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Hair Warfare

During the month of January, four different gentlemen made comments about having difficulty recognizing me due to my varying hairstyles.

“I was looking for you from the back of the theatre but since your hair is always different I couldn’t find you.”

“When we continue meetings over multiple days, it would help if everyone wore the same clothes. And those of you with different hairstyles refrained from changing them. Oh, I guess that’s just Cheryl.”

The great irony to me is that my hair changes far less drastically than many. I’ve never even dyed my hair. (It was red for 6 months when I was a baby before falling out and coming in blonde, but I’m willing to bet THAT’s not the source of the confusion.) I can count the number of major cuts I’ve had on one hand. Most of the time I keep my hair a similar length due to the number of shows (Trek improv) that I do that require specific styles of me.

My hair has always been rather a defining force in my life. Almost always had long hair. In high school my insecurity caused me to curl my hair meticulously every morning so religiously that people all thought it just magically came out that way. In college I was the “blonde CS major”. I experimented with drastically shorter hair in grad school and my first few years in the job market, but soon discovered that longer hair meant more acting roles. I know it was subconscious if anything, and I don’t have proof, but I very much believe it. And I’ve grown fond of having some options when choosing what to do with it. Short got boring for me.

So most of the time, my hair changes are the equivalent of braids vs. headbands, buns vs. ponytails. Almost always pulled off my face. Nothing too crazy unless I’m onstage.
I am beginning to understand the whole Clark Kent phenomenon. Glasses on? “Hi Clark, how are you? Nice newspaper work.” Glasses off? “OMFG SUPERMAN WHERE’D YOU COME FROM?” Apparently by pulling my hair into a ponytail I can safely fashion an alter ego for my superhero self “Iron Maiden”. And I can even TELL you about it since my disguise is so inpenetrable. Brilliant.

But I suspect such misdirection will only work on men. It seems to be the ultimate in inadvertent gender warfare. Change your hair, befuddle the masses. Ladies, your greatest tool of espionage is apparently an elastic or a few bobby pins. Leave the hat and sunglasses at home.

Is this a problem other women run into? Guys? On one hand it seems a good skill to have as an actress, but it presents some challenges when you want to be a memorable force.

Regardless, I won’t be holding back. It’s not me that does my hair in the morning – my hair has a mind of its own. I just lend it a few helping hands so it doesn’t attack me on the way out the door in the morning. 😉

(But based on this pattern, I do worry a tiny bit that no one will recognize me at my impending nuptials. If a bun is baffling, what of a veil and tiara? Master of disguise!)

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