Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Making the Cut

My dreadlocks have been bugging me all summer.

It gets hot here in Sonoma county. Hot enough that a visit to the local swimming hole is part of the daily routine. Have you ever tried to swim with a foot-tall pile of dreadlocks on your head? Not only do you look like Carmen Miranda, but you can only do the doggie paddle. Getting them wet is not really an option, unless you enjoy spending the rest of the day with the equivalent of a wet dog on your head. Plus, during your non-aquatic summer activities, if you are unlucky enough to have skin like mine, in order to truly avoid sunburn and freckles, you must wear hats. For some reason, wide and floppy english-style sun hats do not come in elephantine sizes. In San Francisco it was never warm enough to go outside without a full down parka, so I didn't have to worry about such things.

There have been other "issues". For example, walking past a gaggle of street kids, they might say "hey, cool dreads", and then ask if I would like to smoke with them. I can never decide whether I should be flattered to be welcomed into a group of teenagers, or horrified that they think I'm a stoner.

At the same time, I have loved my locks. I love geting ready for a performance by tying it all up into a few huge knots. Voila! Ready to go! The result is an enormous pile that I fondly call "The Bedraggled Bimbo". I would feel like my hair was in drag and refer to it in the second person..."Oh daahling! You're looking a bit hung over today". Conveniently, given that I hate shopping, I've noticed that when you sport a Bedraggled Bimbo on your head, it doesn't matter what you wear. People are so stunned and confused by the tangled mess, they don't notice anything else.

So for better or worse, my hair has become part of my identity. Newspaper articles start out "with her striking auburn dreadlocks...". So of course I wonder, will I even EXIST without my dreadlocks? This fear was reinforced for me at a Dresden Dolls concert when I heard someone behind me say "hey, is that Zoe Keating?" and then heard her companion reply, "No, she just has hair like Zoe".

During each of my previous hair phases, I was always told I looked like so and so. For example, in college in New York, and had uber-short, spiky-blonde hair, people asked if I was Brigitte Nielsen. And as a bobbed-redhead in high school some kids once asked me for my autograph thinking I was Molly Ringwald. I guess this must happen to everyone? This must be why so many young women get the exact same celebrity-inspired haircut. If you have hair like a celebrity you must look EXACTLY LIKE THEM! I find it more than a bit odd, maybe because I tend to recognize people by their eyes and their smiles and don't generally remember their hair. But I guess I should not complain. It was nice there for a while to have my hair recognized as mine, instead of that of some random actress. Although an encounter on tour weirded me out a little. A red-haired and dreaded girl (who, I would like to note, was a foot shorter than me and not at all similar) came up to me in a coffee shop.

"Are you Zoe that cello player?" she asked.

"Er, Yes", I replied.

"I though so. When I'm playing my accordion on the street people always think I'm you", she said.

By the way she said it, it was not clear whether she was correcting people. Great! knew this was coming....after weeks of indecision, I poured myself a stiff drink and cut them off. The pictures below tell the story...

(Next up, the true test of my new hacked-haircut on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last night.)