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Challenge: Hair Dos and Don’ts

The Grass Is Always Greener On Someone Else's Head

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(Originally posted on Tales From the Motherland)

What is it with women that we are forever coloring our hair, curling it, ironing it, extending it, feathering it, etc... you get the picture. I have a dear friend who for the 24 years I've known her has been trying to undo the curls she naturally has. I for one, have always coveted her thick head of curls! When she would fall in the pool and come out horrified that her hair was rapidly winding up into tight coils, I only wanted to have that hair for myself. Now that she can have it chemically straightened, she swims without fear and we laugh about this old drama. I love her straight hair, because ultimately I love her. Still it always struck me that she and I could see her hair so differently, when we agree on so many other things.

I have only colored my hair once in my life. I had fine blond(er) highlights put in to see what it was like to be in the "tribe." I got it in my head that getting your hair colored was a right of passage of sorts (it really is), and that just once I wanted to share the ritual. I was 42. I am pretty sure that most of the women I know color theirs, though for years and years, I always assumed that the hair color I saw, was the color that naturally grew in. Well in to my 40s, I naively believed this and friends would laugh at me when I would finally notice "roots" or figured out that their blond was not nature made. I still assume that most people's color is natural, unless I can absolutely see something different than the pink, deep purple, blond, brunette, orange, etc that's on top, coming in at the base. Even then, I often give the benefit of doubt.

My high school graduation picture
My high school graduation picture

I grew up with bright red hair... a blessing and a curse in my youth. My gym teacher (and some others) called me "Carrot top" while others called me "Red;" I hated it. All through college, when it was long and I suppose more striking, total strangers would come up to me and just touch my hair. It drove my husband nuts for years; while I had come to think people just did that. When I went to the Phil Donahue show (years and years and years ago), the show aired with Phil, with his striking white mop of hair, stroking my red hair... friends teased me for years about it! I had long made peace with my hair by then... I am happy to be a red-head, even as it fades to darker auburn with increasingly visible white and silver streaks. For now, I will go on record to say: I do not plan to ever color it again.

IMG_7698 - Version 3

I haven't owned a comb or brush for 15 yrs and will only get hair cuts/styles that require sleep, washing, and nothing else. I'm lazy, and have let go of that one vanity... for the most part. I don't worry about it and I often don't do anything to it until it's time to wash it again. For that, I feel very fortunate and grateful. I have lots of friends who have to invest loads more effort. My good friend C, who cuts it, has told me over and over: "Yes, you could have that style, if you're willing to spend a few minutes with a flat iron, or if you're willing to use some more 'product', or blow it out..." Instead, she just laughs at me and ends up doing variations of the same cut, as I can't bring myself to put in the effort. Nonetheless, some days I do wish it was curlier, longer, thicker... like that woman's or that one, or the one over there.

When I told my daughter, what I was writing about, she shared that she had once worn a hijab for several days, in support of some Muslim friends at college. She told me that she found it very eye opening, though her professors gave her odd looks. Wearing the hijab, she realized just how much energy, physically and spiritually, she puts in to her hair each day. "The focus," she said, "was suddenly only on my personality, me... not as much on my looks. It was so freeing!"

Graduation day (2012). My beautiful girl and her beautiful hair. I straightened mine for the day.
Graduation day (2012). My beautiful girl and her beautiful hair. I straightened mine for the day.

My daughter has gorgeous, long, wavy hair, that has been changing from the blond of her childhood to the darker color it will probably stay. She asks me: "Mom, is my hair getting darker?" with a worried expression. "Yes, it's gorgeous," I say. I look at her and simply see beautiful hair, but I understand that she is wondering if it might not be nicer wavier, or straighter, thicker or blonder again. Ironically, that's just it: all those other heads out here are wishing to be other heads. While each of us admires someone else's locks, that someone is most likely wishing for yours, or yours or yours... or mine. We may not openly say I wish I had your husband, your house, your figure, your career, your life... but so many women say: "Oh I would kill for your hair."

It has bothered me since my daughter became old enough to look in the mirror and question her own reflection. What are we teaching our children, especially our female children, about beauty and equality, in our issues with hair? It is rare to see boys worry so much about this. Few mothers suggest that their boys highlight their hair, curl it, or straighten it. Yet, at very young ages our daughters watch us change our hair, in any way conceivable. It's rare to hear a woman say: I love my hair.

For now, I still covet my neighbor's other stuff; I have plenty of insecurities to work through. On "bad hair days" I may occasionally dream of longer, curlier, whatever hair, but for the foreseeable future, I'm sticking with this head. I accept that there are an increasing number of white strands. I accept that it's a curly mass or straight depending on where I am. I accept that I don't have the patience or talent to tame it into some idealized style. When it comes to my hair I think I'll strike out into bold territory here: I love my hair.

Look at that curl! Yeehaw!
Look at that curl! Yeehaw!

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