It aint easy being indian
I just have to share a very spooky moment I recently experienced. It was morning, I absent-ly looked in to my hall mirror and saw Kim Jong-II, big as life. He had red, beady eyes, with dark shadows as if he were ill and his hair stood straight up, real scary-like. What was the North Korean dictator doing, showing up in my mirror? His eyes widened and he squeaked something unintelligible. I don’t know Korean. Then I focused. The image in the mirror was...me!
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Moi. Ricey Wild. I looked like the taller twin sister of Kim Jong-II, sans coke bottle glasses. It is very difficult for me to communicate my utter shock and horror at my reflection. I would have passed out had I not begun to laugh and laugh. I laughed so long and so hard I was gasping, almost gagging, for breath.
It’s a good thing I have a highly developed sense of humor. And irony? My mirror used to be my friend. But like some friends do, it turned on me – viciously pointing out all my faults and shortcomings in glaring detail.
Back in the day my hair was long, glossy and so pretty. I kept the ends
trimmed, I don’t like that straggly, dead hair look. And I took pains
to style it well. My features were generic/exotic, most people who were
not Indian would ask me ‘what are you?’ and a couple people even asked
what country I was from. I could pass for Mexican or Latina. They asked
if I was Haiwiian, Italian, Greek, Phillipina, Mulatto (that’s the word
they used). I really missed my calling. I coulda been an international
Fast forward to the present day. Kim Jong-II showing up in my mirror.
Horror. Despair. What happened? How could this be? It’s not just age,
although I realize it has a lot to do with it. It’s my hair. What’s
left of it anywayz. This past January I took scissors to my head and
cut it all off, in some places down to the scalp. The reason is because
I was and am grieving.
I used to wonder why Indians did that? Cut their hair in times of grief
and loss. The action puzzled me, what could it prove? Well, now I know,
and the why is still too painfully raw for me to share. In the Geronimo
episode of “We Shall Remain”, it said that after his wife and children
were murdered, he never grew his hair long again.
This got me thinking. What is hair to an Indian? Is it personal,
spiritual or practical? Is having long hair pan-Indian? There are a lot
of photos of the old Indians with long hair, and others are cut in
specific cultural styles, and short.
I concluded that it depends on what nation you are from, if you keep
your hair long or not. And come to think of it, it was those Pink
invaders who decided that all Indians have or should have long hair.
Look at all them old westerns, ay? Racist pop culture.
Another thought! Long hair was shorn off Indian children when they were
sent to the boarding schools. It was done along with other heinous acts
to cut them off from their culture. So all those kids began their
schooling in European acculturation, in mourning. You ever seen a
picture of a happy Indian from those days? Heck no.
After I had hacked all my hair off, I looked simply awful! I had bald
patches, tufts and straggles. I have seen old white men with more hair
on their eyebrows than I had left on my dome. My vanity would not let
me be seen in public with such a ‘doo”. So I wore hats, tried tying
scarves, my Gramma bought me a wig, all to hide what I had done to
myself. Finally my hair started growing out. I got it cut and styled,
and told the stylist to make it ‘look like I meant to do this’.
I was pleased with my new coif, but I was still kinda nervous about
people’s reaction to it. My head is on the large side, my face very
round. In my imagination I thought I looked like a bowling ball with
hair. When I went about Blueberry and Rezberry I did catch some puzzled
looks. I have to wonder if they thought I ‘caught gay’ and went to bat
for the other side.
So imagine my happy surprise when people notice my new ‘do’ and tell me
that they like it. At first I was nonplussed, thinking they are kidding
me, but they are very sincere and I thank all of them.
It ain’t easy being Indian with a hair complex. The lesson for me in
all this is that life goes on, hair grows, and I will see my beloved
again. I miss you son.