In the Style section of the New York Times the other day, there was an article titled Making Waves, With No Apology that was essentially a defense of curly hair. In case you weren’t aware, in our culture straight hair calmly says “I’m professional” while curly hair screams “I do what I want!” Straight hair telegraphs that its owner is in control, prepared and serious; it’s the hair you hire to get things done. Curly hair, on the other hand, communicates that its owner is slightly out of control, unprepared and willfully non-conformist; it’s the hair that shows you a good time. Matters haven't improved with the prominence of Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, who allegedly played dumbed while her subordinates illegally hacked phones. Her hair, which is very curly, was judged by The Daily Beast and Newsweek's Robin Givhan to be inappropriate for testifying in front of Parliament. The hair, you see, was not solemn enough. It was hair that conveyed, as Ms. Givhan wrote, "'I’m here for the Tuck and Patti concert.'"
Joking aside, what is so terrible about curly hair? What about Shiva’s hair? This is one of the first things I asked myself as I was reading the article. (The first, I have to admit, was that perhaps Robin Givhan needs a talking to; and the second was wondering if our preference for straight hair smacks of ethnocultural bias, and this thought made me lunge for my copy of The Body Social.) Having made peace with my own curly hair, I had to wonder about the Ananda Tandava, or Shiva’s Dance of Bliss. In this dance, every aspect of Shiva's being is engaged in the simultaneous creation and dissolution of the universe. Even his hair participates, its strands knocking heavenly bodies in and out of orbit, rhythmically ordering and disordering the world. This dance—and the hair that is its wildest expression—is at heart a representation of who we are, in movement and in stillness. What if Shiva had no hair? Or had resorted to Brazilian keratin treatments? Or had become a weekly blow-out diva? Would his dance have been as affecting? As blissful? I don't think so.