Seeking myself in my daughter's hair

Truly, amazing timing. Just when I was going to write about curly hair anyway, along comes this essay in the Times. They read my mind!

Because I'm beginning to think my daughter might be a curly girl after all. Her hair started out straight -- sticking straight up, in fact, for the first three months of her life. Which was hilarious. I told everybody she was going through a punk phase. When it started to flop over like normal hair, I was quite sad.

We gave her the standard baby pixie cut, just to keep it out of her face until she was old enough to not eat barrettes. Gradually we let it grow, and once it reached down her neck, I decided it was time to lose the bangs. Now it's at her shoulders, and her teachers at school/daycare are clearly having all kinds of fun with it, because she comes home with these elaborate ponytail updos. (I'm taking notes. Updos are not my expertise.)

Up till now, it's stayed straight. But every now and then, I think I see a wave in the back. Occasionally, even an out-and-out curl.

My hair has always been wavy/curly. My parents say that even when I was little, when they put my hair in pigtails, the tails would curl up at the ends. The downside was that they -- in retrospect -- had no idea what to do with it, how to style it, what products to use, and the result was not good. All due respect and love to Mom. But seriously, I spent most of my teen years in a modified Jewfro. Nobody besides Seth Rogen can rock that look.

Since they had no idea what to do with it, neither did I, and there are plenty of old photos where my hair looks straight because of all the goop I slathered on it to keep it from frizzing. Also not a good look. And easily wrecked in a stiff wind, or, you know, a light breeze.

Eventually I figured a few things out on my own: Conditioner, always. Hair dryers are the devil. Gel is your friend. Humidity is not. And finally I found this book, which has been incredibly useful, and I've been following its advice on products and wash/dry methods. Now I think it looks the way it was always supposed to -- softly wavy, with a little bounce.

Mom, in fact, was so taken with my modified look that she quit blowing out her own hair and has let it go curly. To which my response was: Mom has curly hair? Geez, has she been blowing it out my entire life?

Now according to the Times essay, we're apparently still supposed to covet straight hair even though it's meant to be curly, because the "Millionaire Matchmaker" lady said so, and because Rebekah Brooks has curly hair, because that's just got everything to do with her journalistic ethics. Or we're supposed to want it straight so that people will take us more seriously, or something.

Really? Because I haven't noticed my hair offending anyone. Back when I was single and my hair reached about the middle of my back, a friend of mine saw a passing guy turn all the way around to watch me go. "Don't ever cut your hair," my friend said sternly. (Okay, I did. Full-time job, two kids, the hair needs to be dry NOW.)

The essay -- which I did enjoy reading, snarky comments notwithstanding -- also quotes Matchmaker Lady as saying curls are only hot when celebs have them, like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." First of all, Julia had that same hair in other movies where she was not a hooker ("Mystic Pizza," "My Best Friend's Wedding"). Second of all, that's the only curly-haired cultural reference this woman can think of? No Keri Russell? Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi, for non-geeks)? Kate Winslet in "Titanic"? Reiko Aylesworth on "24" and "Lost"? At least there's a photo of Taylor Swift with the essay.

I love long, curly hair. Always have. It's daring, it's sexy, it's fun, it's more interesting. I've had mine straightened a couple of times, mainly because that's about the only thing most stylists will do with curly hair -- either a lack of skills or a lack of demand for anything else, I'm not sure which. It looks nice straight. It also looks just like everyone else's hair. In some weird way, I become less me with straight hair.

So I'm glad the essayist seems to come around in the end. And I kind of, sort of hope my kiddette really does go curly as she gets older. Because I know I could help her keep her hair gorgeous.

French braids? She's on her own.


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