3 things burning your hair off can teach you about life

At 18 I burned my hair off. I’m not kidding. It was an accident of course. Despite the traumatic event, or perhaps because of it, I learned a lot about life.

Hair on fire

Image by M Yashna used with permission.

Our vegetable garden was a verdant, lush oasis, perfectly situated to soak up the heat on that hot, late summer afternoon. It was also the perfect place for the hydrogen peroxide in my hair to start a chemical reaction that a friend later submitted for extra credit in one of her university engineering classes.

Earlier that day… I was envious of the golden blond locks and tans my siblings sported thanks to some hydrogen peroxide and a summer spent in sunshine. I was still the creamy white of the soft serve ice cream I dished up at my summer job. Not content with my drab ash blonde, I asked one of my sisters to spray the peroxide into my hair that reached to the bottom of my shoulder blades.

A while later, when my hair became a nuisance, I twisted it into a bun knot, and with my sister, proceeded to the garden to gather veggies for dinner.

The carrot tops tickled my calves as a sound like rushing wind started up. It didn’t seem quite right though and I thought it was odd that neither the carrot tops nor the tree branches were moving. I called out my sister’s name to grab her attention and when she looked up, her eyes bugged out. She yelled, “Your hair’s on fire! Your hair’s on fire!” I’ll spare you the details of the rest. It involved me running around and slapping at my head until my Girl Guide training of stop, drop, and roll kicked in. I was just barely sensible enough to get my head under the garden tap soon after.

As I watched thick blobs of hair slurp off my aching head (from all the slapping), I was far from having any epiphanies. My sister and I were still in shock, yelling, “Holy f***! Did you just see that!!!” at the top of our lungs while laughing like demented coyotes. Ironically enough, that’s not the last time I would experience having my hair on fire. It’s happened in the metaphorical sense since then, but it’s no less harrowing. Here is what I’ve learned from these experiences.

We look crazy and out of control when we run around with our hair on fire

That’s because WE ARE CRAZY AND OUT OF CONTROL! We think we’re playing it cool and being all calm and collected but hello! We’re running around slapping our heads hoping in some maniacal way that this might snuff the flames. Take it from me: running around will not put the fire out. Until we realize this, we will continue to burn.

Stop, drop, and roll

And by this, I mean stop—really, truly stop—drop everything, and roll into a hair dresser’s office. And by hair dresser I mean a life coach or counsellor. We need help in this situation! I don’t know how many times my sister yelled at me to get under the tap—I was totally out of it. She knew exactly what I needed and got the water running. If we don’t choose to stop, drop, and roll, our bodies may do it for us but in a much less kind and gentle way.

You come out looking better than you did going in

Once the shock passes and the tears dry up, you realize that you are much better off than you were before. In my case, I ended up with a cute hair cut and great colour. It’s the same with life. When we see ourselves with new perspective, only then do we realize how ragged and out of control we looked before. The sooner we are able to do this, the sooner we can get our heads under that cool water and take those terrifying yet bold steps toward the hair dresser.


PS – I told you that I twirled my hair into a bun. It turns out that I had just created the perfect conditions for spontaneous combustion thanks to my straw-like hair, sunshine, and peroxide. The reaction fused my twisted hair together and during one of my slapping attacks on my head, I knocked the perfectly preserved bun off. Yes, the whole bun. Yes, I still have it.

PPS – My friend got an A on her assignment.

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