Throughout my life I have spent a substantial amount of time and money on HAIR.
As a younger person my focus was mostly on grooming it, removing it, colouring it, straightening it and otherwise manipulating it on a quest to ‘look nice’.
Although I do still spend time on hair today, my focus has shifted in that I spend a bit less time manipulating it and more time reflecting on its social and political implications.
All other forms of hair aside (that would require innumerable more posts!), the variety that grows from our scalps is what I’m focusing on here – an intensely personal as well as politicized subject.
This is a multi-part blog post. This first section aims to share some of my personal experiences with my hair. The next one is co-authored with a friend and will be posted later this week to consider some societal and political implications of hair.
When I was younger my hair was straighter that it is today. Along with puberty it became curlier and more difficult to manage. Growing up post-80s perm culture, most women wore their hair at least kind of straight or in a controlled curl.
As a teen I didn’t know how to wear my hair since it was different than that of my sister and Mom. I didn’t know how to deal with the tangled mop that I often encountered on top of my head.
I battled with blow dryers and straighteners and brushes and combs, all the while disliking it and thinking it looked haggard.
I recall coming back from swimming and spending hours trying to brush and comb it out and make it manageable.
Another thing that happened as I got older was that my hair darkened. Having lighter than normal hair had always been something that was commented on – something that made me feel special. Somehow, fairer seemed synonymous with attractiveness. On top of trying to change the natural texture of my hair, I spent a lot of time and money changing the colour.
I recall dating someone in my late teens who told me that he thought my hair would be nice if I brushed it more. When I tried wearing it curly or letting it dry naturally, people called it ‘frizzy’ or messy.
The ‘natural’ stuff was clearly always sub-par, something to try to tame or change. The time and money I put into my hair also seemed directly correlated to the positive attention I would get on it.
If only I could somehow ‘get it right’ or ‘tame it’ then I’d be a bit closer to being beautiful…
These days I don’t try as hard, although I do still try.
I will leave you with some things that I don’t usually say out loud:
- Sometimes things get stuck in my hair. Days later I can find a bobby pin or some food up in there 😛
- In my 28 years, I’m sure I’ve spent the equivalent of weeks if not months in front of the mirror, trying to coerce my hair into something different. My family and I have also spent a lot of money on it.
- I’ve used countless chemical products, dyed, coerced, applied heat and coloured my hair. I’ve even burnt my forehead more than once on the quest for ‘better’ hair.