Thursday, May 19, 2016

Becky With the Good Hair

Spoiler Alert: This post has nothing to do with Beyonce.

Have you guys heard of this app called "Bitmoji" where you basically create an avatar of yourself and then there are tons of funny little cartoons of "you" doing and saying funny things? When a couple of my friends started using it I was like, "I don't get it." (To echo my brother, "Where are you getting those? And why? ;)) But I finally came around and it is weirdly addictive.

Aaaanyway. I basically had an existential crisis over Bitmoji. You have to choose all the elements of your person (dude I don't know what shape my face and eyes are?!?), and I didn't know what to do. The hair part in particular really stressed me out. If I could choose any type of hair in real life, I would 100% choose gloriously smooth tresses with volume and body that looked great straight out of the shower or swimming pool. But Pantene-commercial hair was not in the cards for me. I have curly hair. Well, flat on top, wavy-ish in places, curly-ish in places, with a generous patina of frizz throughout. I've spent 30 years and who knows how many thousands of dollars trying to fight what God gave me, brushing and blow drying and flat-ironing and Brazilian-formaldehyding it into sleek, smooth straightness. There were a couple years there where I used to straighten it every single day. There was a decade I never went anywhere of import without a perfectly straight hair. (This may stem from a comment I once received about being "brave" for showing up to an interview without a blowout.) I feel prettier with straight hair. I feel like my best self with straight hair. Unfortunately, I do not, in fact, have straight hair.

My hair. Sorry about the weird orange. It was pretty hot pink once, around the last time I could show my toes in public. 
This friction between the hair I have and the hair I wish I had was never really an issue before kids. Or at least, it wouldn't have caused me an irrational amount of mental anguish in the Bitmoji app. I think if Bitmoji had existed 6 years ago, I would have picked the pretty straight hair for my avatar and called it a day, in the same way that I refuse to give myself ugly forehead wrinkles and crows feet even though I have them in real life. I mean, it's an avatar, it's not a police sketch, you know?

Also, not helpful that the "curly hair" options are kinda whack. Is there really no middle ground between Pantene hair and 70's black lady afro?

I think my mom actually had this exact hair except shorter ~ 1983
But I digress.

The thing is, I don't see my curls as an essential part of my identity. I see them about the same as I view bad skin or a hairy bikini line - a problem to be conquered/whipped/bleached/waxed into submission. It's kind of like how one good friend had brown hair growing up, but has been blonde for half her life now. I still think of her as having brown hair because that is the... I don't know, "Profile Photo" I have in my mind. But she fully sees herself as blonde. Another friend of mine was actually blonde when she little (allegedly), but has had light brown hair ever since I met her (at age 18). Yet she refuses to accept any version of reality where she is anything but blonde. She still holds a grudge against her husband because when they first met (15 years ago), he went home and told his buddy he'd met this hot girl with light brown hair. [Cry-laughing emoji.]

As I think I've said before, having a daughter with curly hair has really brought my curl-baggage into stark relief. My daughter has THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CURLS. And she loves them. She doesn't want anyone to cut her hair EVER because she's afraid the curls will fall out. (Also won't go to sleep at night because she's afraid of her teeth falling out, ever.) Anyway, obviously as a mother and a feminist, I want her to love herself and her hair and embrace her curls etc etc etc. But also, like, those curls are HER. They are part and parcel of her identity. I honestly cannot even imagine her without them. I feel like she would not be her without those curls. And I will NEVER EVER EVER forgive myself if one tiny little speck of my curl contempt rubs off on her.

Colby Jean the Wainbow Unicown Qween
Now I wonder if that's how my parents (namely, my mom) felt about my curls. My mom had a similar complicated relationship with her own curls, but always loved my hair. My curls did not rival Miss Colby Jean's, but they were pretty just the same. My grandpa always said I had the most beautiful hair he'd ever seen, and was heartbroken when I chopped it off in fourth grade. (You'd have to have known my gruff, stern grandfather to appreciate the surprising nature of the sentiment.) When I came to school missing ten inches of golden, sun-kissed waves, some of the moms gasped and said, "Did your mom cry???" (For the record, no, she didn't. She wasn't crazy about the idea of me getting a serious haircut, but she seemed relatively unfazed.) At the time I thought those moms were nuts, but now I know exactly what they meant. I'm not super emotional or nostalgic. I don't tear up at preschool "graduations" or Mother's Day singalongs, or when we ditch our kids for a weekend in New York. But I think I might legitimately shed a tear if/when Colby chops those curls.

Mini Mack circa 1982
All of this has pushed me to try to love my own curls, for her sake. And I'm doing my best, I really am. I rarely straighten my hair anymore. Not just because it takes an extra 20 minutes I don't have, but because I want to be a positive role model for my little curly girl. I frequently go out in public with curly hair, which is a big step for me. I've used myself as a human guinea pig for all of the "love your curls" lines of hair products, and found some things that sort-of, kind-of work. But I have to say, at the end of the day, it's not a love affair. I still wish I had straight hair. It's more like an arranged marriage, where you are resigned to your fate, and you decide to work together because life is easier that way, and maybe eventually you realize that, even if it isn't TRUE LURVE, you do love each other, or at least, like and respect each other a great deal.

So. That's where I'm at. In an arranged marriage with my curls. And I can work with that.

Lut us keep on keepin' on with the business of doing the best we can with what we have. Let us endeavor to be happy, healthy human beings so we can raise happy, healthy human beings. Let us pass on the minimum amount of mental baggage we can possibly manage.
My compromise position (I'm sure you were dying to know).
Ps, sorry (not sorry) this is not a poignant, soul-searching piece. I feel like it's been a blogger-coaster this last while. It was like, MIA, then angry ranty lady (whooo boy do I mean ANGRY), then another hiatus, then I was kinda digging deep for a minute there, talkin' 'bout jesus and mommy issues and whatnot, and now I'm writing about hairs. And that's about all I can muster at this juncture. May or may not write up a play-by-play after I see HAMILTON next weekend (once I stop hyperventilating). Might not. "It's a mystewy," as Colby would say.

Some extra credit reading:

i'm a follicle failure: miss teen ussr. "In the Hair Bible, my style is 'fire alarm.' Or 'let a drunk kid play with her hair.'"

Also if you have never seen Chris Rock's documentary "Good Hair," you should check it out. Good stuff.

Until next time. Whenever that may be :)

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