I wrote this for my personal blog, sometimes - 2, and then I got to thinking. We as Sikhs are a little known and often misunderstood group. What better place to get to know us a little than on this blog that's all about GlobaLove? This is a rather light-hearted look at our attitude toward hair.
My husband is again annoyed at all the money I spend on my hair. I think this is normal. Women do tend to spend a lot of money on their hair.
I was discussing this with a friend online. What are the things most women do to their hair? Straightening, I mean, relaxing, perming, weaves, cornrows (where did that name come from?), braids, extensions, all kinds of styling and, of course, cuts.
She said that she spends about $100.00 a month at the salon, in addition to home care products, such as shampoo, conditioner, gels, mousse, sprays and a weekly deep conditioner. That can easily add up to another $50.00 per month. Then there are brushes, combs, ties, and ornaments. I am going to disregard them, as I have no way to approximate that.
My expenses are somewhat less. In twenty years of marriage, I have been to a salon - not even one time. Wait, I was in a salon once. I'll tell about that later. I have never used or paid for the services of a salon even once. Well, once...I'll tell that story, too..
Given those figures, the average American woman would have spent about $36,000.00 over twenty years.
My expenses are somewhat less. I buy only three products for my hair: shampoo, conditioner and hair oil. Although I refuse to use that hair garbage from the dollar store - it makes my hair, which is very dry, break off and my scalp itch - I do not use the expensive salon items. I buy what is on sale at the local grocery/drug store. Shampoo and conditioner cost about $7.00 each for a bottle. One bottle will last me about a month. Hair oil, even imported from India is not expensive. The kind I usually use costs about $6.00 a bottle and lasts a couple of months. But let's say, I use a bottle a month. That all adds up to to $20.00 per month. Over twenty years, that adds up to a grand total of $4,800.
That means I have saved us about $31,200 over the twenty years of our marriage. I'd say I'm quite a bargain!
About that trip to the salon. A friend asked me to meet her there. With some misgivings, I agreed. I do not think any keshdhari Sikh could possibly feel comfortable in such a place. (For my nonSikh readers, being keshdhari means following the distinctively Sikh practice of leaving the hair unshorn and in its natural state.)
I am keshdhari. Going to a hair salon felt a little like going to a brothel. Interesting, a bit disgusting, quite daring and very uncomfortable. I was very much out of place, rather like a lioness at a dog show.
I first noticed the smell. A hair salon smells a bit like a chemistry lab without fume hoods. Ammonia seemed to predominate, along with some smells I couldn't identify. Someone had lit some incense, I suppose to cover up the noxious odours. It didn't work. Both my nostrils and my eyes were assaulted and I felt vaguely sick to my stomach.
The sights that met my eyes were a bit shocking. I mean, I know what goes on in these places, but to actually witness it! Here were all these women, all seemingly having a good time, mutilating their hair in various ways with these toxic chemicals. I could almost hear their tortured hairs screaming out in agony. And on the floor lay strands and strings of amputated hairs of all sorts of colours, some natural, most dyed. All dead.
My friend was in another room, but the receptionist recognised her name when I asked her. I left a note asking her to meet me at a near-by coffee shop and got out of that chamber of horrors. That was maybe 15 years ago; I have not been in one since.
I will be honest. Many years ago, while married to Mani, I did go to a hair salon for a service. I took it into my head that I wanted to get my hair professionally conditioned. I think mostly I was curious at exactly what went on in there. I found out.
I explained that I just wanted a deep conditioning. As this was in Montreal, of course it was all in French. I'll spare you and write in English. The young woman who was to serve me had bright blonde hair of an improbable shade puffed around her face to make her head look very round. She approached me. saw my neat bun and reached up to take out my kangha. I let out a yelp and fastened it to a sort of string around my neck. Jeanette - I don't remember her name, but that seems appropriate - loosened my hair which fell and fell and fell. She actually let out a little gasp and said she'd never seen such long hair. There was no approval in her voice; in fact her tone was accusatory. She picked up the ends of it and with several hmm, hmm, hmms, examined them closely "Virgin hair," she murmured.. "You have split ends. I'll have to trim them off before it can be properly conditioned."
"You'll do no such thing. Cut a single hair and I'll have your," I caught my breath and choked back the obscenity that had been on my lips, "cosmetology licence."
"Do you belong to some weird religious cult or something that won't let women cut their hair?"
"Or something," I growled. "And men don't cut their hair either."
"Well, you should break free and become your own woman." She picked up her scissors. "Long hair is really not becoming on you with that long neck. You have such a high forehead, you really need some cute bangs. You really need a sexy new hair style. Let me help you get free from all " - she held up my precious kesh - "this."
I admit that I sprang out of the chair and got out of there fast. I suppose she still thinks that I came from some strange cult and had inadvertently wandered into the Twentieth Century.
After that I conditioned my own hair - or rather Mani and I did each other's hair, which was not only safer, but also a lot more pleasant.
I have one more thought about long hair. I once watched on The Oprah Winfrey Show, an episode that greatly disturbed me. A bunch of women - and one man - with very long hair were to get makeovers. The main point was to cut off that awful, old-fashioned, ugly, long hair. Give these people a modern, "sexy" look. I admit they did look very different, but BETTER? Not in my opinion. I had the same reaction I have when someone suggests I'd look better if I wore make-up. I always respond,"Better? No, just different." The man went from a strong, masculine man with a full beard and mustache, and hair as long as - although not as healthy - as a keshdhari Sikh to a somewhat girlish metrosexual. I did not like at all.
At least the shorn hair was donated to Locks of Love, a charity that makes human hair wigs for children who have lost their hair, usually as the result of cancer treatments. A worthy cause.
Now, in case you are thinking that these Sikhs are a bit daft with this whole hair thing, allow me a brief explanation. We believe that our Creator knew what it was doing when it made us and we couldn't be more perfectly made. We have hair for a reason, in fact, several practical reasons which I am not going into right now. Even if we could find no practical reason for hair, the fact is that Akaal Purakh (God) gave us a gift of our hair and it is for us to gratefully accept and cherish this gift. (Of course, there's more to it than that, but I think that'll be enough for a start, eh?)
If we still seem a bit daft to you, that's OK. We don't mind. Most of us anyway.
WHY TRY TO FIT IN? YOU WERE BORN TO STAND OUT!