“Burr Head”, “Bozo”, “Brillo Pad”……..just a few of the names I’ve been called, none of which mind you, I’ve particularly ever cared for. They are names I was called because of the curly hair that grows in a ball on my head…..my nemesis for life! Oh how I have suffered because of it! Let me just enlighten you to life with naturally curly hair.
When I was elementary school age my mom didn’t know what to do with my wiry stuff so she did what any mother would do. She had it cut off. I’m talking short! So short in fact, that I was often mistaken for a boy. I have a vivid memory of being in fifth grade and sent to pick something up at the shoe repair store. The nice gentleman behind the counter politely said, “What can I do for you today, son?” I immediately burst into tears and ran from the store. The poor man.
Then came Junior High. It was the 70’s and all the cool girls had long straight hair. Not me! Oh I tried…..every night I would smear “Dippity Doo” all over my stubborn curls and then cover the slimy mess with a tight cap. Each morning was the same sad story. I would go to the mirror only to find that as I removed the cap, stiff, crunchy curls would pop up all over my head. In my preteen mind it was the end of the world. As my thirteenth birthday approached I wanted only one thing, a fall, a hairpiece that attached to my hair giving me long, flowing, straight locks. I begged and begged and when the day arrived with great anticipation I opened my present. There before me was the most beautiful long hair I had ever seen and it was all mine! As you can imagine I put it right on, added a wide headband to cover where it attached, and modeled for my unimpressed younger sisters (who both have straight hair, by the way). Sleep came hard that night as I pictured over and over how stylish I would look the next day with my new long hair. Alas, again I have a vivid memory of Anthony Powell (yes I still remember your name if you’re out there) walking innocently up behind me at the bus stop, grabbing a handful of my lovely locks and yanking with all his might. As you might have guessed, he ripped the fall right off my head along with a nice chunk of my real hair too. Bursting into tears again, I ran home my dreams of fitting in dashed once more.
During High School and College my stubborn hair took on a life of its own as I attempted to grow it out, hoping the weight of it would pull out some of the curl. It grew out alright. Out, up, sideways, just not down. Like a Chia Pet the sphere of hair got larger and larger around while the curls were…well, curly. No hair gel could tame them. No hairstylist could style them. No more tears or running away. I surrendered. Instead of fitting in I sort of stood out…..not in a good way either.
Fast forward to motherhood. I was teaching, had two small children, volunteering, and didn’t have time for my crazy hair so I did what any mother would do. I cut it off. I’m talking short. Elementary school short. My friend the hairdresser will tell you that she never thought I would return after she followed my directions to scalp me. I look back on those pictures now (as do my children) and wonder what in the world I was thinking. The truth is I had no time to try to be fashionable and fitting in took a back seat to being uncomplicated and quick.
The cycle has continued through the years. I grow out the mop and then cut it off. Grow it out and then can’t stand the poodle ears and cut it off again. In desperation to do something with the diabolical, graying poof on my head, I decided to tap into my hidden wild side and dyed my locks red. I’ve had several shades of red…..cherry cola red, Lucille Ball red, I even went so far to dye the front of my hair a bright, wear your sunglasses, red. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it through first and afterward realized that not only did I have to go to school the next morning like that but I was also about to go on a trip with three of my friends. You can imagine the stares they endured as people around us wondered why three normal teachers would travel with some woman who had a “FarmAll Tractor red” streak across her forehead. One man told me I had stood out in the rain too long and was starting to rust…..oh the shear horror of it all! On a positive note, they didn’t lose me in the crowd. I was hard to miss. Much to her relief, I shed THAT red just in time for my daughter’s bridal shower.
This past summer I realized that every time I looked at a vacation picture of myself my comment was always the same, “that hair”. So once again, this past week I had it cut off. Not only did I cut it off I also tried a new color. I’m now a brunette (with a little red showing through). It’s taking some getting used to but both the cut and color are growing on me. More than that though, I have started to realize that for 50 years or so I’ve tried to control something that can’t be controlled. It’s been frustrating, disappointing, agonizing, embarrassing, and so much more! I wish I could go back and tell my younger self how much easier life could have been if I’d just embraced who I was, who God designed me to be. I was born with and meant to have curly hair. It makes me sad that for so long I have fought against myself and I can now see that it has carried over into other areas of my life. I like control! I need control! I do not like to feel out of control! Guess what? Just like my hair, life can’t be controlled and trying feverishly to do so elicits in me the same feelings that fighting my hair has. It’s also occurred to me how self-centered and prideful worrying about my hair has been. I mean truly, who cares what my hair looks like except me? I want to shed more than the red. I want to let go of all the insecurities I have felt about myself for so many years. I want to feel comfortable in my own skin. (or should I say hair?) I want to accept that I’m never going to have, the perfect body, the perfect life, or the perfect hairstyle and be ok with that. I don’t know what it is about this new cut that has made me realize that it’s time to get to know my true self, hair and all. But I do know that a trip to the hairdresser has opened my eyes and heart to the understanding that we can either cry and run away from who we are or we can shake loose those false expectations and stiff control, run our fingers through our hair letting it finally fall naturally, freeing ourselves to be exactly who we are supposed to be and love it!