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Hairstories Transcriptions

Appendix II

Texts from Andrea Wardís Hairstories

These stories were collected by the artist in interviews she conducted with the women who answered her advertisements. To each woman the artist posed three questions: “Do you have any memories about your hair? Do you have any dreams about your hair? Is there any cultural significance to the way you maintain your hair?” The texts appear in the same place on each panel, centred near the lower edge. MSVU Collection accession numbers are shown with the transcribed texts.

I now acknowledge my physical being as a woman. To have my hair an inch around my head is the first physical statement Iíve made about myself. I realized that cutting it off was symbolically a loss of a childlike image of myself. Born 1955

I choose red because it is such a strong and beautiful colour. The crimson leaves in fall, the sun, lava, are especially powerful images for me. I have always thought of people with a shock of red hair as invincible. I wish mine were natural. Born 1939

Most of my friends were dreading their hair. I thought I might do it too but it wasnít an easy decision. It is a cultural, racial and political move to dread your hair. Within the community, you may be seen as a rebel and be alienated. Born 1953

I plucked my chest, waxed my legs, plucked my nipple hair, waxed my thighs and bleached my eyebrows in the middle. My fetish was to remove stray hair. Born 1966

Presumably, it will turn white sooner or later and then I will probably colour it. Born 1926

On the third day we were camping in the mountains, I was over by a brook brushing my teeth when a woman from an American group of tourists came up and said "Oh, look at me. My legs are starting to look like a European womanís. I havenít been able to shave them in three days". I laughed and said, “I havenít shaved my legs my whole life.” She was horrified and said, “Doesnít the place you work say something? How can you wear panty-hose? Born 1955

When I was really young I smeared my head with Vaseline, hoping that would help straighten it. Later, I remember my older sister and I going to bed with a torturous head of curlers. Her hair was bone straight and she was trying to make it wavy and I was trying to smooth mine out. Now I accept my hair, which is a real relief. Born 1954

I would drag my hair back from the tips and knot it up until it broke off. Once I had the little ball in my fingers I would roll it tightly together and toss it on the ground. Mom used to come sweep up in the morning and these little spider-like things would be in the pile. She always looked at them strangely but she never said anything. Born 1956
I'm part Micmac and part Scottish. Thatís why my hair is reddish brown. My grandfather told me my appearance was a great gift. As an invisible minority, I could be the most excellent of scouts and go between both worlds having greater understanding and balance. Born 1960

When I was young and growing up my mother would comb my hair. Sometimes she would say, "Oh, it's too bad, your hair used to be shiny blue-black and now it's only brown." Mother used to mourn over that. Born 1903

There was a park near our home just outside of Montreal. My sister and I would spend hours swinging underneath a canopy of willow trees. Once, I felt dizzy from swinging too high. The next thing I knew I was on the ground looking at the clouds. I had flown off the swing and caught my hair on some huge branches which had fallen from a spring storm. A small piece of my hair lay curled up on the grass. Born 1937

My sisters have beautiful thick hair. They used to wear it long. When one sister was being married, we were bridesmaids. They were trying to get my hair to grow long so that we would all look the same. I went to a hair dresser that trimmed my hair every week so that it would grow. It became almost as long as my sisters. In those days you used to put a bobby sock in your hair and roll it up. My hair became long enough to do that for the wedding. Born 1919

I have really thick hair and I probably could spare some but for a long time I have had this fear about losing patches of hair. When I was about eighteen I was under a lot of pressure. Chunks of hair just came out. I was washing my hair in the sink and I was leaning forward and I could feel that there was a part of my scalp that was completely bald. In this forest of hair there was this one vacant part about an inch and a half in diameter. Born 1955

I went to a hair dresser for the first time when I was twelve. My friend, who was white, came with me. My hair dresser was Chinese. My friend said to me "You have to save a lock of your hair because you hair is going to change and you should keep it as a keepsake.” My hair dresser said, “No, no, no, Chinese peopleís hair never changes. It is always black!” and she threw it all away. Born 1964

