Of my many imperfections, the one thing I complain the most about is my hair. And if I next tell you that my hair is curly, you’ll be able to draw the connection pretty quickly, especially if you’re curly-haired yourself. Add to that the fact that I’m terrible at being creative with my hair and styling it in more than one way, and you get a pretty good picture of my annoyance.
I know that having curly hair is not the most terrible thing in the world. I know that every once in a while, curly hair becomes the “in” thing and every magazine is touting the beauty of natural curls and giving straight-haired people tips about how to artfully coil their mane to make it look bouncy and voluminous and what not. But the reality is that most of us who have naturally curly, voluminous hair don’t naturally look like the end-product pictures on any of those magazines.
I have a bad combination of curls and frizz, which means that while my hair curls quite nicely at the bottom (it actually coils into large springs that you can put a finger into and pull and watch bounce back up – it’s a good party trick), the top of my head likes to arrange itself into what I like to call a “hair halo”. You know how kids draw the sun, with the little spirally rays stretching out in all directions? Yup, like that. When I was a teacher, I used to tell my students that the size of my hair halo was an indicator of how tired I was, and that if I had a lesson late in the afternoon and my halo was particularly spectacular, it was a sign that they shouldn’t provoke me.
The bright side of having my hair is that it’s given me some great memories. I once tried curling a lock of my hair with a round brush (I know, I don’t understand why I was trying to curl already-curly hair, either) and my hair got tangled inside it so terribly that I couldn’t pull the brush out. My mom ended up having to literally cut the brush out with a pair of scissors, leaving me with an ungainly tuft at the front that I had to pin down with tons of hairclips until it grew out. I’ve had several combs break in my hair, and because it’s so thick and voluminous, had things stuck in there without even realising it.
A few years ago, I got so fed up with my hair that I decided to straighten it. It was all the rage at one point, and I had always been tempted by it, so I finally took the plunge. I chopped it off into a cute bob and then got it “soft-straightened”, and I loved the way it looked (all sleek and shiny and no trace of bedhead) until my real hair started growing out of the roots and it started to take on a terrible hybrid appearance. As much as I loved the first few months of that experience, I hated the rest of it enough that I don’t know if I’ll ever put myself through it again.
The problem is, whenever I do get frustrated with my hair (which is a lot), I feel the need to do something drastic to it, which is not always the best solution. See, my hair is at its best when it’s slightly longer (my theory is that gravity and the weight of more hair makes the whole thing a little less curly and more settled than when it’s short and big), but doing something drastic almost always involves taking a pair of scissors and hacking away at it. During my most recent bout of hair depression, I decided to forgo the cutting and just highlight it red. Again, I was happy with it initially, but I feel like my hair’s gotten rougher since and the red is now fading into a weird orange, so I’m not sure if this is something I’ll do again, either.
The other day, my curly-haired niece insisted that she had straight hair, and I immediately sprang into a lecture about how curly hair was also beautiful and she had nothing to be ashamed of and all that jazz, and realised that I was saying the same things my mom had told me years ago, when my frustration with my own curly hair began. I was saying all these nice, encouraging things to my niece about liking herself the way she was, but did I really believe them myself?
My friends have heard me complain about my hair A LOT, especially the straight-haired ones, at whom I shoot dirty looks (completely justified) when they complain about their hair being unmanageable. I do get frustrated with my hair and it is difficult, but it took a four-year-old complaining about her curly hair to make me realise that I’m an adult, a good two dozen years older, and I’m pretty much doing the same thing.
Henceforth, less complaining, and more appreciating of the greenness of the grass on my own side of the field. Less moaning, more trying new things and working with what I’ve already got instead of clamouring for something different.
At the end of the day, it’s just hair. It’s doing all it can to embrace my head, so I should just learn to embrace it back.