My Hair, My Self

I had imagined, on many occasions, cutting my own hair. I would take the lot of it in my left fist as if to make a side pony-tail, a pair of large strong scissors would glint in my right hand and I’d slice through. I would do it in one slow movement, watching each strand snap and bounce away from the blades until I was left with a jagged diagonal bob. It would feel like an act of defiance. I am not who you say I am. I am not who you want me to be.

Rapunzel by Emma Florence Henderson

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!

To let down one’s hair means to relax and enjoy oneself. An argument could be made that this is exactly what Rapunzel does when she lets her hair down to the prince. Can the same be said for when she does so for the witch? Her hair is an extension of her body: the body of a young woman with all the myriad connotations attached to this throughout history. Impossibly long and invariably golden, Rapunzel’s hair marks her innocence, uncut and inviolate and yet it is a gateway to her awakening sexuality, inviting the prince into her tower and her bed. It is also a dangerous artefact used to lure the prince into danger and his blinding by the witch.

How connected is the body to the self? The witch cutting Rapunzel’s hair seems the ultimate violation and yet it proceeds her liberation. Liberation from her tower and from her objectification as both virginal child and sexual possession. Separated from her head Rapunzel’s hair remains an object, used by the witch, while she, herself, is empowered with the ability to restore the prince’s sight.

Let Down Your Hair by Anne Anderson

I asked the hairdresser if I could cut it myself. She laughed, “Sure.” She tied my hair into a low loose ponytail which I would cut above and handed me the scissors. I took hold of the lump of hair and proceeded to cut. It was not easy. The scissors did not glide through. I had to chop at the ponytail, opening and closing the scissors again and again, moving forward surprisingly slowly. At the end I held it limp in my hand, it didn’t even look very long. I smiled. I did feel free. I had needed the reminder that my body and myself was my own, that I had ultimate control over it. Now I’d remembered that I could grow it back.

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