7.15.2010

hair, there and everywhere

WARNING: LONG

while it's all the rage now to be sporting a natural hairstyle, it still has its unpleasant moments.  i've grown to love my hair and the surprises it has to offer (like the fact that a good 4 inches square on my head are completely straight. STRAIGHT, i tell you.), but i still recall having to deal with the strange looks, the negative comments, the head shakes from close friends and family, all because of my hair. "it's JUST hair" has always been my mantra, but i've come to see that it's not 'just' hair. it's a statement, in and of itself. i've had the most awful things said to me, all because of my hair. i let it bother me for a long time because i was so insecure about it. i did, after all, look like a boy for a long time, and it sort of robbed me of any confidence in my attractiveness and femininity. this was also around the same time that i took an interest in fashion and was wearing items of a...'questionable' quality. i was experimenting. so shoot me. anyway, i wanted to share a few pictures of my journey.

thought i'm not a crazy gung ho natural head with youtube videos and all the latest combs and brushes (i can't believe i really wrote that), i do think it's important now to look back on the experience. i've taken a lot from it; i've become more confident, a weee bit more assertive, and i think, mostly, that i've grown. all this from HAIR?, you may ask?

i've never thought of myself as defined by any one thing. not my culture, my nationality, my education, my family; truly, i've always sort of seen myself as an island. i think i may have mentioned a while back that i was mid-conversation with someone and she blurted that she did not see me as a person of breeding. she quickly went on to say that she did not think i had no class or anything like that, but the way in which i addressed people and conversed with them and my overall demeanor was that of a person who just came up like everyone else. my affluent background seemed to have NO bearing whatever on how i interacted with people and she was surprised that i was not snotty or obnoxious to be around. it was quite the circular compliment! but i took it to heart and i was humbled by it. it made me feel like a true lady. does that make any sense?

i look frightening here, sorry. i was REALLY pissed that day.
anyway, back to hair. while i felt i was not defined by it, i realized once i no longer had it, that people had begun to sort of chip away at my confidence. i had always been praised for my thick, long hair, even when repeated relaxers and poor maintenance slowly snapped it all off an inch at a time. i remember days when i'd lay down on my boyfriend's bed--for some reason, we had many of our deepest conversations in bed (fully clothed, thank you) while birds chirped and life went on. it was like our sanctuary--and when i got up, there'd be a pile of hair where my head had been. it all just started to fall out for no apparent reason. against my own arguments, i went to work one day and stopped by my hairdresser. i told her to cut it. she looked at me in the mirror, grinned with excitement and broke out the scissors. i left with about 2 inches of hair that day. i felt empowered, excited. i had been living on my own and the boyfriend, in another state at the time, had no idea. basically, there was no one to share it with. i went home and stared and stared at my hair and all the while, i couldn't stop grinning.

the next day at work, ONE person commented on my hair. everyone else sort of smiled and stared at my head and then walked away. all that hyper-confidence eroded when i went to my mom's and she yelled at me for about an hour. my father shook his head in disbelief. he used to make me brush my hair, 100 strokes on each side, as a child. then he'd take hundreds of photos of it. again, i have no documented proof of this, nor does he, but it was a new image for him to grow accustomed to and it was clear he did NOT like it.

this effect took place basically everywhere i went for months. the boyfriend and i had a major fight and when i showed up with my short hair, he took a look at it, said 'wow' and then looked way. and that was that. for months, i did this on my own and basically just let people say whatever they liked. it was no longer relevant. i had isolated myself in this bubble of 'kiss my ass' and that's what carried me through. people offered to get my hair straightened for me, to have a weave put it, suggestions of wigs came up. i kindly rejected, all the while explaining that  it was 'JUST' hair and it would grow back, or it would not. i didn't really care. but the whole time, i was terrified that i'd be trapped in this phase of 'ugly' forever. what if it didn't grow back? what would i do? would i continue to dress like a boy to pass off this new hairstyle? would i ever be able to wear a wedding dress? would ANYONE ever find me attractive again?!?

this was my birthday. i had trimmed all the straight, permed ends off. i had nothing to wear, i played with my hair for nearly an hour and could do nothing with it. i don't know how to braid. it was too short to twist. i had no products. i was miserable. i spent my birthday on a boat for about 3 hours, miserable. the boy went out of his way to get me this treat for new year's and all i could think was, 'i'm so ugly'.

i began to get used to it, though. just decided that i'd rise above my appearance. if i were ugly, then i'd be the most charming, interesting ugly person ever. i'd be 'sexy-ugly'.

i grew bolder in my outfit choices. took on challenges with strangers. tried to learn more about the world around me. i grew outside of myself. fuck hair. who cares? i was a person with far more to offer than a self-conscious wimp born out of some follicular decline.

my mom still hates my hair. and people still offer to get it 'fixed' for me.

i'm glad that i'm now able to look beyond this, not just because my hair has grown back, but because i am so much more than that. if you look at me and all you see is a tangled mess of hair that you then use to try to categorize me--black panther? uber-feminist? some sort of raging back-to-the-motherland freak?--well then i am sad that you are unable to simply see a person for more than their parts. are we not greater than that?

humans are rich in culture and experience and stories that mold them into the characters that you and i see on the street everyday, from the tattooed 'freak' to the niqab-clad. who are we to look at them and judge them merely on the basis of their appearance. i could have so much to offer, and yet, all you want to do is 'fix' me to fit me into some safe label that you can then digest and move on from. my entire world has been broadened by a simple haircut. that may make me shallow, but i am grateful for having the nerve to take that plunge on my own, with no one holding my hand.

