[Part of my mission to “live deliberately” involves ruthlessly cutting out anything that saps my time, energy or money to no good end. I’m calling these things my “Quits,” and this is one of the many items that have found themselves on my Quits List.]
I’ve always had a hate-hate relationship with my hair. Over the past 29 years of living with it, I have struggled, cursed, resented, fought, and basically tried everything in my power to make it not what it is.
What it is is a plain, boring old brown, and curlier than a poodle in a wind tunnel that has recently been electrocuted.
What it also is is stubborn as a mother. It absolutely and unequivocally refuses to be anything other than itself, too bad and deal with it, you punk. (If it could speak, I’m fairly certain it would call me “punk” and “beotch” on a regular basis.)
This is the story of my lifelong battle with my hair, and why I’ve finally decided to let it go and (try to (learn to)) appreciate it.
Cordelia vs. Hair: The Curl Front
I’ve always hated my curls because I never know what they’re going to do, and whatever they wind up doing, I rarely like it.
They can be fluffy, frizzy, sproingy, droopy, wavy, and Just Pure Evil, all in the span of an hour. And I have no idea why. It’s some mysterious combination of humidity, product, wind or lack thereof, zodiac alliances, and whatever my hair’s current level of spite is toward me.
I used to sit behind other curly-headed girls in school—the kind whose curls were always in perfect little ringlets, even after spending an entire day in Scrunchies—and wonder what kind of elaborate animal sacrifices they must be performing at home in the evenings to make such impossibilities happen.
I never did learn the god-appeasing secret. So instead I did everything I could think of to try to eradicate my curls.
I bought a straightening iron—and quickly learned that I had neither the patience nor the arm stamina to spend the 2 hours necessary to manually flatten each strand into submission.
I had my hair “professionally straightened” by various complex and expensive chemical processes—only to learn that the only way it would stay as straight as it was in the salon was if I spent an hour every morning meticulously blow drying it back into that state. And one step out the door only made it curl right back up again like nothing had ever happened.
Finally, I just chopped it all off—and for a while, I liked the super short look. It was cute and easy. But then something unexpected and completely inconvenient started happening: I started envying every girl I saw with long hair. In the store, on commercials, in magazines. I began having unreasonable urges to be able to pull my hair into a ponytail. Chopping off my nemesis had felt so wonderfully therapeutic, so finally freeing—and here I was missing it after only a few short weeks.
It made no sense, but then again, that’s how my hair works.
Cordelia: 0. Hair: 1.
Cordelia vs. Hair: The Color Front
I’ve also always wanted to be a redhead. Like punch-you-in-the-face, call-me-saucy, Ariel-the-Little-Mermaid red. Brown just felt so pedestrian. I wanted to stand out. I wanted to look dramatic.
My hair wanted otherwise.
At first I tried pharmacy-bought coloring kits. (No good, I know, but at two bucks a pop with my mad couponing skills, it’s a hard bargain to pass up.) But my hair being on the dark side, the red never really took. Or rather, it took, but in a clandestine, visible-only-in-very-direct-sunlight way. Meaning my hair was still plain old brown in almost all lighting, but if I stepped outside on a particularly sunny day, I suddenly become a freakish cartoon version of Little Orphan Annie.
So I decided to swallow my frugality and spring for professional coloring. The scalp massages when they wash out your hair were positively lovely, but that was about the only difference between the pros and the boxed color.
At my latest (and officially last) professional attempt—a salon training academy where no less than 3 professors monitored and advised the student working on me—I sat for a marathon 2½ hours and underwent all sorts of fancy multi-level treatments (including some sort of fierce red-amping booster that my stylist kept making sure I really, truly wanted, because it was intense)…and it still only looked red in certain, very select lighting. Let’s put it this way: one day three weeks later, I walked into an attorney’s office at work and apparently hit the right lighting conditions, because suddenly she exclaimed, “Oh, wow! When did you do that?”
She was the first and only person to notice anything had been done at all.
Cordelia: 0. Hair: 2.
Admitting Defeat (-Slash-Embracing-What-Is?)
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how worthy a nemesis my hair really is. It fights the way I fight: like a no holds barred, no concessions, hell-no-I-won’t-go dirty little punk. And finally, after nearly 3 decades of losing miserably to it, I have recently decided to concede. Grudgingly, and with a good bit of grumbling.
And, in a truly moral-of-the-story turn of events, once I officially let go and told my hair to Do Whatever the Hell It Wanted, I actually found myself—on very rare, very fleeting occasions—almost appreciating it for what it was. It was different. It was kind of fun. It was interesting, if nothing else. I’d never really noticed that all those years I’d been trying to turn it into something else.
Deep message on personal acceptance here.
There are plenty of things about my looks that I don’t love but I’ve learned to live with, like my height (I’m 5’2”) or the fact that I can fit into petite clothing but have freakish size 8W feet. I’ve accepted these things largely because I know that there’s nothing I can do to change them. But with my hair, there’s always been that hope that if I just found the secret—that perfect combination of salon-grade products and Ted Gibson pro technique—it would finally be what I wanted it to be.
But it won’t. Because, for whatever reason, I am meant to be a poodle-haired saucy brunette instead of a normal-haired saucy redhead.
And I am finally starting to be o.k. with that.
To acknowledge that all those straight-haired girls who always said oh-how-they-wished-they-had-curls weren’t delusional. (They still have no idea how much work curly hair can be, but they’re not delusional.)
To admit (don’t tell him) that when my husband says he likes my hair “poofy,” he maybe really means it and isn’t just trying to secretly get me to go outside looking ridiculous.
To accept that I don’t need to learn to “work” or “deal” with my hair. I need to learn to let it be the brilliant, unpredictable mess that it is, and figure out how to revel in that.
It’s time to start rockin’ the poodle look.
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