When Nathan and I first married I discovered, somewhat to my dismay, that this charismatic and eccentric young man who seemed so differently and charmingly wired was also a stamp collector. Stamp collecting had always seemed to me to be a strangely tedious pass time for the creatively challenged. But his interest in philately would soon turn to my advantage.
In the flotsam and jetsom of things that came with us to our first home together was a stamp collection that was in my possession. How I obtained it I’m still unsure but it became quite apparent that Nathan coveted it. It was at this point that I offered him a deal.
“I will trade this stamp collection for the rights to your hair – in perpetuity.’ He enthusiastically agreed.
The deal had portents of Samson and Delilah.
In 2009 I decided he should have long hair. He has a lot of hair and it grows thick and fast, so I watched it edge down past his ears and on to his shoulders. I liked the way it looked. I also liked the leverage I had to render him ‘temporarily unavailable’ for responsible church service while we were busy with four toddlers. Nathan didn’t seem to mind the long hair and the newly acquired outlier status a bit. If it had pained him I would have relented but he seemed to enjoy his long locks – running his fingers appreciatively through them, acquiring a seductive toss and flick of the head that could have earned him a cover shot on a romance novel.
Our new stake president cornered me one day and said, “You should get Nathan to cut his hair. I would love him for the High Council but his hair length precludes him from service.”
“Aaah President,” I responded. “I have a question for you. Would you rather Nathan and I had a good sex life, or that he served on the High Council? The fact is, I find his hair very attractive – if you know what I mean.”
He fell backwards somewhat, blustered something about shaving…and he was gone. The question was never raised again.
I’ve had Nathan’s hair cut in the interim but right now it’s the longest its ever been, and he even wears a beard. But true to his word he has never raised an objection or asked for a renegotiation of the initial stamp collection terms and I love him all the more for his honour.
In a 1971 address Dallin Oaks said that:
“… the beard and long hair are associated with protest, revolution, and rebellion against authority. They are also symbols of the hippie and drug culture. Persons who wear beards or long hair, whether they desire it or not, may identify themselves with or emulate and honor the drug culture or the extreme practices of those who have made slovenly appearance a badge of protest and dissent. In addition, unkemptness—which is often (though not always) associated with beards and long hair—is a mark of indifference toward the best in life.”
Fortunately, Nathan doesn’t get harrassed or badgered for his hair length/drug use/hippy tendencies/slovenly appearance in our home stake. No one has asked Nathan to shave or cut or otherwise manage his hair length in imitation of the brethren. That’s a good thing. But in truth, I think that Nathan’s hair length is a minor concern. The real reason this good, committed, insightful, honourable, generous and loving man is not used to his fullest capacities in the community is his wife.
In the LDS metrics and calculations of marriage and worthiness I have failed my husband, and he wears the badge and symbol of that failure every week to church without complaint. Even when one brings loving presence to church there can be no deviation without being ascribed the epithet ‘deviant’. I am the deviation and the contaminent to this otherwise noble Mormon man who has always served with vitality, generosity and honesty but will be forthwith overlooked for leadership because I am his not-enoughness.
But, we’ll chuckle about the peversity of his church suitability being attached to mine and we’ll thank the stars for long hair and marital friendships that don’t really give a fig about it all. But we’ll quietly nurse the inner wounds of a religious praxis that tells us;
‘You’re not good enough.’