“In Matters of Life and Hair,” column for April 3, 2012

Despite what my husband and children may tell you, I am not what you’d call hard to please.
But I do have a love-hate relationship with one thing: My hair. I wish you could see it.
What do I love about it? It grows fast. What do I hate about it? Everything else.
Recently, for reasons I don’t understand, I decided to have it cut. Again. As if the last time I did so were not enough to teach me to leave bad enough alone.
For the record, I do not blame the hairdresser. It was not her intention to make me look like a pineapple. No one is to blame for that but me and my hair.
A bit of history. One of my earliest memories recalls red, tangled curls that kinked and snarled as my mother tried her best to brush them out.
“I’ve seen briar patches,” she would mutter, “that weren’t as hard to rake as your head.”
She never said what possessed her to rake a briar patch. I always wondered about that. But her point was clear. I couldn’t argue. I’ve been raking those same briars ever since.
When I was 7, she decided it might help to give me a Tonette _ a home permanent that was supposed to make little girls look like Shirley Temple. Suffice it to say, it did not have the Shirley Temple effect on me.
Instead, it screwed my hair so tightly into my skull I couldn’t close my eyes. Luckily it grew out fast. In a few years, it was halfway down my back.
One Sunday, my granddad, an occasional Baptist preacher, had me stand in church to illustrate his sermon on how a woman’s hair is her crowning glory.
I didn’t know what glory meant, so I asked my mother.
“It means your granddaddy’s crazy about long hair,” she said, “but he doesn’t have to comb it.”
The next day she got her friend Kitty to cut my hair in a “pixie.” When she finished, Kitty handed me a mirror and said, “You look like a TV star!”
She was right. I looked just like Howdy Doody.
“Well,” said my mother, “it’ll be easier to comb.”
My sister offered to make me a sign saying, “I am a girl.”
“Don’t worry, honey,” Kitty said. “It’ll grow out.”
When my granddad saw it, he bawled like a branded calf. But at least he didn’t make me stand up in church any more.
Just as Kitty predicted, my hair grew out. I’d wear it long until I grew tired of it, then I’d cut it short and let it grow long again. Long or short, I’ve never been content with how it looked.
Years ago, for Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me a collage of photos showing me with her and her brothers over the years.
In every photo, my hair was a different length, a different style and a different color. It looked like an ad for cheap wigs.
Family and friends have gotten used to the frequent changes. But it can be a bit disconcerting to readers who are accustomed to how I look in whichever column mug (there are several)appears in their paper.
When I show up to speak in their areas (as I plan to do soon in Abilene, Texas, Bristol, Tenn., and Mocksville, N.C.) they want to know who I am, and what did I do with that woman whose photo they see in their papers? It’s a hard question to answer. I often ask the same thing myself.
Some women make peace with their hair, let it go gray, give up blow-drying and hot-rolling and flat-ironing, and find far better things to do with their time.
I admire those women a lot.
I’ve had friends who’ve lost their hair to cancer treatment or other diseases. They wear a hat and a big smile and look great.
When I think of them, my heart swells with pride and I tell myself to quit complaining and be thankful for what I’ve got.
I would love to do that. Maybe when the pineapple grows out.


  1. Wyonia L. Dray says

    Ms. Randall, I wait eagerly for Monday’s paper so I can read your column. You have made me laugh, cry and even call my sister to see if she has read your latest column. You share your feelings of hope, love, dreams and experiences that bring your readers to the same place your are. I love when you share your grandson experiences with us. As all grandmothers know our grandchilden are our finest performance in life or so we think. I envy the people in Bristol,TN and wish you would speak in Fort Smith, AR. I guess I’ll have to write to the Mayor to see if the Library carries you books or articles. Then you could visit us.

