Much Ado about a Do

I did it. It is embarrassing to admit, but a few years ago I paid $350 to do one of those Keratin straightening treatments on my hair. I wanted silky tresses again. See, I used to have them. But the hormones and perhaps incredibly poor nutrition during a few pregnancies transformed once perfectly decent hair into a logistical nightmare of four different textures. My hair is a mishmash of corkscrew curls, some frizzy waves, some straight and some confused. It was, and is, hard hair to manage, and at the time I wanted to feel good about myself without burning my hair up with a straightening iron every day.

This $350 + tip + parking garage fees on Newbury Street in Boston was to date the worst money I have ever spent in my life. The soft, straight hair lasted until the first time I washed it. Oh may it was a little shinier for a few weeks, but not almost $400 worth of shine I can assure you. I felt like I'd been lied to. I felt betrayed by my hormones. My hair was what it was and the best science at fru fru salons in shi shi parts of Boston could not help me.

I have been working very hair to accept the new difficult texture of my hair but on top of this, until a few years ago, my hair was very blonde. Summer sun kissed it to a light blonde without a shred of help from salons. So not only have I mourned the loss of a hair color that most people pay for, but I had no idea how to manage waves and curls.

Sure, I attempted to fake the blonde for awhile. I got highlights. Many or most? woman do it, there is no shame, but I had shame. I felt like a fraud. And no matter how much I paid, my hair looked like it was highlighted. It never looked like it did before it went darker. And I hated it. Instead of feeling better about myself after a trip to the hair guy, I paid money to stress about my roots and secretly lament that it still didn't look like me.

But my attitude changed as my baby girl fled infancy and toddlerhood. Because I had a daughter who was born with chocolate brown hair. This has been a game changer for me. How on earth could I ever tell my daughter that she is perfect and wonderful and beautiful with brown hair, if I have brown hair but dye it lighter? What would that say? Brown, the lesser color is just fine for her, but me, well, I have higher standards? How could I teach her to accept her own loveliness if I live as a hypocrite?

Anyone who claims that blonde is not still the standard of beauty in our society didn't watch Disney's recent movie Tangled, while very funny and entertaining once again slammed home the message that blonde is beautiful and best. Not only was there was not one person with brown skin in the whole film which was not lost on me the entire time, but the heroine had perfect, magical hair that was blonde, and when the magic was gone, her hair in it's useless state turned brown. Perhaps even worse was the cherry on top at the end when her love interest essentially says "Eh, it's OK, I like it like that..." FABULOUS. Thank you! Rapunzel you are hereby allowed to feel good about your inferior hair because a guy likes it. Hallelujah your self esteem is in tact! (For now!)

I am tuned in to those messages in a major way because almost my entire self esteem growing up was wrapped up in the endless stream of compliments I got on my hair. I was also good at my violin and the fastest reader in my family besides my dad. But really, deep down, I loved my hair. I knew it was magical and special and superior. I saw it around me in movies, I heard it from everyone who knew me. My hair was desirable.

This preference in our world for blonde is real, and I have been trying to shake it from my psyche because of my daughter. Because I am not blonde anymore. And neither is she. And we are both beautiful. I decided around the time I flushed the Keratin Treament dollars down the toilet I would not color my hair again. No highlights. No chemicals. I would embrace whatever color grew out of my head and soon after I decided to embrace whatever texture I had and learn to work with it and like it.

Is my hair something I get compliments on? Never. From no one. Does my hair attract attention? No. Do I miss the attention? I would be lying about my vanity if I said no. But I can sleep at night. I do it for my daughter. I do it for me. I do it for the world. This was something I could hang my hat on solidly for a few years: My Hair Integrity.

But this week I spotted my first grey hair. It was shocking, and short, like it had just grown in and was about two inches long. I did what any sane woman would do: I destroyed the evidence. I plucked it out and burned it. And now I know in the not so far distant future I will have more hair choices to make. Women in our society do not embrace grey.  Men in our society do not embrace grey in women. Sure, they themselves can look dashing, handsome, mature, even hot with grey hair. Hubs is getting some and I am not gonna lie, I find it incredibly sexy. Not for women.

Women, it seems, are expected to maintain their hair color until they are dead.  With some very minor exceptions, I can think of no women I know who actually allow their hair to turn grey/white as they age. And I am only 31.9. 32 looms next month. I am not ready to go grey. I am not ready to allow the greys to infiltrate the mousy brownish color that covers my head. Do I once again become a hypocrite? Do I hide what I look like and dislike myself for it to ward off an even great discomfort: looking "old"? Do I dye darker and risk steering even further from the way I picture myself to cover greys, or do I go lighter to make it easier to cover up the greys but then once again unwittingly send the message to my daughter, don't love how you are, fix it so it holds up to what society thinks is beautiful.

A voice of reason and clarity asking Who gives a crap about this; there are far more important things in the world than hair color and texture! cuts through my fear and feelings and I meekly whisper back the answer:

 

I do.

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