A RECENT CONVERSATION WITH A DEAR FRIEND OF MINE:
She couldn’t even say it with a straight face. She tried though—had to give her an “E” for “Effort.” She desperately, passionately wanted me to believe that she believed what she was saying.
“No, I really liked you better with long hair.”
I sat back and smirked. I didn’t say anything because I enjoy awkward pauses. By the way, I wouldn't dare call them “pregnant pauses.” You see, I’m a Blackfeet man and she’s an Assiniboine woman—therefore there actually is a chance that a mere conversation between us could result in procreation. I have nieces and nephews who were conceived by email (in fairness, it DID have an attachment) and a cousin who once got a
pretty little Dutch girl named “Klazina” pen pal pregnant with a birthday card.
What I’m saying is that we’re fertile people.
But I digress.
Anyway, the prolonged silence prompted her to continue talking—you know, the way people talk to fill empty space. “I mean, yeah, sure it looks nice short. You look clean cut. But I prefer Indian boys with long hair. There’s just something really, really hot AND ‘cultural’ about Indian boys with long hair.”
That was an Interesting thought, so I figured I’d delve a little deeper into that, “What if I weren’t Native? Would I THEN look better with my short hair?”
She conceded, “Mmmmmmmm…probably, yeah. Other people—non-Natives—generally do not look good with long hair. Jonny Depp does, and Brad Pitt in “’Legends of the Fall’. He looked really yummy. But he always looks yummy. But no, if you weren’t Indian, I’d say keep your hair short.”
Now I was really intrigued, so I was obligated by law to keep digging deeper. “What if you didn’t know that I was Indian? Would I instantly become better looking with this particular shorter haircut?” The possibilities started rolling in my head—this could get good. “Or what if I was of Native descent, but not enough blood to be enrolled? Would you still consider me ‘Indian’ enough to have long hair?”
She thought about it. Obviously she didn’t want to say “yes.” But she looked resolute, like I couldn’t shake her from her principle. “Yeah—if I didn’t know that you were Indian, I’d say that I’d like you better with short hair. But you cut your hair short, and I know that you’re Indian. So yeah, you got uglier. In a loving way, of course.” She smiled.
Ouch. “Of course,” I grimaced.
While I felt vindicated that she realized her logical inconsistency about Indian men and their hair, I had to admit my dismay that, in my friend’s eyes, my attractiveness was vasectomized with a few snips of the scissors. Call me “vain.”
END RECENT CONVERSATION WITH MY DEAR FRIEND
Like pretty much any other topics amongst Natives, the topic of “hair” is fascinating and doesn’t lend itself to just one viewpoint, even amongst Natives. There are, of course, historical issues connected with Natives’ hair; we weren’t always allowed to choose the way we styled our hair. Those historical issues will be discussed later on in this series.
But hair is not only a “historical” thing for us, right? I mean, many Natives revere the past, but we’re also fashionable, contemporary people–it can’t be just about “history,” right? My nephews have all kinds of haircuts, mohawks, faux-hawks, mullets and buzz cuts; my nieces love to color their hair from their stereotypical jet black hair to more, let’s say “vibrant” colors. And every single one of those nephews and nieces also has pictures of them with braids and bushy morning hair. This is a series about hair–we’ll have time to talk about more contemporary AND historical issues.
It’s interesting. I wonder about the perception(s) of hair within our Native societies. I remember in college, when a Native had long hair, there was a presumption that the long-haired Native was “traditional;” I think that there’s usually a perception that a Native with long hair IS, in fact, somehow more Native (or Nativer) than a short-haired Native. In that school context, sometimes the long-haired Natives in school would play into that perception that they were, in fact, “traditional” so that they could spew off some pseudo-religious babble and make the giggling little hippie girls think that were “deep.”
Interestingly, the vast majority of the older “traditional” people that I know tend to have very neatly cut hair. Of course, some have braids, and some have mullets—business up front, party in the back. Many women have the hair hanging down and parted in the middle, straight out of a Cher video, some of the serious “rez” bangs and some have more contemporary hairstyles. Point is, there is no one style—fortunately—that defines Natives. Still, in some people’s eyes, the hair makes the Native.
Does it? Is hair more important to Natives than to other ethnicities?
I’m collecting hair stories. Specifically, I want to know about the significance/lack of significance of hair to Native people.
Please send me your hair stories AND pictures–whether it was a fight that you got into because someone teased you about your hair or it was a man who liked you specifically because of your hair. Or maybe you LOVE your new mohawk. Or possibly you’re just really proud of your mane and want to tell people WHY you grew it out or cut it off. Whatever it is. Please also let me know if I can cite these stories in future writing projects–I think that Indian Country, and OUTSIDE of Indian Country is curious about these stories and photos.