I’ll start this by saying, I do some of my best thinking in the shower. In the bathroom, really. Sometimes, when I’m stressed out, I let the tub get all gross and spend an afternoon scrubbing it back to white. This is rare – the last time I did it was when I decided I was leaving my husband and really needed to think about things. Its been over a year now, and I haven’t had to do it since. But mostly, when I am chewing on an idea for a few weeks, I find taking a nice long hot shower tends to unlock my brain.
I’ve been covering my hair since July now, and have spent a lot of time thinking about why I was asked to do this; I have a few thoughts but none have come together as of yet. However the last time I took a long hot shower, I put a bunch of pieces together regarding where and when I cover, and what the common denominator was.
The biggest key was an experience I had helping a friend move. They had stored some items in my attic, and I was going to load them into my van and bring them over right after Sunday Aikido. My Sundays are fun-days – I start the morning with a shower, braid my hair, throw on a bandanna and head to Aikido class, and usually come home and tend to domestic stuff – offerings to my Ancestors and house wight, cleaning, etc. The few times I vary tend to be things like helping someone move, or if I’m committed to doing another woo activity – things my Ancestors feel fall under “Hospitality”. So, I came home from class, and started to get things together. I figured since I was ready to go, I might as well stay as I was, contacts and braids and just get things rolling. I knew I’d be moving and lifting, and it didn’t seem…wait for it…prac-tichel (HA, see what I did there?) to stop and fix my hair.
So, braids down and bandanna on, I loaded up and went to do the thing. And I moved and lifted and ate pizza, but a combination of an unhappy back and feeling oddly naked meant I left after a couple of hours. There was another load of stuff coming, but plenty of people to help. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling so out of sorts. It took a while for me to realize – this was the first time I’d be around that many people, most of whom I’d never met before, with my hair uncovered for that long. Plus I’d been feeling a little vulnerable that morning in class, which was also odd, but we’ll get to that later.
In my thinky-shower, I realized, DUH. Look at when and where I UNcover. I wear a scarf all the damn time so the exceptions are glaring: With my Lady, in my home (and sometimes depending who’s there, I’ll still be covered), in the Dojo, with my Kindred, and during some but not all rituals.
These are all times when I am vulnerable. In my home: well, of course I can uncover there – its my Hall, my domain, and inside I am well warded and can and should be able to feel vulnerable there. I do sometimes cover when we have folks over, depending on who they are; having my hair down has become a rare intimacy for people. Amusingly, not everyone knew that. My house mate’s partner didn’t realize he was in a small minority of people who see my hair on a regular basis.I have always enjoyed sleeping naked; but now, the ultimate in ‘naked’ for me includes my uncovered, unbound hair. (Again, not always practical. I’d forgotten how much hair I have, and having it down when I have company gets complicated)
In the dojo, being vulnerable goes without saying – a big part of what I am doing there is making myself vulnerable to people who are not necessarily bigger or stronger, but far more well-trained than I am. I am putting myself in the hands of people who could seriously hurt me, but trusting that they won’t. Granted, trying to cover wouldn’t be practical either, but I’m sure I could find a way to do so if needed. My Sensei told me she once had a devout Muslim Aikidoka who would wear gloves, since he couldn’t touch women, so I’m sure I could figure out a way to cover if I needed. I had been doing double braids because its efficient – which are a whole other thing now. Braids have come to mean ‘battle’ or at least ‘getting shit done’.
I mentioned earlier having felt oddly vulnerable in class the morning I was helping with that move, and that too became more clear in my shower. I had been the only woman in class that day. Me, 4 black belts, and a brown belt. It was a hell of a class. But, and this is something that happens now and again, this time I was the only woman there. Even at times when I am the only female *student* there, Sensei is usually either running the class, or watching. I didn’t realize until I put that all together, but I still feel very vulnerable when I’m the only woman in a group of men. Do I think anything, ANYTHING would happen to me in the dojo, at the hands of a fellow Aikidoka? Absolutely not. But my reptile brain still gets nervous – and then I get mad at my reptile brain for still getting nervous.
It goes without saying that I am, and should be, vulnerable with my Lady. Angrboda is bigger than me. Waaaaaaaaay bigger than me – and a predator. Granted, I am pack, not prey, so I don’t often worry about that; but it feels good and right to be vulnerable to Her, to show her my belly, as it were.
So the act of uncovering my hair has become a symbol for making my self vulnerable to a person, place, or situation.
I am really, really, shitty at being vulnerable. I hate it. I have been forced into so, so many vulnerable places that willfully choosing to make myself vulnerable is difficult for me. Yet…being vulnerable is important. Part of love is being vulnerable, in some way, to another entity. There is strength to come from vulnerability, in the forging of those love-bonds, the trust bonds.
Being able to choose when and how I (literally) let my hair down, and choose how and when to be vulnerable, has been an interesting experience for me.
Covering my hair has become symbolically tied with what I am doing and learning on my path as a woman and a warrior – to quote a friend “You’re learning the limits of your sovereignty, and how to best take advantage of it, because you’re coming from a place where you needed to learn you own (high) value.” But I think that is a topic best left for another day; next up in what is now a series of posts on covering will be an exploration of how I feel while covering, and an exploration of some of the whys, and the nature of covering and modesty.