Life, liberty and the pursuit of the perfect haircut

Betsy PickleOpinion, South Knox

I’m seriously considering getting my hair cut and styled. This is major. I wore my hair long and straight – aside from a pixie cut in fourth grade and an occasional trim – all my life up to March 2016, when I asked my mom’s hairdresser to cut it off and give me a jawline bob.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic started, I’d become slack about the frequency of my haircuts. So it has been about 22 months since my hair has seen a professional.

Not to say I haven’t done anything with my hair during that time. I decided to dye it purple (the box says “amethyst”) because, if you can’t color your hair purple during a pandemic, when can you? But it has grown to a length that alternates between a haphazard copy of Marlo Thomas in “That Girl” and an even scarier duplicate of the hairstyle sported by a certain Knox County mayor during his wrestling days.

I’ve never wanted to have to fuss with my hair. I like to wash and go – air drying if possible. I’ve done my job if it’s clean and combed. But the summer heat is turning it into a frizzy helmet, and something must be done. Please don’t roll your eyes; change is hard.

District 1 city council member Tommy Smith at the UW Gateway Park ribbon cutting

◊ Speaking of hair, I saw David Hayes at the ribbon cutting for the Urban Wilderness Gateway Park on Friday. He’s running for the District 1 seat on Knoxville’s City Council against Tommy Smith, who’s filling out the term of Stephanie Welch and wants to continue his work. Smith was also at the ribbon cutting and served as host, along with Mayor Indya Kincannon.

(She may have been there, but I didn’t see the third candidate, Elizabeth Murphy, whose photographs indicate that her locks are longer than mine. She might not have wanted her hair to turn into a fuzzy helmet on a 92-degree day.)

KTT editor/CEO Sandra Clark somewhat famously started a feud with Hayes when she told him to get a haircut. He has not heeded her advice and continues to sport a creative, abstract-art style that is hip and memorable.

Clark’s contention is that people should dress for the job they want, and she believes Hayes’ hairstyle is not appropriate for an elected official. Some have called her a racist – which she is not – but I do believe that her perspective is grounded in unrecognized systemic racism.

White America has long embraced an image of what is acceptable in the business and political worlds. There’s a uniform: business suit, tie and muted colors. Men and women alike wear it, though women tend to leave off the tie and sometimes show off jewel tones. Hairstyles lean toward short and tidy.

Black America has its share of buttoned-down types, but hair can be a different story. So many factors inform it – texture, age, personality, culture, profession. Did Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Dartmouth tell Cornel West to cut his hair?

You hear a lot about personal freedom in these contentious days. I would hope that individual style would be part of that.

◊ I was on the phone with a friend the other night (yes, some of us still talk on our phones) when she said, “Did you hear that Clint Eastwood died?”

“What??!!” I replied.

“Yeah, two or three days ago. (So-and-so) told me. Isn’t that sad? He was 91.”

I’ve been busy, but I couldn’t believe I’d been so preoccupied that I’d missed an event like this.

We talked briefly about the merits of Eastwood as a filmmaker/actor and as a political animal, but I was itching to get on Google and search as I had not heard this news anywhere else.

Turns out it was a false alarm. As of this writing (Monday), Eastwood is still alive and well. But the conversation reminded me that you should always check multiple sources before spreading news about a celebrity death. (She didn’t; I did.)

Keep breathing, Clint. And Betty White.

Betsy Pickle is a veteran reporter and editor who occasionally likes to share her opinions with KnoxTNToday readers.

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