Either you love it or you hate it.
I myself have had a complicated hair journey. I don’t know how many hair brushes my mother broke when I was younger as she did her best to straighten and untangle the lion’s mane that grew out of my head. I remember the time it took to get every single knot out of my curls, (knots that were almost immediately replaced with even frizzier knots), until I stopped brushing my hair. I remember one particular time when I simply refused to allow my mother to brush through my hair before we took our Christmas letter picture. (Although my curls were sticking out every which way, I do not regret this decision).
All throughout elementary school, I fluctuated back and forth between putting 48 butterfly clips in my hair, (obviously the same color as my corduroy jumper of the day, obviously) and doing my best to scrape my locks into some semblance of a braid to get those horrid bangs out of my face that my mother had chosen for me. It was a process.
When middle school hit, curled hair was in. And no, I don’t mean the beautiful, relaxed beach waves that you see on Victoria Secret Angels today; no. I mean tight, pencil width, rigid, doll-like ringlets. Flat at the crown, as much volume as I could manage on the sides. The goal was basically to have my hair look like barbie hair- and my face, actually, at the time, as I had not yet learned that sometimes when you go to Walmart, even the lightest shade of foundation available will still be far too Donald Trump-orange-esque for me.
After a while, I grew bored of the knockoff Shirley Temple look, so I moved on to bigger and better things when I discovered the tool that every curly girl loves and hates at some point in her life; the flat iron. Every day, I got up around an hour and half before I really needed to, just so I could make sure that every strand was pin-straight, and looking as long, voluminous, and slick as possible. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what heat protectant was; nor did I know that I didn’t have to set my straightener to the highest possible level and drag it through my hair 5 times per section. But hey, I thought it looked good. I remember when I really started to understand the importance of angles in pictures, and that looking directly down at the camera will multiply your current number of chins by three. I snuck out my iPod touch in the middle of History class in seventh grade, (come on, I slept like once a week in that class, we weren’t learning anything) and snapping a selfie to send to my ‘sick’ friend who was staying home because of her ‘cold’ that day to tell her that I missed her. In all reality, I took that picture to layer about 7 filters on top and post on instagram so that the guy I liked would see it and finally realize that he needed to dump his bratty girlfriend and ask me out on a date. Or should I say, ask me out to a movie that both of our moms would drop us off (in their premium Chrysler minivans) and then we would watch it together, not touching, not talking, no eye contact, and then BOOM – middle school dating relationship material.
I’m getting off topic.
Also, Grace’s middle school crush (we’ll call him Fred) that didn’t notice her and blocked her after he got a girlfriend…
Fred. Look at me now. I learned how to fill in my eyebrows and I can binge watch the office for six hours straight, no interruption. So suck it. Who is sorry now?
Okay, now I’m really off topic.
And then, all the sudden, high school was approaching. The end of my eighth grade year was creeping up ever so slowly, and I knew I had to do something. I had to be… risky. I had to be… edgy. I had to push the limits, push the boundaries, push society’s normalities over the edge and defy it all.
(This was a lot to put on a haircut.)
But here I was. A brand new freshie, ready and raring to go waltzed into that solan, iPod touch in her hand, pinterest board FULL of pictures of Ginnifer Goodwin, Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn, Carey Mulligan, and more.
Do you see where this was headed yet?
The pixie cut. The dreaded pixie cut.
The cut was not right for me, the sides were way too long, and I refused to take the time to go to an actual professional to get it trimmed properly, so I did it myself at home. I will say though, for the first few weeks, the cut down on dry and styling time was really nice. And I did manage it and the growing out process quite well. It boosted my confidence, I think I, (not to sound braggy but) helped to prove that you can have a pixie cut if you are
A) bigger than a size two
B) in possession of a face that is not abstractly angular and perfectly long and oval shaped
But as I grew out my hair, I started to fall in love with my natural, God-given texture. I loved my curls. I abandoned the brush that I had so long hated, actually got some good, moisturizing products, (highly recommend Shea Moisture’s Curl Enhancing Smoothie btw), and embraced my hair. For the first time in my life, I genuinely began to love something about my physical appearance. I worked on self love techniques, tried to dispel negative thoughts, and ignored prodding, ignorant, rude comments from family, friends, and strangers alike. I loved how big my hair was. I loved how voluminous it was. I loved how wild it was. Although, I did then have the unique problem of people constantly wanting to touch my hair. I know. If you don’t have curly, textured, or natural hair, this is probably a strange concept for you, but, people just don’t like it when you pet them like a domesticated animal.
I got into this lovely routine. Wash with Shea Moisture Coconut shampoo, slather on that conditioner, and then apply a leave-in curl revitalizing milk spray, then my gel, then my curl cream, then my curl smoothie, blow-dry with a diffuser upside down, and finish with some more curl smoothie and spray gel for those days when you’ve got just a little too much frizz. (So basically any day with more than 4.2% humidity.) I loved my hair. I couldn’t be happier with it. It gave me confidence on days even when I had to just throw it up into a messy bun because I knew that my thick, voluminous hair still looked when it was up. My hair was something I could always know would look pretty dang good.
Until it started falling out.
You see, chronic illnesses are weird. No matter how much you research the meds you are on or even the disease itself, funny little symptoms and problems will still pop up along the way that will leave you stumped until your next doctor’s visit. And one of those funny little problems for me, apparently is hair loss.
