There’s Nothing Wrong With My Hair!

Ask me to describe my hair, and here’s what you get:

red

poofy

frizzy

wavy

hard to manage

Ask a random person on the street to describe it, and you’ll hear something like this:

“Ohmygosh your hair is gorgeous!”

“Is that your natural color?”

“Oooh…shiny!”

Once a guy back in high school whispered in my ear as he walked by my desk, “I like your hair, Heidi. It reminds me of cinnamon.”

:shudder:

So.

So why such a big difference between my first thoughts on my hair and the way other people see it?

I’m pretty sure it’s shampoo ads, mostly.

It hit me in the shower today, thinking about the lady who tried to sell me a hair-smoothing product at the mall the last week. She handed me a sample, her face full of gravity, and said, “Your hair is poofy. This will make it soft like mine.”

I didn’t object. I was in a hurry to finish Christmas shopping, and had showered that morning without any of the usual syrums and flat-irons I use to keep it from looking like I’ve been living in a bush for a week. Like any good woman, I’m aware of all my flaws and the products I need to fix them. So I took the sample. And I thought about trying it in the shower this morning. After weeks scrambling to finish holiday orders for my Etsy shop and rushing to ship gifts to a family scattered across six states, I felt worn down and sloppy. Shiny, smooth hair was just the thing I needed to make me feel like a person again.

And then I realized that somehow, someone, wayway many years back, must have planted this idea in my head: you need shiny, smooth hair to feel like a person. You need shiny, smooth hair to be a person. Certainly this was not true, as the hair I was born with was certainly not smooth or shiny, and yet I was a person from the very beginning. Even in high school, when my tresses were at their most abundant and frizzy (you all have seen Brave, right?) I was undeniably a person, if not a very popular or fashionable one. Now, two kids’ worth of hair loss and a flat-iron later, I was scrubbing away at my wet, naked self and thinking about how if my hair was just a bit less like my hair, life would love me that much more.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. There’s nothing wrong with curling and straightening and wearing the latest version of a messy/loopy/twisty bun thing, if it makes you happy. But this was not about me being happy. This was about years of conditioning from hair mask commercials and those stupid fashion pieces in those stupid teen magazines I used to read. You know, the ones that go on about things like how YOUR FEET HAVE TO LOOK THEIR BEST before you can even THINK of going swimming this summer. My hair looks prettier when I’ve taken some extra time with a blow dryer. But there’s a difference between taking that time so that I can look nicer and taking it because I think without it, I won’t look nice at all.

Screw it, I thought. I’m not going to do anything to my hair! I’m going to let it dry without putting in chemical glosses or oils or that sample from the lady at the mall. And then I’m going to take a picture! And then I’m going to post it ON THE INTERNET!

IMG_3794

IT’S SO FLUFFY!

Admittedly, this is with anti-frizz conditioner, since I don’t own anything else. The lady at the mall should have seen me before I discovered hair product. When DH first brought up that he wanted to marry me, we were sitting on a grassy hill kissing, and as usual my hair was getting in both our mouths. I apologized, awkward, and he said he’d like to get used to it. How could I take something that’s so much a part of me and turn it into a thing that has to be tamed in order for me to feel like I qualify as a full human being?

This is a great hair day:

178051_4260330476822_153622300_o

And so is this:

IMG_3790

So I think I’ll stop listening when people try to tell me that my hair needs to look less like my hair in order to be good enough.

Also, I feel I can’t talk about women and hair without mentioning Chris Rock’s film, Good Hair, the extra torture black women submit themselves to when they try to tame what is naturally theirs to match a white standard of beauty, and the extra significance this taming can carry for them. I definitely recommend watching.

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13 thoughts on “There’s Nothing Wrong With My Hair!

  1. I have a hard time getting over the “there’s something wrong with my hair”, because I have such fine hair. I get to try to tame the frizz AND make it look fuller. Most of the time it’s not really an issue for me, but I admit to regularly wishing for thicker hair.

    • The way I see it, there’s nothing wrong with doing something to make your hair look thicker. But what I’m asking myself about this sort of thing is, do I still feel acceptable and beautiful when I haven’t done anything to change the way I am naturally? Engaging daily in long and complicated routines to make ourselves look a certain way generally signals that we think something is wrong if we don’t. When I think of all the other things I could have done with the energy and time I’ve spent worrying about my weight, the shape of various members which stick out, my skin texture, my hair texture, the slight outward curve of my stomach…that’s what indicates that I’m doing all this “beauty” stuff because of social conditioning and bad body image, rather than just because I like doing it.

    • Is how I generally think of “Heidi.” 🙂 not that your “great hair day” picture isn’t also you (I think it’s the laughing grin rather than the hair), but between knowing you since pre-DH and not seeing you in person for 5-ish years, archeologist, living-in-a-bush Heidi is still the mental picture I first come up with. Enjoy the crazy hair!

      • Alos, this is a good time to mention that I always thought your hair was gorgeous. I was so sad when you cut it off that first time!

      • Oh, okay. I see. I agree. I really do. I just think it makes my point very well to talk about how my hair, which I have been complimented on all my life, is actually something I’m insecure about. It shows how commercial and social pressure can make women feel that even their best assets are deeply flawed.

  2. My 9 year old daughter has your hair, maybe a slightly lighter red. She gets the same comments from people all of the time.

  3. flipped over here quick from fmh, saw your first pic and immediately thought, “gasp, she’s gorgeous” Really pretty hair, really pretty face. And you always have really great thoughts/comments over at fmh :)…

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