11.14.13 Truth & Wisdom
When I was 14, my family moved to a new neighborhood. Which meant a new school. Which meant my first day of ninth grade began at a new junior high where I knew no one. It was single-handedly one of the most difficult transitions of my life.
To top it all off, my dad made me cut off my hair. Not just cut it off, but leave only inches in this mushroom-like bob that was quite popular for circa 1995… for girls with straight hair.
I did not, nor do I now, have straight hair. I inherited my mom’s white girl afro. It’s big, unruly, thick, and has a mind entirely of its own. So while the haircut would have been cute on all of my friends, on me, it just made me look worse than my pubescent hormones made me think I did anyway.
I cried myself to sleep for three nights because I was so completely consumed by the horror on my scalp.
And it wouldn’t have been so bad, maybe, if I’d known how to style it and fix it, but I didn’t. I knew how to wash my hair, let it air dry, and accept whatever new shape it took on that day. I didn’t know about blow dryers, curling irons, mousse, or “product” until my freshman year of college. (Sadly, I didn’t know about eyebrow wax either. Yikes!) Au naturale was how my mom managed her Marge Simpson coif, and so that’s what was handed down to me.
If I could tell my 14-year-old self anything, it would be, as cliche as it has become, that it gets better. I would tell her that one day you’ll – brace yourself – love your hair. You’ll celebrate it. You’ll be proud of this mop of curls that you now know how to take care of. When people say “Oh what I’d do to have a head of curls like that,” instead of cringing and telling them “yeah right,” you’ll smirk and say, “I know.”
I’d tell that painfully awkward ninth grader that she should believe it’s just hair, but it really holds so much of our identities. And at 14, you were going through a crisis anyway so it’s OK that you and your hair weren’t simpatico for a while.
During my late teens and twenties, after I discovered the flat iron, curl conditioning cream, and bobby pins, I refused to let anyone take pictures of me if my hair hadn’t been straightened. I lost hours of my early adulthood burning my hair in to submission. When I look back, I don’t really see myself in those photos.
But some time after my daughter was born, and the luxury of 30 minutes of hair styling free time evaded me like sleep, clean shirts, and elastic-free pants, I embraced my curls. I discovered a really good mousse and allotted myself 90 seconds each morning to spring my curls in to action.
I’d tell my 14-year-old self… I really love my hair. I look like me in pictures now. I look happy! I’ve got a good head of hair and I eat up the compliments when people jealously fawn over my spiraling locks.
If I could steal just one more moment with her, I’d ask her ever so kindly to find a way to burn that Collective Soul CD and quit playing it every. single. day. And I’d let her know that the best friend she made at that awful new school will still be the first person she texts or calls for anything 18 years later.