Pretty but Perilous

Hair is a both a personal statement and a social symbol, and for some people who can’t get enough hair, their theme song is a takeoff on the Christmas classic, ‘Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow’

Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there, hair!
Shoulder length, longer (hair)
Here baby, there mama, Everywhere daddy daddy
Hair! (hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair)
Flow it, Show it;
Long as God can grow it, My Hair!
— From the song ‘Hair’ from the musical of the
same name that played Broadway from 1967 to 1972

The fairy tale character Rapunzel and Samson from the Bible would agree — people with long hair have their share of perks and problems. Jane Seymour, the star of the Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman television show, along with songstress Crystal Gale, are both celebrities with signature long hair. Xie Quiping of China made the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest hair, which when measured on May 8, 2004, was 18 feet and 5.54 inches long. She’s been growing her hair since she turned 13 in 1973.

MidWeek talked with several women and men about their joys and predicaments.

Barbara Brandvold has had quite a few perilous adventures with her pin-straight knee-length hair that she’s had since high school. She accidentally leaned into a fan, and her hair wound up in the fan’s rotor. It took about two hours to unravel the whole thing.

Barbara Brandvold’s hair
once got tangled in a fan

“And one time I was running to catch an airplane and my hair got caught in a gentleman’s button,” says Brandvold. “He ended up giving me his button.”

Her hair is a bit shorter now, but for a while it was three inches longer than her 5-foot-5-inch height, which caused a problem when it got caught in the back of her shoe.

When she’s working at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where she’s been a waitress since 1976, she normally wears two French braids that join together at the bottom. Kids sometimes try to get her attention by pulling on her braids, she says.

“The tourists like (my long hair),” she says. “That’s the main reason I kept it. They say it’s the longest hair they’ve ever seen. Long hair is so Hawaii.”

Tourists like to take photos with her, and she gets lots of compliments and questions from the guests. For example, a bald man sat at her table and gave her a bag. “He said, ‘I saved all my shampoo and conditioner for you.’”

Brandvold, a Kapahulu resident, gushes that her husband loves her long tresses. The red, sun-kissed hair grows about an inch a month, and she gets it trimmed every three months. Brandvold, who has been growing her hair since 1976, says she tucks it under the pillow when she goes to sleep. She once donated a foot and a half of hair to children with cancer.

Five-foot-2-inch Sherie Char’s long, straight hair flows down past her knees. She says this is the longest she’s ever had it.

“You could be in any supermarket, street or elevator, and it’s a very good conversation starter — whether you want it or not,” the Kaimuki High School grad reveals with a laugh. “Once, there was a couple who complimented me. Then the husband said, ‘Can I have some?’—because he was bald.”

His name, says Cesar
Alvarez, means long hair

Another common question asked of Char, an Ewa Beach resident who is the calendar and entertainment editor with the Downtown Planet, is if she dances hula.

“I don’t know how, but it’s on my to-do list,” says the Korean-Japanese beauty. “People say growing your hair is the hardest thing to do. It’s part of the look. I might as well learn since the hard part is over.”

Char is also asked if she doesn’t cut it for religious reasons, and others ask her it if it is hard to wash.

She sometimes twists her hair up. She adds that one of the perks of having long hair is that there are plenty of options for doing your hair: braids, buns and ponytails.

“It’s almost every girl’s dream; Barbie has long hair,” she says. “Society has an influence on it too.”

Char says one of the challenges of long hair is having your hair down when it’s windy and you’re wearing long earrings. The get entangled.

“Or your hair may get stuck on the hook in the bathroom stall,” she complains. “Or if it’s windy, it ends up on another person.”

One more problem that most people with long hair have, Char says, is there’s much more hair to clean up on the ground and in the bathroom drain.

Danielle Grace’s curly hair was cut for the first time a month ago. It was past her okole, and now it’s up to her waist. Grace, who is Samoan, Hawaiian and Caucasian, says her siblings were not allowed to cut their hair unless their parents said it was OK.

“Sometimes they will cut your hair as a punishment,” she smiles, noting that she hasn’t been punished very much.

“Having long hair makes me feel really girly,” the 5- foot-3-inch Mai Tai Bar cocktail waitress admits.

As a cocktail waitress, she’s most irritated when her hair accidentally gets stuck on people walking by, or sometimes on her co-workers’ pens or cash caddies.

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