You might all recall that last March, I cut my hair. It was waist length and straight. It had gotten thin and ratty looking, so I hacked it off to just above my shoulders.
Four-year-old Anaea knew she wanted super long Princess Leia hair, but she also wanted hair that wasn’t flat, limp, and lifeless. She had the latter, and set to acquiring the former. It was still flat, limp, and lifeless two years later, and she still really wanted curly hair. So her grandmother, always indulgent when it comes to personal vanity, took her to get a perm. The next two years feature six perms, each with a more aggressive hair cut/layering. The perms just wouldn’t stay. Then came the point where the shortest layers were so short they were functionally bangs, and fell into eight-year-old Anaea’s eyes. Child Anaea wasn’t having it (she’d taken over decisions about her hair precisely to exorcise the tyrrany of bangs from her life) and vowed she’d rather have straight hair, if it could be long and compliant, than curly hair if it meant all this constant work and annoyance. And that was the end of the perming.
Not, however, of the curls. That last perm fell almost immediately into a relaxed wave. A relaxed wave that never went away. Even when the whole head of hair went properly waist length again, it wasn’t quite perfectly straight. And the short pieces, oh dear. Yup. Two years of perming had somehow granted Anaea’s childhood wish – she had curly hair.
Which brings us to March, when I’ve got to face the fact of curly hair as it applies to me for the very first time. Twenty-four years after taking charge of my hair, and I haven’t got the first clue how to deal with it. It’s short. If I brush it, I look like the “Before” image from an early nineties hair gel commercial. If I don’t brush it, or comb it, or do something, I look like got out of bed, shrugged, and gave up. (Because I did) I’ve had more bad hair days since March than I had in my entire life up to that point. I used to love my hair. Now? We hates it, precious.
It’s very weird for me to hate my hair. Not just because it’s a change of state, but because it’s weird for me to think about my hair more than “Oh look, the hallway is covered in my shedding again.” My hair has gone from a thing I spent maybe two minutes of total thought on in a given day to something constantly coming to my attention. Which days are the ones I need it to look best, and how can I time washing it to make those days line up with it? If it’ll be too soon to wash it, do I need to get up early enough that fumbling my way into learning a French Twist or other short-hair-up-do is going to be beyond me? Why does that guy have long, gorgeous hair like mine was when I can’t is there no justice in the world I hate everything and am going to stare like a creep now!
Something else I’ve learned? I’m not the only person to feel persecuted by their curly hair. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’s normal for curly-haired people to struggle this way. At WisCon I was doing the, “I’m obsessively in hate with my hair, and disturbed that I’m hung up on something as shallow as my hair to be in obsessive hate with,” and people were coming out of the woodwork to be supportive, give advice, teach me how to navigate the world as a curly-headed individual.
I own product, now. Six years ago I didn’t even condition my hair. I now own three kinds of conditioner. And a special towel. And have been told that if I want my hair to look good, I need to not let people touch it anymore, ever, no matter how much I like getting head scritches. My future life is going to be a constant balancing act between my desire to look like a put-together grown up, and to let people I like touch my head. A constant worry that riding in the car with the windows down means I’ll have unmanageable frizz, that if the weather turns I’ll need to do my hair again part way through the day, and that people now ask me stupid, inane questions about my hair all the fricken time because they don’t have better topics for small talk and now it’s attention-grabby and prominent.
I’ve had a revelation, people. A revelation that I, through all my years of long straight hair, have been appropriating straight privilege, closeting my true curly self, and blindly ignoring the struggles of people from other hair types. Me, the hater of closets, a closet case so deep she didn’t even realize closeting was occurring. And, like all great, classic hypocrites, I would crawl right back into my closet in a second if it were feasible.
I’m learning some lessons here.
Like I said, this is a silly post.
It’s still true.