"Hair is an accessory," my gruff-voiced and very butch stylist told me more than once when I insisted on keeping it short. “You’re not looking at your hair the way you should be.” She could be bossy at times, but she did get me to change my mind. Luckily I didn’t know where the changes would lead.
I had favored short hair because as a writer I did frequent book tours. Worrying about how my hair looked before a reading was not something I needed, especially since I’d been an awkward, flat-footed boy with bad teeth and had worked for years to ease my body shame. I wanted the audience to hear me, not stare.
But Stylist Fran was so insistent that she convinced me to let my hair grow out, even though it might have some unflattering stages. She promised to keep me looking good nonetheless.
I was naturally sort of auburn-haired, but occasionally had let her put in blond highlights and since we were changing things up so dramatically, I went full blond with lowlights. In a year’s time my hair was almost at my shoulders and I felt more masculine than ever. Long hair was definitely not hip then with gay or straight men, but I enjoyed the lion’s mane that complimented an auburn beard I wasn’t messing with.
And I surprisingly felt hot.
When my husband and I were in Europe where the men all seemed buzz cut or bald, I seemed to be getting cruised more than ever before. It was very flattering.
Back home is where Jesus entered the picture. That is, the classic, blond, light-eyed Western image of Jesus, who was most likely short and dark-skinned. Me, I was six feet tall, on the slim side and Scandinavian-looking, but add all of that to my new hair and a strange world opened up to me.
Checking in at a Delta counter at La Guardia Airport for a flight back to Michigan, I felt the agent staring at me. As she handed me my boarding pass, she asked if anyone had ever said I looked like Jesus. I was feeling frisky, so I leaned forward and whispered, “I am Jesus.”
She gasped. “I’m a good Catholic girl—don’t say that!”
My Australian acupuncturist was laughing one morning when she greeted me in her waiting room. “A woman who just left said she saw a vision when driving the other day. She said Jesus was in the car behind her. I asked if she lived in your town and she did. So I said, ‘Oh, that’s just Lev.’ "
While working out at the gym a few months later, I was passed by a burly man holding his little son’s hand and the wide-eyed boy asked very loudly, “Daddy, isn’t that Jesus?”
It happened less often if I pulled my hair back in a ponytail, but even then I’d get the question that the Delta agent had asked me more than I could ever have imagined.
I eventually went back to shorter—though not short—hair. It wasn’t the questions as much as the time I could save not wondering which product to use when, and spending time drying it. Then there was my husband, who complained about my hair getting in the way in bed, even if it was tied back. “I feel like your hair is watching me,” he said.
I got that, because it did feel like I had a new pet of some kind, given how much attention I had to pay to my hair. And I’d had dogs stare at me in bed before. I guess I could have told him to imagine we were in some kind of three-way, but I’m not sure it would have worked.
People who’d admired my Jesus hair started asking me why I’d had it cut.
My answer was simple: “I got tired of being followed around by those twelve guys.”