Hair, identity, science, soul

Who Do You Think You Are?

It has taken me a long time to figure out what my hair needs—it is sensitive and easily thwarted. When thwarted, it has a pretty impressive range of expression. The part that’s un-thwartable is: TWIST.

This looks weird. It also leaves you asea while problem-solving on the Internet and makes curly experts roll their eyes at you and think you are manipulating, trying to be something you’re not. If your curl is loose, it is wavy, 2-dimensional; if it’s tighter, it’s curly, 3-dimensional. Wavy hair is something to be “accepted.” Instead of seeing the problem in front of them and getting curious, they get defensive about boundaries and want to puncture delusion.

I just figured this out, because it didn’t occur to me at the time that I might present something these curl experts hadn’t seen before. They certainly didn’t help me be realistic about what was right in front of me. I mean, what was my takeaway supposed to be? “What AM I?” “This is so ugly and hopeless,” “Should I just give up?”

Staring into the world of Other involves finding or not finding your tribe. If there is no tribe, or no guide, you can give up, you can try to adapt to where everyone else thinks you fit, or you can dig into yourself and try to find internal signals. It is HARD to do that last thing. It has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

It’s one thing to look in a mirror and decide to like who you are and what you have. It’s another to stare at shifting sand and try to do the same thing. Let alone have patience while you try and fail amid that… amorphousness. Does it work? I don’t know, depends on what it’s supposed to look like.

Emotionally, committing to and labeling what you see in the moment is like falling in love and getting your heart broken. Or it’s like settling for the nice-enough guy, then having HIM leave you too. It’s not a hierarchy of curls or a contest, but the numbers on curl type go up! More is better! Improvement equals more curl! The social media influencers succeed, and you are aspiring and failing, or you are trying to accommodate yourself to “reality.” It’s all fleeting and illusory.

So I stopped using labels and scales. My curl is loose and has moods. That’s it. Sometimes it twists like vines or it flops once or twice and calls it a day. Sometimes it spins on a long axis like someone wrapped it around a pencil or a wire. Sometimes it shrinks up into fatter curls. Sometimes it whirls into giant funnels. It’s pretty amazing, honestly: it does things you couldn’t replicate with tools if you tried.

It’s not a problem to solve, even if sussing out what supports versus impedes it over time is a challenge, and the totality of it on any given day isn’t necessarily “pretty” or “polished.”

I like to think about my younger self, who spent quality time in rollers, sprayed the ever-loving hell out of the resulting configuration, only to have it fall completely straight within about a half hour.

She would be FASCINATED and so excited by what I have going on now. So I try to see things through her eyes.

–Laura