You know, sometimes when life gets very serious, it's good to stop and stress about something not so serious. Like hair. Wilful, mind of its own, totally misbehaving, unmanageable hair. Like mine. Because as you are no doubt aware, if you stop by here regularly, I do like to stress and obsess about my hair. I seem to write a hair story every few months, starting way back in the spring of 2014 when I first started writing the blog.
In that post I mention how the writer Natalie Goldberg, in her book Writing Down the Bones, says that if you are casting about for daily writing topics, and nothing springs to mind, "write a hair story." And when I was still teaching, each semester I would suggest "a hair story" as a journal topic. I was always surprised by the clever, funny pieces the students produced. Especially the story written by Jenny (lovely, quiet Jenny, with the long red curls) who felt unable to live up to the fiery personality her hair seemed to promise. Perhaps Jenny thinks she should have been born a cool brunette. With a sleek pageboy cut. Like Donna Parker.
I'm sure my hair aspirations harken back to my sister's copy of this Donna Parker book
Sigh. I know just how you feel, Jenny. I so wanted to be Donna Parker. Or Honey Wheeler from the Trixie Belden books. I longed for shiny, frizz-free, sophisticated, manageable hair. I even did my darnedest to have that sleek pageboy for a while when I was fifteen. Now that was a labour intensive look. Especially in the era before good blow-dryers, or straightening irons, or "product" that wasn't Dippity-do. Anyone else remember that sticky, gooey gel that we used to smear on the ends of our hair? At times I resorted to using Mum's hair spray. And not with entirely successful results. See below. Ha. Poor me. What a mop of hair I had.
Age 15, Donna Parker wanna be
By the time I was in university, and the seventies were in full swing, I let my curls have their way. And, as you can see from my university I.D. photo below, sported a full on Afro. More or less. My curls were not entirely reliable. Some bits curled more than others, some bits just frizzed. Some bits decided to lay flat and needed major encouragement. This look required washing every day because sleeping on an Afro meant I looked like a free-form hair sculpture come morning. And then there was the fluffing, and the waiting, and more fluffing. Makes me smile to look at my hair in 1975. It's very... uh... round... isn't it?
Age 20, in my Afro phase
The shot below is what my hair looked like for most of the nineties. Short. Blonde-ish. Thick. And curling. Not actually curly, since I tried my hardest to make it go straight, wielding my round brush, and blow-dryer, and any number of hair products. But at some point in the day it would begin to curl and then slowly revert to its natural state. Makes me wonder why I just didn't give up and let it have its way. But although I had out grown my dreams of Donna Parker and Honey Wheeler pageboys, I now had visions of tousled, glossy, piece-y bangs, a la Linda Evangelista. This is my driver's licence photo from 1992.
Age 36, not looking like Linda Evangelista
Then, when I turned forty, I decided to make one last push for that sleek bob that had always eluded me. I grew my hair out, and suffered frustrating curls and whorls for months. Not to mention the comments from colleagues.
Male Colleague (who shall remain nameless): "I see you are growing your hair, Susan."
MC: "Do you want an honest opinion?"
Then, when it was long enough, my hairdresser enacted a miracle, one that without myriad layers, "undercutting," "texturizing," and lots of product would not be possible. He gave me a smooth bob. And I was in raptures. Finally. This is my passport photo from 2000 below. I'd had my smooth bob for four years. And I had the arm muscles to prove it. One summer on vacation when Hubby was reading and I was getting ready for dinner, he commented on how many times I sighed and laid down my huge round brush and blowdryer. Then picked them up again and continued with the drying. It took forever; the top layers had to be pinned up so the bottom layers could be dried smooth, then the top bits often had to be dampened because they were dry by the time I got to them. Then everything had to be sprayed to keep the frizz down. Well, you get the idea. And on humid days, it still looked like it had when I was fifteen. That's when I began to resent my smooth bob. Big time. And then as I approached my mid-forties, I began to think the cut was aging. And that was that.
Age 44, and growing tired of this labour intensive bob
It's funny that I longed for a smooth bob for decades, but when, after four years, I cut it off and went back to short hair, I felt much more like me. As if maybe I'd been masquerading as a sleek-haired girl for all those years. Took me some time to settle into a cut I liked. And with a hairdresser I liked. Then I discovered flattening irons, and de-frizzing leave-in conditioners, and hair wax, and suddenly those tousled, piece-y bangs were achievable too. Maybe not Linda Evangelista worthy, but not bad. At least on low humidity days.
And then last year I had an epiphany And decided to try to let go of my hair management issues. I had my hair cut very short and eschewed the flattening iron, and the straightening conditioner, in favour letting my curls have a bit more freedom. Not full on, round headed, Afro-style curly. But wavy, letting my natural whoop-de-do flip in the front have more leeway. Some days. At least until it gets too long and I begin to develop Elvis hair. Then I step in with the round brush and the straightening iron. I'm trying to accept my curls, even if they are wilful and don't always behave.
But this last week and a half at Mum's has been challenging. And I'm not talking about the family worries. I'm talking about my hair. You see, I had it cut very short again the day before I left to fly home. And what with the soft water at Mum's, which always makes my hair curly, and puffy, and the fact that I accidentally packed a bottle of my old Aveda smoothing/conditioning cream, which makes my hair really straight... my poor hair doesn't know whether it's coming or going. If I use the conditioner it goes too straight, and too soft and puffy. Sticking up on the crown like Rod Stewart's hair back in the day. If I don't use the conditioner it's puffy and frizzy. Sigh. Still, it's given me something else to worry about besides my brother. And my mum.
Until today. Today was a good day, folks. My hair was looking pretty good. No embarrassing Rod Stewart tufts. Bit flyaway. But otherwise it behaved itself. And my mum and I spent the day shopping, something we haven't been able to do since I arrived. We crossed a ton of things off her list. We were able to do that because my sister arrived yesterday. And since she would be at the hospital, Mum felt good about taking a couple of days off. And then this afternoon my sister texted me from the hospital with good news. They were going to get my brother up out of bed and into his wheelchair for the first time since his surgery in January. Woo hoo. So it's been a good hair day, a good news day. A good day all round.
Ready for shopping, good hair and all
You know, I'm not sure I'll ever settle into a smooth, easy going relationship with my hair. It's too darned stubborn and wilful, and I'm too darned controlling and critical. I guess we need to learn to live with each other the way we are.
Besides, my hair just wouldn't be my hair if it wasn't doing something it wasn't supposed to do. And I just wouldn't be me if I wasn't whining and obsessing about my hair. And it does give me something not so serious to worry about.
Makes a change from the real serious stuff, don't you think?
How about you, my friends? What's your hair management secret? Do you have a good relationship with your locks... wilful or otherwise?
Linking up with Saturday Share Link-up over at Not Dressed as Lamb