Hair: It’s not just what’s on your head anymore

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The next lesson in the Christian Charm Manual reveals the answer to one of the great spiritual mysteries pondered by mystics and theologians through the ages: Which hairstyles are God-approved? And does God have one favorite hairstyle?

In the tried and true method of Cosmo, the Charm Marm gives the girlies a multiple choice quiz on this page. The questions:

  • Should I be overly concerned with my hair?
  • What should be my motive in striving for lovely hair?
  • Should I choose an extreme or elaborate hairdo?
  • Should I change the basic color of my hair?

With the right answers, we can get to chopping and curling immediately! Holy approval is only a visit to a beautician away! Forget a nunnery – get thee to a beauty salon!

The wrong answers – and there are decidedly wrong answers – are as interesting as the right ones. The upshot of the quiz is that since “if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her” (have I thanked you lately for that one, Apostle Paul?), some time should be spent to keep hair “clean, well-groomed and attractive.” A girl should be careful, though, that her motive is not “to outdo the other girls” or “to attract attention” but rather to be admired so that her “influence will count for Christ.” Naturally, this leads to “modest, simplistic” styles.

I think we know where this is going – a girl’s hair should be mostly straight but not overly straightened. One doesn’t want the eye to linger. It should have enough wave to hint of a smile and to suggest an upbeat demeanor. But beware of unchecked curls that may appear untamed.

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Fourth & final holy hair mystery revealed!

Finally, the quiz reveals that God is the only qualified expert to determine your proper hair color. The fourth question discloses that in coloring your hair, you gain nothing and lose your “unaffected naturalness.” In addition, the false color might make you appear to be unsure of your personal worth. Ah, there’s the catch. Whether you really feel worthy (enough to attract attention, perhaps?) isn’t the point; it’s whether you appear to feel worthy that matters.

In other words:
Appearing to have confidence: Good!
Actually having enough confidence to make bold choices: Bad!

Attracting attention: Bad!
Being admired in order to attract attention for God: Good!
Blending in: Also good!

Appearing to care about appearance: Bad!
Caring about appearance: Good!

In addition to the skewed version of beauty and why it may or may not matter, this approach encourages a basic if subtle dishonesty and a disconnection from your true self. And listen, kitty cats, even if you’ve long stopped believing obviously absurd notions such as that Jesus prefers your hair a certain way, those underlying beliefs can remain in your subconscious patterns.

Undo the Charm Marm:
However nice it may be for your hairstyle to reflect something about who you are, I’m 100 percent sure that Jesus never had any rules about it. I have no objection to lovely hair. I own more than one comb, and I condition my locks regularly. I expect corporations to encourage me to have an inordinate preoccupation with my hair. I expect them to conduct scientific tests and haul out experts who will try willy-nilly to get me to buy their products in an onslaught of ads. But religious hair instruction is more insidious than media assaults on a girl’s self-esteem.

As Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English point out in For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts Advice to Women, when experts and official figures give advice, they nearly always over the decades have pointed women toward domesticity with “the solemn and intimidating authority of science to back them up.” In Christian Charm Class, science gets replaced by God (just refer to the six-day creation story taught in my school’s science class), and the pressure to appear a certain way gets all muddled together with whether a lake of fire is in your eternal future and whether you’re disappointing your ultimate authority figure with every stroke of your brush.

So here’s a new quiz for you, Charm Marm:

  • Do you have a clear sense of what makes you a unique person?
  • Do you have the confidence to express that part of yourself, even if it involves (gasp!) attracting attention?
  • Does your passion for life come through in all sorts of ways, maybe including your hairdo and maybe not?

Fair enough.

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