Ask me to describe my hair, and here’s what you get:
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?”
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.”
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!
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:
And so is this:
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.