“On Your Image” is a phrase used in recovery to describe the lifestyle you are projecting to others. We are all on our image whether we like it or not. We are all either: A.) in some sort of recovery from some sort of damage or the other or B.) in denial. I am not talking about formal recovery like rehab or a 12 step program, just the way we traverse the years and deal with adversity and wounds from the past. Face em or bury em.
I woke up two days ago and decided to get my hair cut. This is probably a common occurrence for most people. They get a hair cut weekly? Bi-weekly? monthly? It has been a long time since I had had even a trim. The last trim I remembered was before my wedding over two years ago. Getting my hair cut was a big deal to me.
Most guys my age either don’t have hair, or they do, but it is white. There are also combinations of balding and whiteness/greyness that men my age contend with. This sets me apart from that category “men my age”. Most teachers are relatively clean cut. Hair sets me apart from that group as well. While out walking the dogs several years ago a neighbour introduced himself and said “So, you’re the neighbourhood hippie!” I was relieved that I did not fit in to this setting. I stood out. With long hair I could maintain the delusion of immortality and being an outsider, a counter-culture rebel, a musician. and not “the man”: Teacher, dad, suburban middle-class, middle-aged curmudgeon which is actually closer to the truth.
Image. Ego. Insecurity.
I used to be proud of my “I don’t give a shit what others think” attitude. Turns out I do care more than I thought. I present as someone who doesn’t give a shit, but hidden from view is this insecurity and fear of being normal. being mediocre. being forgettable, being boring….gasp!!!!
As a teenager I had many struggles with my parents over the length of my hair. I liked it long. All my heroes were hippies and yippies and Rock musicians who I wanted to emulate. I even started a petition in High School as to whether I should cut my hair. My favourite comment was from my vice principal who wrote that “Leroy Beals has no concern with what is on the outside of Ian’s head, he is, however deeply concerned with what is on the inside of Ian’s Head”.
My hair was not always long. For the first half of my adult life, I kept it kind of short. Sometimes spikey. Punk. As a young teacher, Music Therapist and dad, short hair and a clean shaven face were how I presented. Short hair does not get pulled when interacting with young children with Autism or my own babies. I never had to shave more than once a week because my “whiskers” were only barely visible. My heroes at the time were Jazz musicians whose hair did not figure into their coolness.
Things shifted for me a few years back as my mom was descending into her dementia and my job satisfaction was diminishing and my first marriage was crumbling. I discovered that without the judgement of my mom, I was free to do whatever I wanted. Her voice telling me to “forgive” and to “turn the other cheek” turned into a “NO!” I don’t want to take this anymore from anyone. I started to let my hair grow, and when my mum died I had the freedom to make clear choices without the cloud of her invading my conscience. I switched jobs. switched partners. Switched on my creative juices. My musical output went from “sporadic” to “frequent” to “constant” and my self-esteem and confidence started to blossom. All of this coincided with my growing my hair longer.
Just before getting it cut, my hair was half way down my back. It got caught in my seat belt and my harmonica holder (not at the same time…). All shoulder straps pulled my hair. My hair blew all over my face on windy days, stuck to my sweaty neck on hot days, got in my mouth sometimes when eating My bird (Johnny Winter) would like to burrow up in there like some divine nest. Getting my hair cut was a big deal for me. My hair kinda defined me.
I went from being “Jack Nicholson” to “Sting” to “The Dude” through to “Willie Nelson”, “Gandalf”, “ZZ Top” and “biker” or “viking”. Guess who is more “on his image” than the people he sat back and judged? Did you notice that I was projecting an image of “other” that has other people’s names on it? Oh the narcissism, vanity and hubris I am guilty of!
I was thinking that my hair is where my strength came from. Like Samson, whose hair was the source of his strength and a symbol of God’s power. When his hair had been cut by the trickery of Delilah, he lost everything and he was captured by the Philistines who blinded him by gouging out his eyes.
The Philistines are the last people you want to contend with as an artist. They are the enemies of freedom and truth and beauty. Unawake people with little or no time or aesthetic sensibility. I hate them, try to ignore them. They are stupid. I certainly don’t want them controlling my life. Guaranteed they vote for pigs.
Well. I am not Samson. My hair is not the source of my strength. Never was. I cut my hair and lo and behold, I am still here. No fear of Philistines. Feeling stronger than ever.
I am free of this burden for the time being. My hair is going to be sewn into a wig for someone whose “image” has changed due to the indignities of trying to save their life through chemotherapy. They are not “on their image”. They are projecting “sick person”. Who the hell wants to project that?! If a small vanity of a wig restores some of their “non-sick person” my hair will have done more good than it ever did on my head.