20.08 at 2:49 pm }

I love your new hair and love that you are donating it.
But most of all I love your smile, you are beautiful Mel.

49 annacyclopedia { 10.20.08 at 2:52 pm }

You look absolutely beautiful. May your haircut bring you any transformation you are wishing for.

You have also inspired me again – to get off the fence about breaking up with my hairdresser and book an appointment with somebody else.

50 JJ { 10.20.08 at 3:08 pm }

Ooo fancy new doo! Love the hair, Mel!

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