Reflections on Hair and Human Connection

I’ve been making a point to explore some of Madrid’s history during my free time in the city. It was in pursuit of this quest that my friends and I found ourselves at the Museum of Romanticism, a gorgeously preserved house showcasing Spanish life in the 19th century. We had a lovely time exploring all the different rooms and marveling at the beautiful furniture.

When we visited, they just happened to have a special exhibit focusing on hairstyling in the 19th century. The various styles were interesting, but what really stuck with me was the jewelry and keepsakes. Because hair doesn’t decompose after being cut, it was considered a symbol of eternal love. It was common for lovers to wear jewelry or display artwork intricately woven with their partner’s hair. I knew hair was a keepsake from period dramas and such, but I always imagined a loose lock or two kept in a locket. These were elaborate stylized pieces.

‘Hair Keepsake’ This piece was made to be displayed like a painting in the home of a dear loved one.

The exhibit was fun to walk through, but it got me thinking about how we have always held on to the people we care about most. When I was preparing to study abroad, I never thought I would get homesick. It just isn’t really something I come across. And, after living a month and a half in Spain, I can say that I largely haven’t. I don’t miss the pace of life or the food or the language. However, I have found one thing that I do miss: the people.

Specifically, my people. The people in my life who are responsible for making me who I am. There is nothing more human than wanting to have your loved ones close. From 19th century hair to the love locks in Paris or Verona, we are all connected by not wanting to be kept apart.

‘Love Locks’ The Pont des Arts bridge in the heart of Paris is famous for lovers leaving padlocks to symbolize a lasting commitment.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s hard to be on the other side of the world from all your friends and family. But that shouldn’t stop you from expanding your horizons. None of my loved ones would ever want to be the reason that I missed out on such a special opportunity. The trick is finding ways to stay together from afar.

Technology has certainly removed some barriers, but let’s face it: there’s a difference between being connected and communicating. The accessibility is certainly nice but the occasional Facebook post probably isn’t going to cut it.

I’ve found that a nice low-stress way to stay in touch on a regular is to focus on something you have in common. For example, I swap pictures of street art with my friends and my roommate trades foodie pics with her dad. It’s nice because it’s a small way to say ‘I’m thinking of you’ without disrupting whatever adventure you’re in the middle of.

Life is all about balance. You can’t hold on too tight anymore than you can completely let go. It’s all about finding your happy medium, whether that involves an intricate monument to your friend’s hair or a simple good morning text.

Payton Straub is a student at Belmont University. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and studying abroad with ISA in Madrid, Spain

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