Whither The Child?

There was a time – an unfair, enviable time – when the laws of coiffure were strict and steadfast.  These laws tucked morality inside the twisted designs and curls, made sure its rules brushed across braids and ribbons – and that they lay across shoulders in glistening commandments.

A young girl was allowed to proclaim her youth with long, undressed hair.  Like a forest – unknown, undiscovered, untouched by man – her hair was chaste and uncivilized.   She stood outside the tight refinements of adulthood, brandishing her carelessness in a fiery aura.  If she wore her hair clipped, curled or sculpted, she would be reaching into years she was not yet  prepared for – abusing her unadorned childhood, her Victorian gift.

A woman, however, had earned the right to the petty foolishness and daintiness of a lady’s toilette.  Her hair could now be piled into complex patterns, lost and cursive, braided and frizzed – mocking the bare terrain of neck and shoulders.  Held up in turrets by pins and combs, troubled by jeweled bands and flowers, it was a declaration of readiness to touch society’s bracing seas.

But when the woman takes back the appearance of a child, she assumes the seductive confusion of mixed warnings.  The girl sees with eyes dark with experience and breathes within the boned décolleté of brocade and embroidery.  And the woman is warmed by the torrent of hair – as coarse as new silk – that covers her shoulders and arms.

Betwixt And Between

This misplaced femininity was almost immoral – a daring negotiation that wove through the peripheries of age.  With such a bewilderment of years the child risked a quick maturity, and the woman became fiercely approachable.  It was a betrayal of the laws of nature and society that coiled like DNA to define the child’s behavior and set the boundaries of the woman’s home.

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8 responses to “Whither The Child?

  1. A woman’s hair was only to be seen by her husband. Long hair turns men on, and anything that turns men on had to be hidden. You could show it as an innocent girl, under supervision, to attract a husband. After that, you were off the market and it had to be hidden. However, this had the advantage of displaying glimpses of neck during the day, and often quite a lot of it at night.

    My grandparents always turned their backs on one another to undress, or dress. They shared the same bed, had two children together, but never saw each other naked. They were both born in the XIXth Century.

  2. Hi,
    A great post, and enjoyable read. 🙂
    I love the photo.

  3. Precisely as LMKD says, long hair is allurement. People often ask me why I don’t wear my hair down and they always seem shocked or disconcerted when I explain that long, tangled, curling red hair is about sex. Almost an advertisement for sex. No one ever asks after they have seen my hair down, though. Then they understand that for my quotidienne professional life, I have to contain and control my hair.

  4. Lady Marilyn – it is precisely that glimpse of neck – curved and pale – which can be so enticing and dangerous. Yet at the same time long hair is so often an invitation to predatory fingers.

    magsx2 – thanks! I found that postcard on my way out from the Ventura flea market. I hadn’t found any cards and was quite disgusted. But I saw one last box of cards and that’s where I found her. Her immoral hair, her delicate dress – she was irresistible!

    Redz – So true. Such lushness is meant to be seen by only a chosen few. People shouldn’t be surprised – there is a threat in such unbridled beauty.

  5. I am in awe of how a portrait that might inspire in the rest of us words like, “How unusual”, or “How lovely” provoke a poetic symphony of evocative prose from your creative mind.

  6. I’ve always wanted long hair. In fact, as a young girl, I had those pipestem curls – nearly to my waist. As I got older, my hair became more and more naturally curly, and the weight of long hair pulled the curl out. Then, I started sailing and discovered I was congenially hated by other cruising women – salt and water gave me lovely locks. So it has been.

    It did take me years to get over the thought that only long-haired women could be attractive!

  7. This is very poetic. I loved the imagery that wove in and out of your article. I never thought something like the history of women’s hairstyles could be so interesting and fun to read.

  8. My maternal grandmother born in 1905 had hair so long that she could sit on it. As a mother of small children she cut it off much to the shock and horror of her relatives. She was always her own woman.

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