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Friday, November 19, 2010

"The Women"

When I was a child at family gatherings, people grouped by sex and age, some occurring naturally and some of it planned. Often, when large numbers came together and it was mealtime, children would be relegated to the basement to sit together at a folding card table. We made the best of it to sit and eat in that dank, dreary, sunless, subterranean place. It was clear we did not have adult status and that kitchen or dining room tables were prime real estate.

At other times there was a division of the sexes, a natural tendency. In our household, however, my mother would make an announcement something like "why don't the men go in the other room and the women can stay here and talk." The sexes were referred to in the third person, even the announcer and her entourage. It was always "the men" and "the women."

The problem is I never really liked being with "the men" - it was typically synonymous with watching sports on TV. I sought out the women, who appeared to have more meaningful conversations on a variety of subjects and were very comfortable socially.

I recently attended a hooping event at a bar in midtown Manhattan. Although there were a handful of men attending, this event was primarily dominated by women, to be expected in the hooping community. I was there as an equipment maker to meet, greet, show and tell. However, it should come as no surprise that I soon found a room where "the women" were socializing.
I was drawn to Bex Burton, fascinated with her mountain of hair.

Bex is a woman whose life straddles many of the alternative worlds of occupation and recreation. Perhaps surprising to some, but New York City is no stranger to new agism, body work, healing or even Burning Man devotees (she has attended 3 years). People adorned like Rebecca typically do not shun attention (she has over 1000 images on her Facebook page), so it is not surprising that she was very receptive to allowing me to photograph her, agree to this story, supply a detailed life history and, of course, tell me about her hair:

"I have yarn and synthetic hair extensions, installed by Dana Devine, The Goddess Maker. The yarn that comprises my hair is a combination of wool, mohair, roving (equivalent to the same lambs' wool I once lined my point shoes with!) acrylic gold (which makes it sparkle), and a silk yarn that's made from sari's from India. The extensions were installed on Friday 8/13, the day before my birthday and massive boat party, and 2 weeks before my departure to Burning Man. Dana was at my house for 12 hours, though I believe we actually worked for about 8-9 hours. We took many breaks, as it's pretty intense work for a long haul."

"Over time the yarn will "felt" together, forming dreadlocks. I encouraged the felting by braiding and wrapping each yarn cluster to keep them tidy and avoid cross-cluster felting. The conditions of Burning Man are extremely conducive to this type of hair, as the dust encourages the felting, the wool keeps your body warm at night, and the segmentation of hair at the scalp keeps you air conditioned during the daytime. I washed the yarn the first time after Burning Man in Reno with organic dish soap. Other detergents are more likely to leave residue. I suppose Woolite would work too, as the process is similar to washing your favorite wool sweater. The wool dried within hours thanks to Reno's desert climate, and thank goodness because a head full of wet wool is h-e-a-v-y. Drying in NYC takes quite a bit longer, more like 24 hours. I employ the sham-wow technique cityside."

Bex was born in Newport, Rhode Island and moved to New York City in 2005. I asked about her education:

"I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Television / Radio production from Ithaca College. My focus of study was Video Production. I held four internships in college in two different cities. After which I determined I didn't want to work in television, so I completed my studies producing video art (and earning the highest grades of my academic career). Following school I pursued Video, but quickly realized I wanted to create movement, rather than capture it."

Currently, she is a Pilates Instructor, Thai Massage practitioner, Hula Hoop Performer and teacher. She also told me some about her family life:

"I come from a military family. My dad is a retired Naval Captain, and my brother is an active duty Lt. Commander helicopter pilot. When I was young there was discussion of me following the same path. (gasp!) At this point, I am fully committed to my artistic life and look, and my family is wonderfully supportive and happy for me."

Today, Bex is removing her yarn extensions, a process she says will take all day. After reading a few stories on this website, she says:

"Also, similar to Jenn's story, your timing is amazing. I'm scheduled to remove the extensions TOMORROW. I'll quickly cut and color, and prep for FEATHER locks on Monday."

Good luck to Rebecca and thanks, for these are the things you can learn if you spend time with "the women." :)


Mary P. said...


bex burton said...

thank you so much for running the piece on me! I love the photos and the timely tribute to the 'mountain of hair' that is no longer attached to my head! I loved your approach about the gathering of women. The hair extension, maintenance, and removal process itself is very intimate between the Goddess Maker and her client, as she toils in your head and both embark on sharing tales and tears and laughs.

many many thanks for your work and interesting blog.

CadillaC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CadillaC said...

Hello :D
I am from Poland and I like you're blog :)
I love New York and you're pictures it's fantastic.
I subscribe you :)
Please give more pictures like in 11 November, more skyscrapers :)
If you want yo can come to my blog :
Greet from Poland :)
Write something about USA on my blog :)

Sally Darling said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sally Darling said...

Another awesome blog Brian! People would love to follow you around as you explore the city and meet all these interesting people!
Thank you Bex for sharing your interesting story. You sound like an utterly amazing person! Love your interviews Brian. People love to read about other people and where better to find an array of people but in NYC!

Steffe said...

A lovely portrait both in text and photos.

jb said...

"I sought out the women, who appeared to have more meaningful conversations on a variety of subjects and were very comfortable socially."

And I thought it was only me....

Brian Dubé said...

Mary P, Bex, Sally, Steffe - Thanks much.

jg - I am glad I am not the lone voice on this one. I stuck my neck out, but that was my experience growing up where I did. It's a different time now.

Jesica (Hot Bomb) said...

Author, Thanks a lot for this post.
Keep sharing

Mary P. said...

Any chance of an updated photo of Bex - minus hair?