Hair has been on my mind lately (no cheesy pun intended.) When I think of my best features, I think of my hair first, but then I conclude that it’s really only special because it’s long and sometimes I put fun colored streaks in it. Otherwise, historically when I’ve gone to the salon for a trim they complain about the length, tell me I’m “naturally frizzy”, tell me I should have bangs to hide some of my face, take off many more inches than I have authorized, and in one case started giving me unauthorized long shag layers until I saw my hair on the floor and started crying. All I had authorized her to do was give me side swept bangs and take half an inch off the ends of the rest. That was my last trim, and that was around 8 or 9 years ago.
My hair was really nice when I was little, light sunbleached blonde from running around in Texas, straight unless I slept in curlers, nothing to complain about except when my mom would cut my bangs. I dunno how mom hair cuttings always manage to be so completely crooked. But it seems to be universal. Mom cut bangs either go at a 45 degree angle or start out cut clean up to the top of your forehead.
Then sometime when I was 6 or 7 one of my neighbor friends showed up with a spiral perm that looked AMAZING. I was fascinated by the idea of perfect spiral curls without having to sleep with things attached to my head and determined that I needed this in my life. It was a battle, largely because when asked for it at the salon they said my hair was too long and would have to be cut. Obsessive girl that I am I kept asking till I won out and got my hair cut, and eventually my perm. I looked very much like a poodle who’d received a bad shock.
Sometime in the 4th or 5th grade a boy in my class told me I needed a perm. I told him I had one and that that was what was wrong with my hair. I had no knowledge whatsoever that to him, as a black kid, a perm meant something else entirely and he was telling me to get my hair straightened.
When we moved to a new state midway through the 5th grade I got my first pair of glasses. The other kids started calling me “Garth”, referencing Wayne’s World, because I had glasses and blonde puffy hair. And probably lots of awkward facial expressions, cause that’s who I am.
That picture is actually 6th grade I believe, so I had lost a lot of the perm by then and switched to thinner framed glasses, but can still thank my mom for the awesome feathered bangs <3 That perm was a hard lesson learned. What looks beautiful on someone else, will not necessarily look beautiful on you, and you need to follow your own individuality when it comes to style. I cried a lot over the Garth comments, even though Garth is super awesome, because I didn’t want to look like a man, and certainly not an awkward man. Mind you these guys making fun of me and calling me Garth were the same guys that were making inappropriate comments about my T&A and how I’d hit puberty before the rest of the girls, and constantly poking at my butt with pencils if I dared to have a chair in front of them within their reach, and snapping my bra band against my back if I dared to walk in front of them. Adolescence is a painful confusing time. Maybe more so in North Dakota because there wasn’t a damn thing for kids to do so they spent a lot of time being awful to each other as entertainment. But I digress.
Anyway, that year my parents had pity on me moving to another new state and not really having any friends and rented out the on base pool for me to host my birthday party with all of the girls from my class and one or two that I knew from family connections. The only black girl in my class declined the invitation because she had some kind of function that she needed to go to the next day or something so she didn’t want to get her hair wet. I didn’t have a concept of ethnic differences in hair at that stage of life and felt rejected and like it was a really lame excuse. I still don’t really know what’s wrong with getting a black girl’s hair wet, just that I’ve heard it mentioned from other sources too. If Tyra Banks says it it must be true, right? But why is there no cultural education for kids to understand each other better? I think the closest thing we ever got was assigned reports on Hanukkah and playing with dreidels, which is actually kind of weird when I think back and am not sure I ever encountered a Jewish classmate in any of my 13 schools.
In 7th grade it was into the 90s era where wedges and other adventurous hairstyles were fashionable. I was always told I had really thick hair (I don’t really, I just have a big head so I have a lot of hair) and that year one of my stylists asked if she could shave the back of my hair to make it thinner. It got the approval from my mom and despite being very nervous I decided to go for it and was really happy with how much lighter my head was and how soft the shaved part felt and you could only see it if I wore a ponytail so it was no big deal if I decided I didn’t want it seen on any given day. I was excited to show it off because it was probably the first time I ever changed my appearance in a way that I liked. Upon getting to school I excitedly told the first “friend” I saw that I had shaved the back of my head. Her response was “I know. It looks stupid.” She hit me up on Facebook back when I very first made the jump over from Myspace. Turns out a decade later she was still kind of a jerk.
In the summer between 7th and 8th grade I got lice for the third time in my life. I think I had a habit of making friends with kids that were kind of poor and maybe not as closely parented as I was and being girls we always had sleepovers and did makeovers and shared hair products and all those fun things, but by that time I couldn’t handle another day of sitting in the bathtub for hours on end while my mom ran that tiny little comb through that awful smelling shampoo and there was nothing to do but sit and be miserable. So I told her to cut it off. And for the second time in my life my long beautiful hair got chopped to my chin. I was comfortable with chin length, but when we were done with the lice treatment on the remainder and went to a salon to have it “evened out”, it went from chin length to closer to earlobe length. There were no compliments on that look either. The only reaction I remember at all was my long term crush riding up to my house on his bicycle and saying “Why did you chop all your hair off?” I don’t remember how I answered him. I know I didn’t say “Because your sister gave me lice.” But whatever I said ended the conversation and off he went. I had the summer to get it back down from my ears to my chin, but as you can see, I was still not happy about it at all.
