On my Hair. A photo essay, sort of.

My hair has been a constant source of dismay for me.

I believe it started somewhere around birth. I was quite bald. Even as a toddler, people would say, “My, what a cute boy you have!” (Sort of like the Red Riding Hood – Big Bad Wolf exchange: “My, what big teeth you have.” “All the better to eat you with, my dear.” Except not exactly like that.) And finally, after a few years of this gender confusion, I grew hair, cementing my place as a female member of society.
Did my parents ever worry about alopecia? Maybe not, as I’m sure they don’t subscribe to my worst-case-scenario-projecting-is-the-only-way-to-look-at-life philosophy. (For the record, I don’t worry about alopecia. Not yet, at least. And by the time I start to worry, there will be science-miracle cures that I can buy on TV for easy payments of $19.99. Done! Alopecia problem solved! Thanks future hair plugs/miracle creams/sweet interchangeable wigs.)
(trade this dress for a tux, and you’ve got an adorable future George Clooney)
After hair comes bangs.
My mom knew I was going to cut my hair soon. I’d been cutting grass, the dog’s hair, paper. So one day, I came flouncing down the stairs with crooked bangs. They were completely diagonal. I’d cut them with safety scissors and then left the hair behind a chair upstairs, as though no one would ever find it. There was no fixing it, so they just had to grow out.
Any mother’s worst fear is the years and years it’s going to take to grow our a small child’s bangs. It took years. It was a source of stress. When I was in first grade, my mom told me that I wasn’t allowed to have bangs again until I was 18.
So I didn’t.When I was little, my mom would try to put my hair in a ponytail. I was never happy. There were always bump when she’d try to pull it up. I’d reach back and feel it and tell her that there was a bump and so I’d make her redo it. To this day, I still redo my hair when I’m worried that there’s a bump. She’d get exasperated. “There’s no bump!” (Just to be 100% clear, there were bumps. I am not wrong.)
A few months ago, she was walking past a mother doing her daughter’s hair. She said that she was tempted to walk up to the daughter and whisper, “There’s a bump!”

I went through my ugly duckling phase (era, actually – it was like a decade from awkward hell) with no discernible hair style. I really didn’t do anything to it – I don’t even think I had approached a hair dryer at this point. It just lived in a ponytail at the base of my neck. Every day. All day.

There was one day where we tried curlers. Like a 50s housewife, I slept in rollers. When I woke up and took them out (Mom was at work, so Dad may have had a hand in the meltdown that happened immediately after I realized I looked like young Frankenstein), I freaked.
(me, at age 8)
One of my worst memories of 6th grade is the day that I forgot to wash the conditioner out of my hair. All day, I was greasy and gross and miserable. I now triple rinse, without fail. In South Africa, long after the water had gone cold, I’d be under the shower head, rinsing. Triple checking that no traces of conditioner remained.
It gets worse.
Remember high school? (This is still part of the era of awkward.)
The only rule was that I couldn’t dye my hair black. So of course, I dyed it black the first chance I got. Mom has a sixth sense about these things (either that or I’m a terrible liar), and I hadn’t even finished drying it post-coloring when she was on the phone. “What color is your hair?!” she said, in her terrifying phone/teacher voice. (I should add that my mom isn’t really that scary – and I’m grateful that she let me do so much experimentation during those years. I may not have looked great, but I was figuring myself out. I respect her willingness to let me try that, just like when she would let me wear her high heels and my play dresses to church when I was little.)
   (Those were interesting years. I cut my bangs myself. They were always horrifying. Short, uneven. Not really bangs. Not really side bangs. For evidence of this bad bang cutting, see my sophomore year school picture – it’s still on display at Mom’s house. Compounded with my ever-changing hair color, I was not my best self. It’s a good thing that there are still people on this planet (my friends) who value inner beauty.
College. I chopped off all of my hair. I looked like a goon. (That’s not entirely true. It was actually sort of cute.) I spent the next three years in various stages of hair length, usually around my chin. Sometimes adorable, sometimes not at all.
Cut to Africa. Mama P wanted me to have fringe. So I sat on one of her kitchen chairs and her daughter took shears to my hair. Full fringe. I kept that until this spring, when I grew them back out.
So of course, December rolls around and what do I want to do again? (I haven’t gotten any tattoos or piercings in years, so I get the urge to do something drastic every six months or so.) Bangs. My super ego was telling me no, but my stubborn self was saying yes.
But I was waffling. I didn’t know. I looked back through pictures, realized I couldn’t find a single one with bangs that I liked, and then thought, let’s do it again! (That is nothing if not sound logic right there.)
(That’s a lie – I like this picture. Long Street, 2010.)
So I’m back to half-bangs. But I swear, I am growing all of it out and just having hair that’s one length. 2012 is the year of less hair cut, more learning how to style the hair I have. Curling irons? I can master them. Learning to love my curly hair? I can learn that too. I have taken baby steps – I own good hair products. I am open to re-embracing hair spray.
(Imagine if I wasn’t doing the mickey ave – I’d look adorable.)
Moral of this story? Stop messing with your hair. Learn how to style it. Stay away from the scissors. Curling irons are your friend. Your natural hair color is that way for a reason. Listen to your mother, at least when she tells you to stop trying to rock bangs. She might be right.
Other moral? Pick friends who will still love you when you look ridiculous. Or just make sure you pick ridiculous friends.
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