The Glory of Hair

9 January 2012, 06:00

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Gothard was not shy about what he found to be attractive on a woman’s head–long hair, soft curls. I heard girls reacting to that all the time. There were girls who couldn’t get their hair to hold a curl. One friend said to me, “Look how limp my hair is, and I had it all up in hot rollers just two hours ago!” Others couldn’t grow their hair long or just preferred it short. Still, they knew they weren’t living up to Gothard’s ideal. Some girls probably weren’t bothered at all. I heard more from the ones who were.

Well I wanted to meet that ideal, and I did. I had plenty of insecurities, but my hair was my one glory, my one claim to beauty. I could make it do whatever I wanted. Add a little navy and white and some bright eyes, and I could achieve the perfect ATI (Advanced Training Institute) look. Yes, other girls were jealous of my hair. I know because they told me. As an ATI teenager, I couldn’t talk to boys and had to go skiing in a skirt, but at least I had great hair.

After I graduated from high school, I got eighteen inches of hair chopped off. I just thought it would be fun to try what I had never done before. I came home and my brothers and dad were NOT happy. In fact, one of my brothers wouldn’t talk to me for several days. My dad looked at me and said, “Well, it will grow.” I hadn’t really known how important my hair was until I made that awful mistake. I repented and allowed my hair to grow again. In a year, I had my glorious hair back.

A few years later, at age 19, just before leaving for college, I visited my aunt in California. She had a different attitude toward my hair–she asked me if I ever thought of doing something else (anything else?) with it. I said no, that nothing else really worked for me. So she skillfully helped me to see that my hair had become too much about the hair. She must have repeated 50 times, “It’s not about the hair” (or it just echoed in my head 50 times). She said that the face is more important than the hair. A skillful hairdresser will give you a cut that makes YOU stand out, not one that makes your hair stand out.

She convinced me to take a huge risk and then took me to a high-end hair designer downtown. “Don’t tell him what kind of cut you want–tell him what kind of person you are. If a hair designer is put in a box, he won’t be able to do his best for you. If you give him freedom, he could surprise you.” So I sat in the chair and said, “Do whatever you envision for me. I’m a violinist so I don’t like hair in my face, but something fun and simple would be great.” He pulled my hair back into a ponytail and said, “so it’s okay if I take off this much?” “Yes,” I answered confidently (although cringing inside). He then cut off the ponytail with one swipe of the scissors and let my glorious hair fall all over the floor. “Ah, so much better already,” he smiled. When he finished and I looked in the mirror, I finally saw a “me” that I had never seen before–a me that had been hiding behind all of that hair. I was scared. As I left the salon, everyone was raving about my “transformation.”

That night, I stood in front of the mirror and didn’t know how to feel. Part of me really felt like I had lost my “glory” and the only physical beauty I ever had. Furthermore, a more real me was exposed and I couldn’t hide behind my hair anymore. I looked at myself and didn’t see my hair. Even worse, I would have to face the world again–without my hair. Probably no one would ever notice me again. My friends wouldn’t recognize me. My family would be disappointed. Why had I listened to the “worldly” advice of my aunt?

I went home and braced myself for the reactions, but kept repeating to myself, “It’s not about the hair.” Well, some people did react with disappointment but I noticed another reaction this time–simply that people started commenting more about me than about my hair. I went to a wedding a few days later and one of my guy friends said, “You look really nice.” I was struck by the fact that he said “you” and not “your hair.” It scared me that others were also seeing me.

I went to college and made new friends who never knew about my glorious hair. It was okay–I got used to feeling naked without my hair and learned that I could even survive in the world without it. I finally realized that my aunt had rescued me. It’s been ten years now and no one has raved about my hair since then. And that explains why I feel a special connection with Mia in “Princess Diaries” and Rapunzel in “Tangled.”

Now I am convinced: It’s not about the hair!

Isabelle Hoffmann was enrolled as a student in the Advanced Training Institute from 1985-2001, during which time she attended numerous seminars, training programs, music courses, and served at the Moscow Training Center.
All articles on this site reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of other Recovering Grace contributors or the leadership of the site. Students who have survived Gothardism tend to end up at a wide variety of places on the spiritual and theological spectrum, thus the diversity of opinions expressed on this website reflects that. For our official statement of beliefs, click here.

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