I want to write about hair, but as soon as I sit down to write, I realize this isn’t just about hair. It’s about how conditioned we are to feel like we need to change ourselves. When I think about my own experience, I was already styling my hair with heat tools in fourth grade. I had an awareness that my hair was a force to be reckoned with (I’ve always had crazy thick, waves on waves hair), something that needed taming to be considered acceptable. And styling my own hair was a big deal! It meant that I had a say in how I presented myself. No more girly French braids or giant bow clips. I got to be who I wanted to be, and I got pretty imaginative with my hairstyles — one time I even created a drawing of a very complicated, kinda ’60s-looking shoulder-length bob. The top layer of hair would fall straight and curl in at the ends, while the bottom layer of hair would curl out, giving me the silhouette of a human spade.
I took the drawing to our local barber, who was a really good sport about the whole thing. She warned me that she wasn’t used to such complicated designs, but that she would do her best. Somehow, it turned out okay. It looked decent, sort of a retro politician vibe, but then I had to deal with blow-drying and heat styling for an hour! I have no idea how I had time for such an elaborate hairstyle in elementary school.
Since then, I’ve tried taming my hair in all sorts of ways. The haircare aisle of any store completely overwhelms me. Anti-frizz, deep conditioning, smoothing, hydrating — yessss, I want all of it! But which one actually works?
Day in and day out I spent all this time modifying my hair. It’s a routine most women are familiar with: wash, blow dry, straighten and/or curl. I’ve logged so many hours doing my hair that it feels like second nature. Yet, I always flinch when I see a split end. We subject our hair to so many chemicals and then singe it with long bouts of intense heat. I’m doing all this work to make my hair look good … but I also don’t want to ruin my hair!
This isn’t just about hair because it’s essentially about self-acceptance. Accepting that my hair is a beautiful, expressive part of me. Accepting that my hair doesn’t have to be perfect. But dammit, I just want it to be healthy.
I’ve had these thoughts kicking around in my head for quite a while now — just unsure of how to really put into action, so I kept up my routine of taming with heat tools. Over the past year, one by one, I quit. I quit getting my hair cut by a professional. I quit dyeing my hair. I quit using an assortment of products and instead stick to just reliable natural shampoo and conditioner. I even quit blow drying my hair.
Currently, my hair routine is this simple: shower at night and let my hair air dry, followed by a few minutes curling some front pieces in the morning or throwing it in a high pony.
And let me tell you: I have never loved my hair more. I never thought I could like my hair this much.
I spent so many years locked into a cycle of hating my hair, damaging my hair, and then hating it more. It never had any chance to be vibrant and healthy. I was too busy changing myself to appreciate my natural attributes — however imperfect they may be.
This follows for so many aspects of our lives. We are conditioned to chase perfection instead of loving and nurturing what we already have.