I Am My Hair

My hair has always been my most distinguished feature: if I were to describe myself to a stranger on the phone that needed to find me, the first thing I would mention is the curly mop on the top of my head. I was the token ginger kid—unless if my childhood friend, Thomas, was around. I am actually kind of superficial when it comes to my hair. I don’t like it when people play with or touch it; I barely even like to straighten it. I can’t leave the house if it’s frizzy or all over the place—I have to wet it down in order to brush and style it. Mousse and hairspray are constantly needed.

I guess it first started sometime during the first semester of sixth grade, back before I really cared or thought about what I looked like. I would constantly put my hair in a high ponytail, and that was it. I didn’t brush it like I was supposed to. This caused my hair to clump up into this huge matted knot.

Christmas 2001. front, left to right: Caitlyn, Brianna. back: Me, Joanne, Rick.

I will never forget the day my mom realized I did this. I was basically in tears when I finally told her that I couldn’t brush my hair through this knot. It was as if I had one big dreadlock at the back of my head. (I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not.) My mom tried her best to get what she could out of that nightmare of a hair mess, but even she knew that she had to pull a Joey Gladstone and cut it out.

Side note: my hair was always kind of long before this. Even out of the womb, I had a full head of thick, black hair. So getting this haircut was the most drastic thing to ever happen to my head, and I cried the whole time.

I cried for days, and getting that haircut did a lot for my self-esteem. It was my favorite feature about myself—it always had been, and it probably always will be. After my mom touched it up, I ran to my room, stared at myself in the mirror, cried, and basically promised myself I would never let that happen again. This was such a big deal to me; you would think my life was ending. It didn’t even cross my mind that it would all just grow back. Note that curly hair takes f o r e v e r to grow. Mine surely did.

left to right: Jeanette, Me, Amanda, Brandi. May 2007

That was probably number one on my list of Reasons Why I Wish I Had Straight Hair growing up. My mom naturally has very few waves, and my older sister, Joanne, had the same. Jo straightened her hair every day, and I wished I could do that. My curls were so much to deal with, and I thought straight hair looked nicer. It definitely looked easier to manage. Straightening hair was, like, the thing to do basically all of my grade school years; curling didn’t really become popular until I hit college, so having curly hair always seemed like the outsider thing. Way back then, in middle school, I hated that. I wanted to be like my friends with the wavy or straight hair. I wanted straightening my own hair to take less than two hours, and I wanted my natural hair to go past my shoulders.

It wasn’t until tenth grade before I was finally happy with the length of my hair. Forget the fact that I straightened my bangs then—I’m cringing as I think about it—because I finally had long hair, and I was happy with it.

Brittany and I at Jeanette’s house for a PFF in 2010. Photo credit: Jeanette

It took me a really, really long time to accept the mop I was born with, and it wasn’t until these last few years that I could say I love my stupid curls. I guess I never really appreciated them until the summer in between my freshman and sophomore years of college. The summer before my first year, I dyed my hair a dark red with black tips because I was bored, and wanted to change something. (Doesn’t everyone always go for the hair first?)

At the Deer Park Outlets with Jeanette Before Leaving for College. August 2013

I got bored of that ‘do pretty quickly, and the following summer, I asked my friend, Amanda, to help me out. We bleached my hair, and I looked like Bozo the clown with bright orange hair. It was disgusting. My hair was so dead, that my once beautiful curls that I wished were never there in the first place became these cringe-worthy waves, and I cried about it for days. I waited a total of probably 36 hours before dying my hair again—to the closest color that I could find in a box to my natural color. I hated how superficial I felt about the whole thing, but even I knew that my hair was my most attractive asset, and I was the idiot who slaughtered it.

Slowly but surely, my hair started to grow, and go back to being curly. I started to take really good care of it; I let it breathe for the rest of that summer. I honestly think I didn’t even put any product in it for the rest of those days. My hair is still not the same as it used to be, and it probably never will be. I think I read once that hair is like skin: it changes every seven-ish years. I’ve started to really love and appreciate my hair. When I come across pictures from my childhood, it is nuts to see the different stages it went through: as a child, it used to be really red; as a teenager, it was super curly; when I cut my own bangs, or dyed it red, purple, and black. (And I’m still trying to forget that entire period in eighth grade when the front end of my hair was all pink. Note: never ask a friend’s mom to put streaks in your hair.) It has gone through a lot in a short twenty-one years.

Amanda and Kylie: Like godmother, like goddaughter. 2015
Global Citizens Festival with Shniv (center) and Meg (right). September 2015

I honestly still don’t know what color to describe it as (It’s like a dirty blonde with red undertones; my mom calls it strawberry blonde), but it is the one thing that has set me apart from everyone that I know—I still have yet to meet someone that has the same hair color as me—and I like that. Don’t get me wrong, I have more bad hair days than good ones, but when I have a good hair day, I smile a little brighter than usual. I’m still waiting for my hair to be completely healthy again, but at least I’ve learned to love that part of me again.

My hair has always been my most distinguished feature, even to this day. It’s a huge part of my identity, and I love being the soul-sucking ginger that I am. So to anyone else who has unmanageable or just plain curly hair, own it. Because all those people who have straight hair wished they had naturally voluminous locks like us. And I personally think that you can’t really blame them—we all want what we can’t have. It makes us realize we’re not that different from each other, and sometimes it makes us realize what we have isn’t so bad. So, I don’t know about you, but I’ll die living just as free as my hair.

When me and Brianna were young and cute, ah the good ol’ days. 1998
left to right: Brianna, Me, Justina, Rebecca, Jessica. August 2016

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