"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Hair

Monday, August 30, 2004


As a girl my hair, dark and thick, and contained in heavy braids, reached down past my waist. I had to elbow it out of the way when I sat down. It took all day to dry after bathing and in cold weather even longer, so that in winter I was loathe to shampoo. Sometimes my head hurt from its weight and I would ask permission to unbraid it. Then I would lie down and fan it out around me like a shawl or the rays of a dark sun. The family brand was Prell but sometimes I used my mothers' Herbal Essence and I remember its flowery scent and the pleasure of shaking out my hair still damp and wavy from braiding.

My grandmother was as Finnish as you can get without actually having been born there, and she would switch between languages without warning. Her hair was thin and yellowish gray, and she wore it in a peculiar fashion that I've never seen repeated. It was parted down the middle and wound up in two small flat buns at the back of her head, like tail-lights. She wore a hairnet and a lot of bobbypins and never seemed to have her hair down. Perhaps she slept with it like that but it couldn't have been comfortable.

My mother's hair was also very long although I knew it had been short when she was a girl because I'd seen a photograph. It was silky and brown, and she marcelled the front a little, faintly Elvis-like, with some kind of pomade, and swept the rest back into a French twist which was secured by bobby pins and a mist of AquaNet. She could do this all by feel, if necessary. No mirror needed. When she took the pins out at night before bed, I would touch the tight curl left in the tail of her hair. I loved that curl.

In high school I was known as the girl with the longest hair, and having nothing else to be boast about, became rather proud of it. On the schoolbus I would release my braids, fluff out my enormous shroud of hair around my shoulders, and wait for the comments. Once a boy in Algebra class remarked that I looked like Juliet. He had just seen Olivia Hussey in the Zefferelli movie. I didn't care for the boy at all, but I savored his compliment for years before I actually saw the film and even more so afterward. Ms. Hussey was luminous, divine. (And my chubby adolescent self bore no resemblence to her -- other than the long, dark hair.)

One of my first acts of self-definition, on leaving the OALC as a teenager, was a haircut at a beauty salon. Not short, but shorter, with layers and wisps and a completely novel sense of movement. Afterward, I kept tossing my head like a mare and smiling. I was Samson in reverse, fortified by lightness. I didn't think to ask for a lock, a keepsake.

That first haircut was rebellious but also a concrete way of claiming my identity as a person, not a symbol. I had been taught that my hair was of vital importance -- it was not to be shorn or adorned, it was my crowning glory, and it was to be covered in church by a headscarf. I never could make out the logic in all that, but the implication was that a woman's hair is so alluring that it might divert attention, and that it was the woman's responsibility to hide it. Later I would learn that this practice of covering the hair is not unique to OALC or to fundamentalists such as the Mennonites or Amish that I would occasionally glimpse in long dresses and scarves, fellow tourists usually, at places like Yellowstone where we vacationed in the summer. Nor is it unique to Christians, of course.

Why? Why is female hair such a potent symbol? Is this not a perversion of power, all around? Why can't women choose to cover or not cover their heads as they see fit?

I now have shoulder-length hair that is easy to wash and dry and carry around all day. I don't think much about it, but when I do, it seems satisfactory. Of all my attributes as a human being, it ranks quite low. There ARE times when I want to cover it from the sight of others, such as when I haven't had time to shower, or on the third day of camping in the woods. Then a baseball cap does the trick.


  1. Hair

    I am an ex-born and brought up OALC woman who has gotten deeply into God's Word late in life and finally left the Laestadians around 49 or 50 years old. I am now 55. If you go back to the original manuscripts (the person I study with has a copy and can read it) the hair issue becomes obsolete. It is not supposed to read hair. It is the veil of Christ over our heads to protect us from the (fallen) angels. It has nothing to do with hair. The translators translated this wrong years and years ago and women have had to take the brunt of it for control purposes. It is a shame. I just was told about this site and plan on reading it all and commenting in the future.

  2. Concerning the bun's. There is no rule concerning hair, or when a woman must wear her hair in a bun. We are taught that "But if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her, for her hair is given her for a covering" ( 1 Cor 11:15 ). And as was mentioned the bun is a convenient way to wear long hair. These teachings are not rules that one must follow. We try to be obedient to what we have been taught for the love of Christ and for the pain and suffering he has done for for my sins. If one has the true and right kind of love in one's heart, they wouldn't want to do anything that would make our Savior suffer any more than he has when he suffered on the cross.

  3. To anonymous above:
    Laestadian girls now can wear their hair down to church, but when I was growing up girls went from pigtails to ponytail to bun and that was it. So things can change. Why has that changed? Are the girls now making Christ suffer on the cross more than we did or did we make Him suffer more than they are today? Do you see how the traditions of men don't make sense? God's Word ALWAYS makes sense. I've already mentioned that it is not hair at all that 1 Cor 11:15 is about. The original hebrew was not hair, but veil. Women are supposed to have the veil (Christ and His Word) of protection from the (fallen) angels (talked about in Genesis 6). Obviously, you have discounted a truth by your own choice and choose to believe man over God. That is an untruth that you believe and you are sacrificing for Christ when HE did ALL the sacrificing. (And don't tell me ALL Laestadian woman love long hair and looking old fashion - I have been there done that and talked to too many who are sacrificing what they REALLY want for an unsound teaching of man).It is an INSULT to Christ because you are saying you still have to DO things to be accepted by Him and to be saved besides believing that He died for you. John 3:16 says '..whomever (I don't see here where it says only Laestadians) WHOMEVER believes in HIM (Christ who is the Word)should not perish, but have eternal life'. Since Christ is the living WORD shouldn't ALL read it? How long is long in hair terms anyway? Down to my middle back? Just below my shoulders? What about an inch longer than my shoulders? What about 3 inches longer than my middle back? Do you see the ridiculousness of it all? I am not saying this to be contrary. I am just trying to make a point.

  4. How can it be anything but hair that is referenced in 1 Cor 11;15. It mentions it several times and in several different ways. If you have some other reference book, share it with us so we to can be as enlightened as you feel you are.

  5. How can it be anything but hair that is referenced in 1 Cor 11;15. It mentions it several times and in several different ways. If you have some other reference book, share it with us so we to can be as enlightened as you feel you are.

  6. Beware of biblical literalism, or you will find yourself justifying not only scarves but the stoning of prostitutes, child abuse, incest and slavery. Seek truth. Use the brain God gave you.