I had it permed one time by my aunt Rina. The way they used to do it years ago with this huge machine. I was eight years old and I was terrified. They would put your hair in these thin little rods which were connected to this dangerous looking electrical contraption. I think it was something like a complicated chemical curling iron. I thought it would explode. Born 1935

When I was young I had really long, black, straight hair all the way down my back but always wanted it to be really curly. I remember my mom trying to make my hair curly. She used to pin curls in it when it was wet. The bobby pins which held them would stick in my head when I slept overnight. By the end of the day there was never a trace of curl left. I always wanted different hair. Born 1965

I am a black Nova Scotian woman. When I was growing up, all the girls in my home had to wash their hair and straighten it once a week. We did this with a fine-toothed steel comb which had a long wooden handle. The steel part was stuck into the stove to heat up. We would spit on it and if it sizzled it was ready. Special hair grease was used if you had a bit of money. If you were poor you would use Vaseline. We would prop up a mirror at the Kitchen table, part our hair in little parts and smear Vaseline in it. Then we took the red hot steel comb and pulled it through each piece of hair until our whole head was done. After this our hair was perfectly straight, stiff as a board and greasy. Lastly, we wound up our hair in curlers to make very serious curls. Born 1954

I used to be in love with this girl named Gretchen. She always told me I would look better blond. One day after school we tried to lighten my hair. We used stuff from the drug store but the seven stages of lightening didn't happen. It turned brassy yellow. I thought Javex bleach might make it whiter so we went into her mom's laundry room and poured it over my head. It really stung. All along the tips it fused together in clumps. Although I do it differently, I still endure bleaching torture. Everyone tells me I look better blonde. Born 1966

When I was in high-school I had to board with this family. There were four native girls staying in the house. We all had long hair. The family had recently put a nice red carpet in their living room. The woman had bought a new vacuum cleaner to maintain it. As we were going upstairs through the living room, our hair would fall out on the red rug. The woman got really pissed off at us one day and told us to stay in the basement because our hair wrecked her vacuum cleaner. She said our hair burned out the motor. That was how powerful our hair was! Obviously she had a problem with us being native. We were hurt and offended and eventually moved out. Born 1960

During the Cultural Revolution all the girls had very short hair, cropped beneath the ears, with bangs. It seems crazy that everyone would keep their hair like that and wear green coats like the P.L.A. men—the Chinese soldiers. I did not see it but I heard through my grandmother that if a girl was to curl her hair or do something slightly different with it, they would grab her in the street and cut it off. Born 1969

I was going to a job interview in Toronto. A good friend of mine arrived and asked where I was going. I told her. She look shocked and asked," Well, aren't you going to do something about your face?" She insisted I wait while she went to the drugstore to get a bottle of Neet. I was enraged, but I took it upstairs to the bathroom. Afterwards I came down and said, "Okay, is it easier for you to look at?" Her reply was," that's much better, you look like the little girl your daddy always loved." I don't think she ever understood why I was so angry. For her to do something like that was second nature. She had been a beauty queen. Born 1954

Every major event in my life has been prefaced by this ragging ritual. It has taken on a superstitious quality that's more about the event than the aesthetic result. Born 1963

When I was pregnant with my second child, her father and I broke up. My nerves were very bad. I became severely depressed. My hair fell out on one whole side of my head. The bald spot was huge. It took almost a whole year to grow back. But the specialists said that mine wasn't so bad—at least I could cover it with the other half of my hair. Born 1954

When I was very young I had honey blonde hair that fell at least waist length. Once I was playing with matches and by accident, I set my hair on fire. It caught fire instantly and burst into flames. I was very frightened and didn't know what to do. The first thing I thought was to put it out with water. As I ran towards our rain barrel, the flames became worse. I remember the pungent smell quite distinctly. Since then, I have had dreams where I see myself in a white gown with my hair aflame, running. Born 1901

Because I was adopted, I had very different features than my sister. My arms were dark and hairy. My sister, who was fair, would tease me and call me "gorilla arms" or "jungle arms". I began shaving them in fear that others would imagine that I was less than human. Born 1949

