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Posted at 04:58 PM ET, 08/06/2012

Gabrielle Douglas, Joanna Rowsell — Olympian hair power

As inevitable as humidity in August we are again talking seriously about hair.

U.S. gymnast Gabrielle Douglas looks on while performing on the floor during the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around final on Aug. 2, 2012 during the London 2012 Olympic Games. (Thomas Ocex - AFP/Getty Images)
Hair styling issues and racial identity have long been a subject of particular interest in the African-American culture. Last week, a hair backlash surfaced after mean comments about how she wore her curly hair emerged on Twitter during the magical aerial balance beam performance of 16-year-old U.S. Olympian gymnast Gabrielle Douglas.

“I’m like, `I just made history and people are focused on my hair?’” the teenager noted. “What’s wrong with my hair?”

I certainly hope the graceful athlete didn’t feel a single sling or arrow of contempt over idle chatter by hair-centered haters, and, if she did, that her gold medals, endorsement deals and new global fan base sufficiently served as balm for the sting.

Though I am white and Jewish, my kinky fuzz sprouts from my father’s Lithuanian side of the family, and I feel a deep extra-ethnic kinship with anyone who struggles with unruly curls. Strangers regularly comment on my locks, too. I think in my lifetime, I’ve had more spontaneous conversations with people I don’t know about grooming products than on any other topic.

I am now a senior citizen but a few years ago in an essay on turning 60, I confessed I’d “never completely got over thinking my hair was the fundamental problem of my life.” Thick and wiry, my millions of follicle curlicues have a mind of their own. A couple of weeks ago I was sitting on a stool in my friend Claudia’s kitchen with my hands in my lap and, when I turned my head, my hair reached over and knocked over a beer bottle on the counter.

I finally gave up fighting, stocked up on DevaCurl moisture lock, and haven’t had a haircut in a year and a half. The benign neglect seems to work — the random comments my hair attracts lately are mostly complimentary but, then, unlike Gabby, I stay off the uneven bars.

Meantime, since we are on the subject of women’s hair, my new favorite Olympian may be 23-year-old British cycling champion Joanna Rowsell who has alopecia. Rowsell’s immune disorder causes hair loss and after winning gold in the Individual Pursuit and the Women's Team Pursuit competitions, she eschewed the wig she normally wears to appear on the podium bareheaded and hairless and instantly stood as an inspiration to others with the ailment. I wonder what the Twitter meanies had to say about that?

Bonnie Goldstein is on Twitter @KickedByAnAngel.

By  |  04:58 PM ET, 08/06/2012

Tags:  Gabby Douglas, Joanna Rowsell, olympics 2012, hair

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