“Can I play with it?”
It was a question I got a lot, despite the fact that to me, my hair was hardly special. Not really curly, sort of wavy, definitely not straight. And brown – not chestnut, not cinnamon, not oak – just brown.
My classmates loved it; I did not. In fact, when my kindergarten teacher asked the class to draw a self-portrait at the start of the year, I drew myself as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed little girl. To me, that was pretty, while my brown hair and dark eyes somehow were not.
I failed to understand why my classmates enjoyed my hair so much when I couldn’t stand it. They wanted to stroke it, braid it, fluff it, pamper it. They wanted to tie it back and twirl it around a finger. They wanted to close their palms around the thickness of my ponytail and compare it to their own.
“I wish my hair was curly like yours,” they’d gush, wrapping a ringlet around their finger.
I was dumbfounded. How could they not want their flowing, golden locks? Couldn’t they see how much I longed to be just like them? To look anything like them? Couldn’t they understand that, in kindergarten, I’d forced my mom every single day to untangle my hair and tie it back or braid it so I could pretend my hair was as silky and lovely as DJ Tanner’s on “Full House”? Or how, in third grade, I’d gotten so fed up with the mop on my head that I’d stopped combing through the tangles and let it turn into such an unruly mess, that it actually snapped a hair tie in half while I was giving a presentation in front of the classroom? (Not my shining moment.)
Even straightening my hair didn’t make me love it. It either wasn’t straight enough or didn’t fall on my shoulders perfectly. The texture appearing too rough. It wasn’t the beautiful mane I’d wished for as a kid.
I spent an ungodly amount of time wishing my hair – and the rest of me, too – looked more like the celebrities on television or the girls in the classroom.
I started to lose hope. And when I realized I wouldn’t magically wake up one morning with perfect hair on my head, I stubbornly decided it was time to make the most of it. I started to look into how I could ‘tame’ my ‘wild’ locks. I discovered how to use hair products. Learned the purpose of a diffuser. Realized that combing my hair made it frizzy and that letting it air dry and develop into curled ringlets worked a lot more efficiently than washing my hair before bed and waking up looking like a cat had exploded on my head.
It was a struggle. But I managed. And in time, I started to become okay with my brown, wavy mane. It was slow. Very, very, slow. But I started to realize there was nothing wrong with me or with my hair — it was totally fine that my hair wasn’t perfectly straight, or that it sometimes had a tendency to frizz, or that it wasn’t as flawless as an Herbal Essences commercial.
Now, for the most part, I’ve given up on trying to conceal my curls. I like them, and sometimes, even love ’em.
Some days I still wish my hair was as smooth, straight, and perfect as Jennifer Aniston’s, but mostly, I realize now that no matter how badly I hoped I’d someday wake up and look exactly like that yellow-haired drawing I first made in kindergarten, it’s my squiggly hair that’s part of what makes me who I am.
Photo credit: DaVincci