i have bad hair days like anyone else, horrendous really. but it gives me such pleasure to be my own person, no longer trying to do the safe thing and fit into some comfortable categorization of womanhood. innyvinny is like a dream come true for people like me. she's BALD!!! and she's HOT. and she knows it. it took me years to learn this lesson: you are you; it's irrelevant what anyone else says. all that matters is who YOU are to YOU. that's the bottom line.
my hair is huge. it frightens people. babies stare. and i love it. i love myself. and i'm pretty great. and i'm still learning to say it. someone once told me to look in the mirror and say to myself 'you are beautiful'. i still can't. i giggle and look away. i've teared up. i've flounced away in fury. yes, at my reflection!
it took a haircut for me to grow up. i wish i had done it sooner. that's my womanhood story.

being natural for me is nothing about a statement. it's just what i like. it's my preference. i don't denigrate people who perm their hair, be it to go straight or curly. i just think that my hair and i have become good friends on this journey. i'm learning to love myself more everyday and it's nice to have company. :)

so, having read my epic tale (about a bloody haircut, of all things, lol), do you have any interesting tales to tell about yourselves? how did you all get to be so awesome?

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8 Comments:

Blogger InnyVinny said...

I have tears in my eyes as I write this. No bullshit.

My dear friend, you crossed a threshold that many never do. Through all the bullshit, side-eyes, and negativity from those close to you, you emerged as yourself - uncompromising and in your full glory, ready to flip a bird (with a smile) at people who may have something to say. Very Blaine Edwards when he says, "This is me, here I am. See me! Love me!"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boBsEbFgJ4k (3:28)

You don't know how happy this post made me. You're brave and beautiful and I'm glad that you know it. I <3 you. And your hair. My head is jealous and I really don't have the patience to make it grow up to be like yours.

Side note: if you think you look mad in that picture, the girl behind you looks even more pissed. LOL.

17/7/10 01:56  
Blogger koko // res pulchrae said...

I can't really say I "feel your pain" - though my hair is thicker than most Asians, it's still pretty manageable.

I can relate though to when you say you've grown to love a part of yourself that you can struggle with but can't really change all that much. For me, it was my height (or lack thereof- ha!) When I was younger, I would always wear (atrocious) platform shoes - I even had a pair of hideous platform sneakers! Everyone around me was having their growth spurts and I pretty much stayed at the same height. Eventually though, it was not until end of high school, I stopped fighting it. I started wearing flats and threw out all those ugly platforms. While some days (like when I have a pile of pants and dresses to hem) I wish I was just a wee bit taller, most of the time I'm happy with my height.

And honestly, the shortest guy I've ever dated was 6'1" (not intentionally or anything) so guys don't seem to care all that much. In the end, the only person it really bothered was me. I probably could have been a lot more fashionable if I had accepted my height earlier on in life!

Thanks for sharing!

17/7/10 09:25  
Blogger simplychic said...

i would have never guessed in a million years that you had hair woes...b/c like i've said before, i think your hair is beautiful!!!! i mean, seriously if mine could be 1/2 as thick as yours i would be satisfied.

and i totally wish i had confidence like you to change my hair up. even when i was natural i always got my hair straightened. never took a leap of faith like you and experimented. maybe one day...

thanks for sharing your story with us :)

17/7/10 22:46  
Blogger Prêt à Porter P said...

bravo!

19/7/10 16:05  
Blogger Melody said...

You have me all teary eyed D.

I can relate. The boy hated my hair too to start with. It was "Whatever you want.. it's cool.." but I knew he didn't like it. Never used to compliment on it. But now he says my hair is one of the best things about me.

I don't care what people think about my hair any more. I shouldn't. I'm glad you don't either.

This has to be one of my favourite posts.

You are beautiful. Not just in body, but in mind and spirit.

You are so beautiful. And so is all that hair on your head.

19/7/10 19:01  
Anonymous sui said...

this was such an amazing & beautiful post. thank you for writing it.

isn't it funny? hair can & does make a statement. it's like a statement of "I love myself and it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks about it" to be able to be ourselves, love & thrive with our natural hair, or hair that's a non-cookiecutter style.

I recently shared my hair story too.. so much synchronicity in the world, because I've been seeing hair posts all around! I'm going to shave my head completely soon. soon!

I used to have dyed orange, permed curly frizzy hair. and I looked weird, and people teased me, and since it was 6th grade people would spit on my backpack or steal my keychains. the irony was that I got that hairstyle because I thought it'd make me popular.

but.. being authentic & genuine to ourselves... that's what opens our world to a wonderful place of love. not just acceptance, but love love love. and happiness. and an awesome life in general. :D

30/7/10 14:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for this! it's so disheartening to know that even parents have been so brain-washed into thinking that their own natural hair isn't pretty. my mom is the same way. i want so badly to go natural, and i think i'll do it next summer actually but i just have to get to the point where i just don't care anymore. if guys only think i'm beautiful because of my hair, then i'll cut it off and give it to them in a bag or somethin so they can have a relationship with it. your hair looks wonderful by the way!

30/7/10 14:46  
Blogger etoilee8 said...

Thank you for sharing this. One day I want to go natural . . . it just takes a bit more time to maintain and manage but I keep talking myself up and telling myself I can do it. One day . . .

3/8/10 19:11  

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