It wasn’t bad at first. I’ve always said that I shed like a dog, whenever I tried to brush my hair, there would be more breakage than one could even imagine. But something was different. Not only was hair coming out when I wrangled a comb throughout it, but it was coming out all the time. When I washed it, when I pulled it up, even when I ran my fingers through it, clumps and tangles of hair would be left in my hands. And it felt like everything I had been working on for years, just crashed down on top of me.
Maybe its not visible. Maybe no one else can even notice it. But I notice it.
Every time I put my hair into a pony tail, the number of times I have to twist that stupid, stupid hair tie increases. I used to be able to barely fit it around twice. Now I’ve stopped counting. I have so much pride, so much self worth, all in my hair. It’s a part of my identity. It’s a part of my story. It’s a part of life of transitioning from self-hate to self-love. And now, I’m losing it.
‘It’s just hair, c’mon. Everybody loses hair at some point in their life. It’s just on the outside, true beauty is on the inside.”
That’s all I have heard from others whenever I get the courage, or rather, when the emotions bubble up and over and I have to explain why I have tears in my eyes after putting my hair in a bun. Either that or a generic, “Oh…” before a quick subject change.
But you see, it’s not just hair. It’s a part of me. And yes, everybody loses their hair at some point, but you see, teenage girls aren’t supposed to have to go through this. Teenagers aren’t supposed have to deal with this sucky stuff, adults aren’t supposed to have to, no one should. But that’s just a part of living in a sucky world, isn’t it? I started looking up remedies for hair loss online. I found websites for wigs. I found natural remedies that took hours to complete and years to see results. I saw pyramid schemes of some form or another ‘miracle products’ that increase hair growth in a number of days.
I understand inner beauty. I am a huge proponent of positivity starting on the inside and affecting the outside as it grows into a habit. I am also a huge proponent of body positivity. I firmly believe that all women should enjoy, love, and embrace the bodies that they have. Not the bodies they will have with 10 more pounds lost, not the bodies they pine over in magazines, not the stick thin or hourglass curves or thigh gaps that have been painstakingly edited for hours upon hours to be the epitome of physical perfection.
*(I’m just saying, no one gets a Kardashian body without celebrity resources.)
**(Not to degrade the Kardashians, I mean, dang. Kylie, you slay 24/7.)
But none of that effects the fact that something like this just sucks sometimes. In researching methods for hair growth, I stumbled upon a (I’m sure) well-meaning article that defined hair as a woman’s ‘crowning glory’, her ‘sole identity’, a symbol of fertility and happiness in many cultures.
And that just killed me. Thinking about the genetic repercussions to this, I mean, what if I pass this on to a daughter and she has to go through this too?
It sucks. Losing something you love sucks. It just does.
(If you are new to this blog, you’re probably going to have to get used to those two little words starting that sentence right up there. Go ahead. Give yourself a minute. Okay, let’s move on.)
I so badly want this article to be about how our hair is not our identity, and for the whole, it really, truly is. Your hair does not define you, I promise you this. But I feel like there are too many articles out there who jump right into the whole, ‘moving on’, ‘positive feelings’, ‘good vibes’, kind of thing right away and don’t recognize that sometimes, life just sucks. And it’s okay to just stop and… to just stop and realize that for a minute. It just sucks sometimes.
The important part is moving on. Take your time, lick your wounds, grieve your loss, and accept and move on. But do not berate someone for allowing themselves a moment of confusion, loss, grief, and doubt. We all deserve a moment to just pity ourselves everyone in a while. Just a moment. So long as that moment doesn’t become a life time.
So I’m done talking about how much it sucks. Am I still going to get sad every time I go to brush back hair that isn’t there? – yes. Am I still going to have to wipe away some tears after wrapping that stupid hair tie around my hair for the eighth time? – yes. But that philosophy of self-love still remains. I have made a vow to try and replace every hateful thought in my head with two positive ones. Every negative thought I have about my hair, I give myself two compliments about my eyes and how good I look in my jeans that day. Maybe you think that’s prideful, or braggy. But I know myself, and I know what I need to hear usually better than anyone else. I know to surround myself with positivity and love, while also being real and honest with myself. In keeping this vow, I am recognizing my struggle with self-doubt, with recurring episodes of depression and anxiety while doing my best to fix it.
Is my hair my ‘crowning glory’? I don’t think so. It is definitely a part of me, no matter how much I have on my head by the end of the summer. I would call my fierce independence my crowning glory. Maybe my insatiable hunger for knowledge and mental growth. Maybe my ability to binge watch the office for hours on end and quote episodes word-for-word.***
(Take that Fred. Do you see what you are missing out on here?)
Maybe my creative mind that has the ability to find creative solutions. Maybe my impeccable sense of fashion that I just can’t afford to stock my closet with because I have two jobs that both pay under minimum wage and apparently college applications can cost over one hundred smackaroons a piece. Maybe my ability to magically get off topic at any point in time.
But it’s not my hair. Although it’s a part of me, an important part of both my physical appearance and my identity, it is not all of me. So no, my crowning glory will not be my hair. I can think of a million things about myself that I and my friends and family who love and care for me love more than my hair. So it sucks. We took a moment, we grieved. We’re still going to cry. We’re still allowed to be sad. But we will refuse to wallow.
Because my hair is not my crowning glory.
*** that’s what she said.