First of all, I didn’t really hate Jennifer Aniston. We just had a bit of a falling out, but I will get to that in a minute.
What I want to talk about first is how I survived curly hair, which is no easy task.
I have always had curly hair, and I have the pictures to prove it.
This is me eating my mom’s paints. (All photos of little me are courtesy of my mom.)
Me and my puppy Candy.
Me and my puppet Mabel.
When you’re a little kid, curly hair is really cute. It is kind of a mark of distinction. You stand out, and people “Oooh” and “Aahhh” over it.
But when you get older, it is not so fun.
I grew up in the seventies and eighties, and for a long time, straight hair was still the thing.
My aunts, whom I idolized, all had beautiful long, straight hair, and I was like:
I wanted to be like them. I envied straight hair.
My Mom did her best with my unruly hair and, really, did a wonderful job with it as long as she could.
She arranged my hair in cute pigtails and in braids. This was really the only way to manage my hair because otherwise, it was an unruly, untamed mess. Things could get lost in it.
But I have A LOT of hair, and my mom had my brother to take care of, and she also babysat my cousins for a while. I couldn’t take care of my own hair yet, and trying to brush it, braid it, or put it in ponytails every morning eventually wore her out.
My mom has also been in a wheelchair all of my life because of a car accident she was in early on. I am amazed at how she took care of me so well (and my crazy hair) despite this.
My mom and I decided together that I would get my hair cut. I was about nine, and I became kind of excited about my haircut because I thought maybe I could look like Evie, this lovely Swedish girl who was my favorite singer at this time.
This is Evie, and I loved everything about her. Her straight, blond hair. Her dimples. I marched into the hairdresser with my cassette tape of Evie with her picture on the front and told the hairdresser that I wanted to get my hair cut like that.
I think I convinced myself that if I did this, I would look like Evie, and all of my hair and life problems would be solved
This was not the case.
For one, I am not Swedish. I am Scottish/English. And after my haircut, my hair was still wild and crazy, and even more so because it seems like the craziness of my hair is directly proportional to how short it is. Like this:
This is me hanging out with my Dad when I was little, but this is still pretty much how my hair felt after I got it cut. My haircut had not magically transformed me into Evie.
And thus began several tortuous years of trying to make my hair behave, and by behave, I mean trying to get it to look “normal”
I brushed it a lot, trying to get it to be straight. I tried barrettes and headbands. I just wanted it to lay flat, but my hair had other ideas and seemed like it was completely rebelling against me.
I remember one particularly unfortunately seventh grade picture in which I had tried to brush my hair flat, and instead it stuck out in all sorts of odd, unruly angles.
This was my life for the next couple of years.
And then, somehow, miraculously, I was able to reach a type of uneasy peace with my hair.
It was the mid eighties, and I was in high school, and big hair was the thing.
I don’t know who this girl is, but she has really nailed the art of eighties big hair.
I discovered puffy bangs, and my life changed. Puffy bangs were made for me. I figured out how to use a curling iron (because my curly hair needed some direction), and I mastered the puffy bang look.
I am not too ostentatious, so my bangs weren’t huge. They were just right, and I finally had a hair style that seemed to work for me: puffy bangs and long, wavy hair.
I had a long stretch of relative peace with my hair.
And then Jennifer Aniston came along and ruined everything.
Friends became a thing, and Jennifer Aniston’s hair was the hairdo that launched a thousand straightening irons.
Straight hair was back.
People started straightening their hair right and left.
Suddenly well-meaning friends and family started asking me if I had ever tried straightening my hair.
I even had people working in mall kiosks chase me down the mall (and I am not making this up), asking me if they could try straightening my hair.
I tried straightening my hair. But it was miserable. I mean, hair like this was never really meant to be straightened.
I was miserable with my hair, and my hair was miserable with me. I shampooed it constantly, hoping that it would tame the frizz and make it more amenable to being straightened.
My hair rebelled and became unusually wild and frizzy.
I cut my hair again–as if in an attempt to escape it–and, well, it turned out pretty much the same way it turned out before.
Curse you, Jennifer Aniston and all of your straight-haired Friends, too.
And then one day, by serendipity, I ran across an article about caring for curly hair, and a light came on in my mind.
Caring for curly hair: This was an entirely new concept for me.
All this time my strategy had been trying to brush or shampoo my hair into submission or try other drastic measure to make it get with the program.
This article was a revelation.
I learned that curly hair actually tends to be naturally dry, and shampooing it makes it even more dry and encourages frizz.
It is actually better to shampoo curly hair less frequently and use conditioner instead..
It is similar with brushing. Curly hair is thin. If you brush it a lot, you can break or fray it and make it more frizzy.
It is better to use a wide bristle brush–or better yet a pick–and brush it infrequently. Like once a day or even fewer times than that if you can.
I started trying all these things, and it was like my hair breathed a sign of relief. It became healthier and happier.
These days, I really like my hair, and I realized that I don’t hate Jennifer Aniston after all.
The main problem I have now with my hair is that I still have a lot of it, and when it falls out on the floor, it clogs the vacuum cleaner.
In fact, I am pretty sure it broke our last vacuum cleaner.
There are probably worse problems, and I like our new vacuum cleaner.
I realized that my issue all along wasn’t really with my hair, and this post actually isn’t about hair really either.
All of us have unique, eccentric, unusual things about us, and I think we spend a lot of times fighting ourselves and trying to get ourselves to be normal.
But what if there really is no normal?
What if our goal is not to fit ourselves into some mold but to understand and to be gentle and kind to ourselves so that our unique self can flourish?
Happy New Year, Friends.
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