By Paige Srickland

“Me, age 8 or 9”

I’m not sure why, but I have always been partial to long(er) hair. Today, when I see a friend or colleague who had lengthy or “big” hair suddenly appear with a short bob I often feel a sense of loss because my mental image of them has been marred. I grieve for the likeness that once was. It’s partly disliking having to acclimate to another change, and it’s partly because I genuinely prefer seeing more hair than not on people.

When I was small, my (adoptive) parents were big believers in short hair. In fact, I didn’t have a single adoptive family member with long tresses. Perhaps for the men it was the norm of the day plus the influence of having been in the military.  For the women, I think they were just into keeping low maintenance and simple. I felt differently. 

I wanted my hair like Cher’s. At the very least I wanted pigtail braids or a long ponytail past my shoulders like Laura Ingalls Wilder or Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I never had that experience. Instead, as soon as my hair began to cover my ears, my mother would either schedule a trip to her hairdresser or take me out to the backyard and snip away. It was never just a little trim.  

I learned to distrust beauticians anywhere when it came to scissors, lest they attempt to also coif me in what they believed to be their preferred image, and not what I wanted for myself.  There were far too many times in my life when I was mistaken for being a boy because of my short ‘do. I remember once very clearly being with my brother at a Reds’ baseball game. We were leaning up against a fence getting a closer up view of the players. (Johnny Bench was my celebrity crush back in the day.) An attendant, (an older man), approached us and said, “Hey fellas, you have to move away from there!” “I’m a girl!” I yelled back at him before stomping off. I was more irate about being called a “fella” than I was about having to go back to my real seat. Identity was and is a powerful thing.

I was too small in the 1960s and most of the ’70s to tell my parents that not just trimming but cutting OFF my hair made me feel worthless and unaccepted. It made my body feel invaded and violated. I felt naked, scalped and cold. Forced hair chops did not help me feel secure and cared for because there was no negotiating. The whole experience created unfair communication practices. It was a control measure for the convenience of adults. 

Instead of taking the time to help with styling or teaching me what I could do with my fine, fly-away hair and fragile self image, my parents would have it all cropped short and simple. It was for them; not for my benefit. Hair-chops caused me to detest my appearance and created a negative body image. In my child-mind it convinced me that something must be undesirable about me because the important people in my life couldn’t accept me for the way I was. Maybe hair cutting was a way to make me look more like my adoptive family and less like the real me.

I wanted to see the Real Me. I needed to see the Real Me.

© 2021 Paige Strickland

Paige Adams Strickland is an adopted person who grew up in the closed or “Baby-Scoop” era. Today she is the author of two memoir books: Akin to the Truth and After the Truth, which are about life as an adopted child and adult respectively. She is married with two daughters and two grandchildren, a teacher, pet mom, Zumba Fitness ™ instructor and in reunion with her biological family.

About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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10 Responses to Hair

  1. deborahpm says:

    Nice story, well told. I remember those haircuts! Deborah Wilbrink, Personal Historian (615) 417-8424 Have a memorable day!

    On Wed, Oct 27, 2021 at 8:27 AM True Stories Well Told wrote:

    > first person productions posted: ” By Paige Srickland “Me, age 8 or 9″ I’m > not sure why, but I have always been partial to long(er) hair. Today, when > I see a friend or colleague who had lengthy or “big” hair suddenly appear > with a short bob I often feel a sense of loss because my me” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Valerie says:

    So I’m curious to find out if your bio mother had long hair. Being adopted I wondered about things like this.
    Great post … 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • She had shoulder-length hair, so while not like Cher’s…It was long enough. She also was a wig person…for style and fun…not due to thin, breaking hair. She experimented with styles without burning a bridge by cutting off hair. I am told she was hoping to go to cosmetology school, which did not pan out but sounds like it was kind of a hobby for her in life. I love hair color and doing my own styles. During COVID last yr I learned how to do my own acrylic nails at home. So somehow I think hair/beauty stuff would be a common interest had we ever met. (She died too young, which was part of the problem with not being able to keep me).


  3. Sandra D says:

    Thank you for bringing this up! I too had hair issues with my adoptress. She felt my hair was hers to play with. She gave me ‘baby perms, so my hair would look like Shirley Temple’s. She would dress me up like a doll. As a preteen she cut my hair and curled it into a flip do. I absolutely hated it! I cried and cried, she took photos of it saying how ‘cute’ it was, telling me to smile and pose with it. Just Horrid. I still cannot talk about the ‘flip do’ without getting tears of frustration and anger.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have very fine, thin hair. The only good thing about it was that it was soft like a baby’s. My a-family – all the women and girls – had incredibly thick, long hair. They would complain that they kept having to cut it because it was in the way, or too heavy, etc. Meanwhile, I had my first haircut at age five because it wasn’t necessary before that. And because it was so fine and prone to tangles, it was kept short. The worst torture was Dippity-Do and those spiky curlers. My a-mom tried to set my hair in cute little ringlets but all she got was a crying little girl whose hair was being pulled. She gave up by the time I was six. Turns out, I have my b-dad’s hair. No one from my b-mom’s family (who I am in reunion with) has hair like mine, either. It’s from the side I don’t have a relationship with. I always found the whole thing cosmically unfair. Now my hair is curly. *Didn’t see that coming.) I still have to keep it short because it’s still so thin that it looks awful if it’s even down to my shoulders.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Floof. Something I’ve never had. I knew what you meant, Paige. 🙂


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