I can't take full credit for it — the genetic code I inherited from my lovely parents is a factor — but I grow good hair. Always have, and (hopefully) always will.
As I've gotten older, making it past the ages when I was terrified the ticking time bomb of male pattern baldness would finally strike, these brown locks have kept growing. That's why I decided to embrace what I have and let it grow. For more than two years, I didn't get a proper haircut, opting instead for an occasional trim so slight that my husband couldn't even tell the difference.
My hairy journey came to an end last Friday, Oct. 18, when I met up with my trusty barber. For a couple minutes, I had braids that made me feel like Pippi Longstocking, though my barber said I was actually a closer fit to Wednesday Addams. I'll be honest that the style made me bear an uncanny resemblance to that unfortunately braided member of '90s band Korn. Then the clippers came out, and a minute later, I had short hair again.
So why did I do it? Why throw away my Samson-like flowing mane that I've thoroughly loved, even when it clogged up the bathroom sink drain five times? Because the hair was never really mine. In a way, I've just been borrowing this mop for a couple years.
In 2016, I wanted to find a way to do something to help out, even in just a tiny, inconsequential way. Times are complicated now, people are hurting and I wanted to make just one life a little better. Or at least a little hairier.
But I couldn't find a good outlet. My job as a journalist means I must steer clear of political activism. My status as a millennial means I am still buried in an absurd amount of college debt and don't have much money to help financial causes. Like everyone else, I'm busy with work and life, and I don't have the time or energy most days to volunteer. And because I'm gay, I can't donate blood — yes, really, even in 2019, because of FDA rules.
But I can grow good hair, so that's what I did. I remembered donating hair back in my college days, and thought I might do it one more time before I went too bald or gray.
I opted to support Children With Hair Loss, a Michigan-based nonprofit that gives kids and young adults wigs and human hair replacements at no cost. There was no cost to me, either — kind of. I've probably spend an extra few hundred dollars on shampoo and conditioner these past couple years, not to mention new brushes and expensive hair products. Longer hair is more work, so cut us shaggy folk some slack if we take longer to style all of this beauty.
Inch by inch, the hair reached my shoulders, then kept getting longer. I taught myself to pull the mop into a simple ponytail when needed, and I even messed around with a messy bun. I never really pulled it off.
I've answered more questions than I ever expected: "Why is your hair so long?" "How did you get it to look like that?" "Isn't that hot in the summer?" "I bet that's warm in the winter!" (Answers: because I grew it out; I stopped cutting it; yes; not warm enough for North Dakota winters.)
I've had some weird interactions with strangers, too. Intoxicated people in particular seem to want to touch my hair, or comment on it, or make intense eye contact as they tell me I have "beautiful" locks or, in the case of a dude downtown last summer, that I was rocking a "nice manflow."
Here's what I wish people would know instead: For more than two years, I basically did nothing while still helping a stranger. More importantly, I served as a walking billboard for the ability for other people, too, to donate their hair if they so choose.
It was nice knowing you, auburn-brown-semi-wavy hair. I hope you make someone else a little happier. Maybe I'll regrow another 18 inches or so again, someday.
Whether you're blessed with thick hair or have unique gifts you can share with nonprofits or extra money to support a worthy cause, I think we'd all be better off doing something for a total stranger from time to time. It doesn't need to take two and a half years to do it — unless you're talking about going from a short style to a moppy mess. That takes time, and so much conditioner.
Find your way, luscious locks or not, and do it. Follow through. Just do something for someone else.
Your outlet for helping probably won't require a plumber's assistance to unclog pipes, either.