Ripping Hair and Distress


Tuesday night was dreadful: Very upsetting and stomach-curdling in the emotional sense. I cannot give the details, other than to say that the conversation, its barbs ripping at my every nerve, has put a big question mark over the multiply-delayed move.

In its aftermath, I did something which – I realised afterwards – is a life-long habit when faced with this level of stress and powerlessness: I started worrying at, agitating actually, my scalp – scratching and ripping, making it bleed – and, in the process, tearing out the beautiful feathers which had adorned my locks since the Frost Fayre.

It could have been worse. In the bad old days, it would have been: I would have smoked to excess and got paralytic on alcohol. Or I would have held a knife over the trembling pale skin of my wrist and wished for the courage to slice until blood arced up in a fountain.

But there is something so sad and symbolic about my tiny localised act of self-destruction: Those lures shining in my locks seemed to be such a key to liberation; I felt stronger and more me with them in – and then, as Tuesday night wore on in its awful unstated aggression, the colours adorning my hair seemed to fade, their potency in doubt, their loveliness mere childish vanity.

There was nothing I could do about the situation – not at that point anyway – and so the hurt and anger and impotence turned inwards.

Afterwards, I held those pretty feathers in my hand, stroked them and wept. They represented every charge that has been lobbed at me – of being embarrassing and acting insanely and being destructively eccentric. But they also represent wings and flight and escape.

I did not burn them, or throw them away; I did not cut my long curls back down to the scalp (though all of these were fleeting temptations). No. I have placed my lovely lures carefully in a drawer and am studying them to find out how to put them back in my riotous and wild tresses.

Out of this horror, however, came a burning determination and certainty: This is the last time this particular kind of scenario will cause me to damage my own body or possessions. I will weave the pink, the purple and the black and white back in somehow – and I will move away from the bony and decaying fragments of this long-drawn-out stand-off.

My head, my hair, my desire for colourful decoration, the person I am should not have to be shocked and tamed into grey obedience or another’s inhibition and fear. The metaphorical chain round my neck – and the cruel jerks upon it – will snap; I am quite sure of that…

Liberation is a hard battle. Its most difficult barrier to overcome is the wall of habits which long-term bullying causes us to adopt as safety strategies.

This time, I am prepared to fight back – for my own liberation, for those around me and for those delightful feathers which, so briefly, allowed me to reclaim my true self.

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20 thoughts on “Ripping Hair and Distress

    1. Thank you, thank you. I think this one has probably been experienced by all too many of us in one form or another. The legends of power-stripping and hair go right back, Samson and Delilah being but one example. xxx

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  1. Ali..you have permission to show your anger towards others. You have permission to tell THEM how you feel. You have permission to stop hurting yourself. Sometimes we just need someone to remind us that those permissions come from simply being a living human. Isn’t it past time for you to speak up for yourself instead of holding it all in? We who share your life through your writings LOVE you, ADMIRE you..we pray to whatever gods we believe in for you. Get some bright feathers and weave them into not just your hair for the outward manifestation of your beauty but inside your SOUL. It too is beautiful.

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        1. You are lovely! Thanks so so much! Have texted you with update. The scenes take me back to childhood holidays in Budleigh Salterton and I had tremendous smily fun dressing the snowman. xxx

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  2. I feel so sad as you were so happy when you chose those feathers at the Frost Fayre…..You know, you are allowed to be angry with the person who caused this and express it rather than turning it inwards to self destruction. When I was a teacher I rarely got angry, but when someone did take the red rag to this bull it had the desired affect, as it also caused shock value and got the desired result…
    However, it appears you have had another important realisation and another personal act of self liberation. Your beautiful feathers will once more become symbolic of those wings of liberation….xxx

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    1. Me too, Dean, me too. But it has triggered my Inner Sekhmet – and a total recognition that such a scene, with this particular creature, is on its last legs. The Reign of Terror is almost over. My feathers will be re-planted in my hair! xxx

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  3. Stay strong. You’ve got this. I have noticed this phenomenon in my experiences too. The feeling of the the wild, true self unleashed, only to be reigned back by a fear not wholly one’s own. The test appears to be real, though. Do we stay wild and true, or return to the pull of the past? You’ve got this. ❤

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  4. The feathers attach to your mind. To refit simply get a friend to wind them in with some cotton thread and think them in place. They are however a temporary physical marker unless connected in a cerebral fashion. They need to be attached anew every frost fest and every festival in between… xx

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    1. What a lovely thought, Ted, and you are so right: The feathers were in place before I bought them in Glastonbury, and they will be back! Yes, to the annual Frost Fayre thought: I fully intend to drag – er, encourage! – all my friends that way next year! xxx

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  5. I’m willing you on in your fight for yourself and your feathers. This is post is so powerful, so full of raw emotion. I’m so sorry you have to go through this pain but to put it your writing makes it into something special. Blessings to you for your fight for yourself x

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