  2. Larry Honaker says

    I’ve been a follower of you column for a few years now and I enjoy reading them every Sunday morning. I buy the morning paper (Bristol Harald Courier) and head to McDonald’s of all places, order me a Big Breakfast platter with pancakes, a Diet Coke (favorite drink), find me a cozy table and dig into the paper.
    I read through all the bad news sections in anticipation of getting to the Community section where your column awaits. Over the years I have taken in the words you have written and have lost myself into your world. They’re stories of a life I have not lived, but for that brief moment I am alive.
    At the age of 49, single and never had a family of my own I’ve read your stories and wondered about what if my life had turned out differently, would I have been able to write a story to tell.
    Everybody has one to tell. The happy times. The sad ones, too. You have shared those times with your readers and in some form or another each has shared the same one as yours.
    I just want to say thank you for putting those feelings in your columns, because it lets us know that even though one chapter is over there will always be another to follow.
    As a southern boy I love my Nascar, but on April 22nd I have every intention of missing a day of racing so I can attend the Mayor’s Award of Distinction event at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, Tn., so that I may hear you speak. Open up a Diet Coke and enjoy your day.

    • Sharon Randall says

      Larry, those have to be some of the nicest words anyone has ever written to me. You’re missing a race to hear me talk? I am stunned. Can’t wait to tell my brother, Monkey Boy, who wouldn’t miss a race to attend my funeral. Make sure you say hello to me in Bristol. I want to hug your neck!

  3. Debbie Durham says

    I was thrilled when I saw you are coming to Bristol TN! I live in Bristol VA, I’m about 5 minutes away from Bristol TN. Did I miss it? I don’t see it on your calendar. I’m going to be so disappointed if I did!

    This article was in our local paper this past week-end April 8. I loved it! I can relate in so many ways! I’m a red head with fuzzy/curly hair. But I don’t complain anymore because due to illness I’m nearly bald on top. I now wear beautiful wigs with 3 different shade of red in them and NO ONE knows it’s a wig until I tell them, and I tell lots of people, depending on who they are and how comfortable I am with them.

    • Sharon Randall says

      Thanks, Debbie, you didn’t miss it! I’ll be in Bristol TN/VA April 22-23 for two events: On Sunday, April 22, at 2 p.m. I’ll be speaking at the Mayor’s Awards of Distinction at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol, TN; and on Monday, at 10:30 a.m., I’ll be speaking at the Bristol Public Library in Bristol VA. Both events are free and open to the public. Hope to see you there!

  4. Vicki in Monterey says

    I got my hair cut today. It was past the middle of my back. It’s now about an inch all over…AND I have a bald spot at the back which SHOWS! Talk about bad – sigh – what I wouldn’t give for nice, manageable, THICK hair. well – c”est la vie, eh =D

  5. Glad to know I’m not the only one. I am in a grow out phase now, and vowing to never cut my hair short again! We’ll see how long that lasts!

  6. Carol Vetter says

    As I have suspected for a long time… I have to be related to Sharon…. only my hair does NOT grow fast. And it won’t grow long… it stops if it hits my shoulders. I have had perfect strangers ask me what the deal is with my hair. My friends just laugh and say, “Well, you know Carol and her hair…” I have the best hairdresser in the world. When I leave her place, I look great. But something happens when I get home. I think it’s God helping be remain humble…

  7. Ric Simon, says

    A lifetime ago when my daughter Mandie was in grade school Jodie took a trip to Hawaii with her sisters. Having raised a son and then having take care of a 7 year old daughter I was to say somewhat out of touch. Mandie has a head of hair that everyone wants, thick straight and she always wore it long, at least until two years ago when she joined the Air Force.Anyway one morning she desided that shr would like her hair in a “side ponytail” so I proceeded to be the best dad I could be and did the doo. It was, if I say so my self, darn good just the way she wanted it and as tight as I could get it so it wouldn’t come down all day. When I picked her up for school that afternoon she said that she had the worst headache that she had ever had. the remainder of the time Jodie was gone Mandie had me just brush her hair no “side ponytail”.
    Mandie is now serving as a AF nurse in Bagram Afghanistan with short hair.

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