Hair is such a politically fraught issue. For women of color, hair – and the choices that one makes to her hair – are always seen through a political lens, and the assumption that you are trying to make a statement. For white women, it’s usually considered a less political issue, if only because we have the hair everyone else is supposed to want. For me, though, my hair has always been an issue. It’s thick and curly in a way that white girl hair usually isn’t, and the dryness and knots and tangles when I don’t take care of it – and what little girl wants to sit and get her hair combed? – were the stuff of legend in my family. Too bad no women in my family had similar hair – came straight from my dad, who kept it to a short, acceptable white-man-fro. My mom’s hair is thick and heavy but barely wavy compared to my spiraly, corkscrewy curls. So, yes, I hated my hair. I hated the way the baby hairs at my hairline stuck up in what my family affectionately referred to as my “crown” when my hair was pulled back. I hated how I had to create a helmet head of gel to control that crown when I wanted to wear my hair in my ponytail, which I did every single day throughout seventh grade. I hated the way it puffed, up or down, so it was like a wild animal attempting to attack anyone who came too close to me. I hated the way it went nappy and frizzy (at the same time, which – what?) when I was running late and didn’t have time to shower and control it. When I moved into my teenage years, my sister learned to blow her (thick and wavy, like my mother’s) hair out so it was straight and shiny, or blow dry and scrunch it into voluminous curls that made her already tiny, doll-like face look even smaller and faker. I tried to learn to use a blow dryer, but all I was able to do was expand my afro to Diana Ross-proportions – which looks much less fabulous on a pale, freckle-faced ginger than Ms. Ross herself. Hair straighteners had some more success, but my arms always fell asleep a fifth of the way around my scalp, so while the first section of hair was perfectly straightened, the rest was in varying degrees of shambles.
Now that I’m in my twenties, I’ve come to some level of peace with my hair. I get complimented on it nearly every time I go out of the house, because it is unique and different. I don’t have to spend hours – or even minutes, really, coaxing texture out of my hair – the curls provide texture and definition to any look I want simply by running a bit of curl cream through them. Most days I just throw it into a braid before running out the door, and it manages to look appropriate whether I’m going to the beach or to work. While it doesn’t look good when I first wake up in the morning, I can pretty universally let it down at the end of the day and be assured it looks relaxed and pretty. It has become part of my identity. Although I spent what is currently the majority of my life rebelling against it – and still have SERIOUS anxiety about my future kids hair – I love my hair today. And whenever I see a little girl with wild, corkscrewy spirals bursting out from around her face, I want to bend down and say “Just remember, sweetie…it’ll get better.” But I don’t. Because that would be creepy.