Posted by: stillironic | February 12, 2010

Bangled, Tangled, Spangled, Mangled Hair

This frigid weather, blizzards and all, has been fantastic for my hair. In a way only someone with naturally curly hair can appreciate. Wintertime is straight hair time. The humidity is low enough so when I blow-dry my hair, with a brush the same diameter as a Campbell soup can, the hair stays smooth and straight. Not straight as when a stylist uses a flatiron on it, but straight enough.

One time I went to a big dinner right after I’d had my hair cut, dried, and flatironed, and I just felt…well, like a normal person with normal hair. It was nice.

Not that I don’t like curly hair. It’s just that for curly hair I need high humidity to keep it springy and soft. Air dry my hair under low humidity and the hair goes wavy. But not in a good way, more in a stiff, helmet head kind of way.

Feeling not quite normal is a hazard of having curly hair. All the grown-ups in your life have always told you how LUCKY you are. You should be so grateful. And you’re just gritting your teeth and thinking, “Bitch, whenever has naturally curly hair been in style?” Well, to be honest, it has. For at least 10 minutes. But the kind of curly hair that goes into style is the perfect ringlet kind you see on models in Vogue magazine, not the kind that lapses into helmet head.

My hair can seem like an alien creature. It’s had a life of its own since day one. I’m not exaggerating. Babies are supposed to be born bald or fuzzy-headed. I was born with a full head of long, dark hair. In the hospital, the nurse brought me to my mother. “There must be some kind of mistake,” she said. She was horrified. She had given birth to a monkey. And my hair was so long the nurses had tied it in ribbons.

Months later the dark hair started falling out and blond hair started sprouting. So there was a period—and I’ve seen the photos—that I had two radically different colors of hair on my head at the same time. Think infant with a mother on crack who thought it would be crazy fun to bleach her baby’s hair. (Only this was before crack. It would have to have been heroin, or opium.)

Then came the years, from one to 14, when my hair was a favorite topic of conversation at family gatherings. Not just for my parents, but for my grandparents and great aunt and uncle as well. They issued a proclamation—and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d had it notarized—that my hair had to be short. Not simply short but capital letter SHORT. For some reason these busybodies had a moral abhorrence of little girls with long hair. It was as if I grew my hair long I would grow up to be a slut. (Well, ha, ha, I fooled them. I went through a slut stage anyway!)

And all I wanted during those years was to have long hair. I wanted pigtails. I wanted ponytails. I wanted topknots. I wanted them so bad it was pathetic. Imagine finding comfort in wearing pajama bottoms on your head and pretending the fucking pajama legs were pigtails.

© 2010 by Virginia Gerhart

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