About a year and a half later at 14 I had convinced my parental unit that having colorful streaks in my hair would not bring the world to an end and I happily rocked 3 purple grape colored streaks around my conservative military town. It, along with the rest of my fashion statements and charming personality of course, attracted me a little following of groupies that went around wherever I happened to wander, but I got ugly cat calls and names from the jocks and “good kids” in the hallway, and a girl sitting behind me in 9th or 10th grade English started talking about me like I couldn’t hear her and said if she had purple hair her parents would kick her ass. Then revised it to if she had purple hair she’d kick her own ass. People judge each other on the weirdest things. I still don’t quite know how my purple and blonde mixture offended or affected this girl that I didn’t know.
That just doesn’t look threatening to me. Since then I’ve done a lot of time fully blonde, but still frequent moments of purple, green, pink, and/or blue streaks mixed in. I enjoy it. It makes me feel like a My Little Pony. And now that everyone does it I don’t hear about how I should kick my own ass. And I’ve never again allowed for a real haircut. Only trims. With the exception of the unauthorized layers.
And that’s more or less the full evolution of my hair. Contrary to what digital cameras would have you believe, I am not and have never been a redhead. My natural color is dark blonde, and is still extremely affected by how much sunlight I get. I get none so right now it’s pretty much light brown, except that if I spent any significant time outside it would go back to blonde. But not having had my hair trimmed in those 8 or 9 years has got it looking lifeless and dull and weighed down and doing that natural frizz thing that stylists like to inform me of, which I still blame on the perm all these years later, though a significant portion of it is that I play with my hair a lot and take it up and down many times a day so of course there’s breakage and I have these little strands that have broken off that like to stand up and wave around in the breeze enjoying their freedom to the fullest. So I’ve been contemplating that trim and MAYBE seeing if I can get someone to do those side swept bangs without cutting off all of the rest of my hair. But I haven’t done anything with it because I don’t know where to go or a stylist that I would trust.
So I’ve been agonizing over my hair problems. Then today I read this article:
And I’m back to feeling like I don’t understand different ethnicities hair as well as I’d like to, and that my hair problems are pretty minor in comparison. My little half/adopted sister is biracial and when she was little her mother (not mine) used to either never brush her hair or if she did she’d just tear a brush through it so hard without any regard to how much it was hurting her that to this day she’s still completely against hair brushes. Before I moved out I would wet her hair with a spray bottle and brush it gently and let her do the same to me to try to teach her it wasn’t supposed to be a bad or painful experience, but she has some disabilities and is now an adult who will not brush her hair. She’s had weaves and braids and all manner of things to try to help, but in the end she just keeps it cut short and lets it stick out however it might, and I wish I knew more about how to help her.
I think my hair would be very curly if I were to cut it short and lose the weight of it at this stage in my life, it acts like it wants to take after my mom’s if I would let it. My mom has beautiful hair, but my face can’t pull it off. But it’s heavy enough now that it mostly stays very straight or curls from being worn up in a bun all the time so just very big soft curls. I’ve never had extensions, but I used to have a friend who liked to cornrow it for me (I don’t want to hear about cultural appropriation, I’m allowed to have braids in my hair, no one owns that) and it would take hours and hours and the coconut oil definitely was a pungent smell that required some getting used to. I can’t imagine having to sit for hours while someone oiled and tiny braided my hair on a routine basis, especially if I had to pay someone to do it. I would like to see our society make bigger steps to embracing different kinds of beauty.
That is my point with this post and how it fits in to the self esteem theme I said I’d be going with for the rest of this month. Whatever your hair color, texture, length, or style – long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty, oily, greasy, fleecy, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, knotted, polka dotted, twisted, beaded, braided, powdered, flowered and confettied, bangled, tangled, spangled and spaghettied – your hair can be beautiful however you choose to make it represent you. Don’t let anyone make you feel like a Saturday Night Live character, or listen to them call you a brillo pad, or tell you what constitutes “good hair”. Good hair doesn’t have to be purchased, your hair is good. If you’re nice to it, it’ll be nice to you. “Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re forty it will look eighty-five.” Don’t overheat your hair, use products that help your hair bring out it’s natural beauty, give it that good conditioning hair mask on a regular basis so stylists don’t chase you away for your naturally frizzy hair. Learn to love your hair, whatever kind you may have, or if you have none at all. There are times I would love to shave my head and start over and have it be nice and healthy, but I always hear that after a certain age your hair doesn’t get any longer, and based on my hair length the past several years I think I’m at that age. I don’t know where it goes, it gets longer from the top based on my dye lines, but it doesn’t ever get longer at the bottom. Weird. But I know so many people that are beautiful naturally bald or with shaved heads. Honestly, when I was a kid my sister had cancer and it was normal for me to see so many people that were bald from chemo and they still managed to be beautiful.
So today, apart from just giving your hair some extra love with a hair mask or a scalp massage or a healthy trim, just remember that beauty comes in every look you can imagine. Beauty is not owned by one race or one social class or one cookie cutter formula. Beauty is all around us, and you’re beautiful too whether you know it or not.
A word about music: We include songs for a reason. Music helps us deal with the world, helps to soothe the soul, and gives us something else we can focus on when everything is too much. Listen to the songs we post. Even if you already know them. Listen to them like you don’t. Pay attention to the lyrics. Pay attention to what the instruments are telling you. They all have a message, they all have a purpose, they’re all chosen for a reason. If you like the song, please support the artist by purchasing the MP3 or Album that features it.
Today’s music can be found on Amazon.com:
MP3: Hair (Album Version)
Album: The Best of the Cowsills: 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection
(This album is only $3.99! The Cowsills are worth way more than that.)