"Having a lot of hair is a big responsibility" -- Diana Ross

People always ask, so here are the answers...

First of all: I am not interested in having my photos put on the Long Hair web site, your web site, or anywhere other than right here. Please don't pester me with email about this, and please don't use my photos without my permission.

Second: I am not interested in posing for photos. Again, please don't bother asking me about this. Even if I were interested, I don't have the time. Here's a photo that shows you just how much energy I have for posing. (Photo by Rob Earhart, July 1997)

Now, with that unpleasantness out of the way...

How long is your hair?
At Christmas 1996, it was 41 inches long. Currently (May 2000) it's 44 inches, a bit below knee length. When it's braided it's shorter but still well past my waist. Photos: [Oct 1997](by Lauren Bricker) [Aug 2000](by Jim "gravityjunkie" Bolton)

Have I ever cut it? or, How long have I been letting my hair grow?
Yes, this is actually the second time I've had really long hair. When I was in grade school I had long hair but was too young to take care of it properly, so it was dry and brittle and not particularly nice. In high school I cut it this short and started over. I've been letting it grow ever since. I graduated from high school in 1988, so you do the math...

I do trim it now and then, sometimes even as much as six inches. Anyone who saw me during the "raccoon years" understands why I cut off so much. The rest of you can just imagine the old trick of dipping the ends of a girl's pigtails into an inkwell, and the drastic amputation that might be necessary as a result.

How long am I going to let it get?
I intend to let it grow as long as it will grow. Most people's hair has a maximum length, determined by the lifetime of their hair follicles, the growth rate of the hair, the strength of the hair and the way they treat it: it can only take so much brushing etc. before it breaks off. My hair hasn't reached its break-off length yet. I'm curious to find out what that length is. It's probably close; the growth rate is definitely slowing down.

Another reason why I won't cut it is that I discovered recently that with shoulder-length hair, I look exactly like my mother. :-)

How do I take care of it?
I don't do anything unusual to it, unless you consider not blow-drying or hair-spraying to be unusual. I don't swim much, at least not in pools, because chlorine makes hair dry and brittle. I use ordinary shampoos and conditioners -- in extraordinary quantities, of course. For a while I tried "Mane & Tail", a conditioner originally developed for horses. I first heard of it a few years ago, from a friend who used to buy it at horse-supply stores. (It's approved for humans now.) I think it helped strengthen my hair, but it increased the drying time and left my hair stiff and sticky. I've switched back to standard stuff.

What interesting hairstyles can I do with it?
Amy McGovern experimented in 1996 with four-strand flat braids. Since these are anti-symmetric braids (diagram), they twist, as you can see in this photo. Tamara Ollenberg sent me instructions on non-twisting 4-strand braids (aka "lanyards", because they are round, like cords, not flat).

My college roommate once managed a 5-strand braid (diagram), and Barb did a 5-strand french braid in her own hair. Sorry, I don't have pictures of the 5-strand braids. Unfortunately, I can't do french braids and related styles without help -- it's physically impossible. Try this: clasp your hands behind your head with your elbows out, the way you would if you wanted to do situps or lie on the floor. Now, without changing the way your arms are bent, how far can you reach down your back? About shoulder-blade level, right? Unless I let go of the already-braided part, I can't move my hands far enough away from my head to separate the new strands of hair properly for a french braid.

Where can you find out more about long hair?
If you're interested in long hair, you might enjoy Frank Plönißen's Long Hair Site. He's got some wonderful pictures, and loads of useful information about the care and management of very long hair. Frank and I argued in the past about certain aspects of his site, which is why I've never sent him any photos of me, but over the years Frank has made changes which eliminated my complaints. I highly recommend his web site now.

My former housemate Greg Lindahl is another long-hair junkie.

Klutz Press, the people responsible for all those books about juggling, yo-yos, kooshes, and so on, have put out two books about braids: one for kids, one for adults. I highly recommend the adult version. I haven't looked through the kids' version much but I expect it's good too. If you can't find the books locally, the Klutz web site has ordering info, 800 number, etc.

Another cartoon.

The state of Delaware used to put only 6 characters on their license plates. But then, they did other silly things too. In the last few years my car has been registered in Pennsylvania, then California. Both of those states allow 7 characters, so now I'm "RAPNZEL". And I've only got 47 more states to collect the whole set!

Back to my home page

Ari Rapkin
Last modified: Tue Mar 2 12:44:28 PST 1999