When I was meeting with this lesbian therapy group, a women referred to my long hair and asked if I was going through a femme stage. I replied that it was aesthetic and that many men, who are concerned with their aesthetic presentation, grow it long and put it back. What I do find femme is loads of makeup and jewellery. Born 1952

Just a few nights ago I dreamed about somebody I didn't know. She was a beautiful young person with platinum blonde hair. In the dream she had come up against something in a forest that had turned her hair a very pale spring green. She didn't dye it, it just turned that way. A soft wind began to blow her hair each time she got up to go somewhere. I said to her, "Your hair has turned green." I don't remember what she replied. Born 1911

When I got my first couple of pubic hairs I was terrified. I was an early bloomer and, along with other changes in my body, it felt like the most horrible thing that could have happened to me. At first I plucked them out, but that was too painful. So I would sneak into my father's bathroom, lock the door and shave them off. I felt like I wasn't in control of my body. Born 1947

A pattern in my life has continued since my early twenties. I get my hair cut every three years in June. I get it chopped right off and permed so I have just enough to wrap around my index finger. I can't stand going to the hair dresser's. Itís torture. I would sooner go to the dentist. Born 1940

Women who look butchy are threatening. Since I got it cut off I feel like 'lesbian' is written all over my face. When I'm walking down the street hand-in-hand with my lover, who has long beautiful hair, people direct their homophobic comments at me and not her. Born 1960

With it short, I feel more vulnerable in terms of my lesbian sexuality. I'm not camouflaged. If I wanted to become more invisible I would wear my hair long. Born 1934

In the morning I would look into the mirror. My hair was very thin on both sides. If I styled it in a certain way, I could conceal the baldness and envisage that I had a full head of hair. If a bald woman walks down the street, every person would look at her. Born 1951

I was trying to get rid of the hair on my thighs with Nair. My Mom called on the telephone when I was putting it on. We got talking and it kind of spread over my pubic hair. When I hung up, I got up and washed it off. The hair was all gone. I felt really embarrassed. Born 1963

Some little boys in the swimming class I was instructing screamed, "Lower beard, lower beard", at me. When I looked I was mortified. They were referring to the hair that was sprouting out around my bikini line! Immediately, I rushed into the shower and tried to tuck it in. After that one time I went through the painful process of getting it waxed off. Now I wear shorts swimming. Born 1961

My mother was Mexican and my father was American. In my father's community, I had fair skin with dark brown hair and eyes so I was considered a brunette. However, in my mother's community, it was different. They consider a person's complexion as well as their hair and eyes. I wasn't considered a "morena" or Moorish looking because my skin was fair. So, in spite of dark eyes and hair I was a blonde! Born 1936

The first time I became aware of my hair, I was eight or nine. My mother cut it all off, straightened it and said," I can't deal with your hair anymore." I was devastated. I had never thought of my hair as being a problem. It was the first time I became aware that my difference was not acceptable. I feel most free with my hair as short as it can possibly be. Born 1950

My grandmother had a large mole on her chin. This mole had many hairs growing out of it. My young sister once sat on her lap and stroked the hairs on the mole saying, "pretty, pretty." After this, my grandmother had the mole removed since it was clear to her that it was visible. Later, my sister grew a mole on her chin in the very same place with even more hair than my grandmother's. She has tried to have it removed but it keeps coming back. Born 1951

I must have been three years old. My older sister, who was about seven and a half, was baby-sitting us. Something told me to go into the closet, close the door and cut my hair. I just had this notion. I didn't do it in a methodical way—I just whacked it all off. When my mother returned she gave my sister the worst whipping I have ever known. That has been a lasting memory. Since then, my hair has fallen out on certain occasions. Born 1919

I wasn't born with nappy hair because I'm half black and half white. When I was about seventeen I went through this stage where I would chemically straighten my hair and then loosely curl it with a curling iron. I would spend three or four hours straightening it, blowing it dry, and then curling it. The next day I would have to do it all over again. Born 1968

As I started to mature and grow breasts I used to conceal them with my long thick hair. I found it very comforting. Born 1962

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