Hair Angst: A lifetime of fighting my hair’s natural personality.
It was Colleen Corby staring at me from the pages of Seventeen Magazine that made the message loud and clear – go straight or go home. Later, it was Ralph Lauren’s Clotilde that pummeled me into submission, and decades of blow drying my head into a glossy sheet that spawned compliments from women who longed for my hair. But I was a fraud. My secret fear was being caught in weather that would triple the size of my head, frizz forming on top of curls that sent me screaming for the nearest babushka, baseball cap or worse, trap me in the house. A trip to Miami that was 7 straight days of rain did nothing for my look, regardless of my new pink mules that I thought gave me a Spanish vibe. The thought of embracing my wombat look never even occurred to me. And then came Gisele, a new nightmare.
If the ’80’s was a bad time for fashion, it was a great time for the hair-challenged like me. The bigger the better, it seemed, and my diffuser became my best friend. Just throw my wet hair over my knees, add mousse, scrunch … and lo and behold, I was Flashdance. But like all trends that die with a thud, the ’90’s brought about a new, old look, and straight hair was back in Vogue. Poof, and my moment of relief was gone. So I gave up, or more to the point gave in, and grudgingly booked weekly blow outs with various stylists over the years, and once again became a slave to the weather. The temperature outside was not the problem, but if the day’s humidity was going to be over 65%, I knew I was a goner. No matter how well I thought I got the clothes together, if the hair wasn’t right, I wasn’t right. Somehow, my freshly blown hair was the thing that made it all come together. Or so I thought …
In the last few months, although admittedly late in the game, on a whim I asked my hairdresser to dry my hair with those Gisele beach waves. The outcome was even more than I could have hoped for – not only did it look good, but I felt transformed! Freer, more relaxed, with what I didn’t realize yet was a nudge toward the real me, I was ecstatic. With complete abandonment, I tossed that mane everywhere I went. My minimalist style seemed to look more interesting (to me, at least) under a bedhead. The dichotomy of the structured pea jackets, narrow pants with flats, and the touch of madness on my head was thrilling, and I wanted more.
And then it happened. Not being able to get to the hairdresser forced me to get to the bottom of all of it. I washed my hair, added large dollops of mousse, and had an Aha moment; what would happen if I didn’t blow it out, and just let it air dry? Would the wildebeest reappear? I decided to risk all, winding the hair around, placing it where I wanted to see the waves, and left the mirror. With wet hair, I left the house like an Olsen twin or two, and headed out to do some errands in the neighbourhood, not knowing what would develop. We were hovering at 70 degrees that day, humidity level a very low 42%, and a breeze that helped matters, so I had a reasonable expectation that at least my local retailers would still recognize me. I literally threw caution to the wind, and stepped into my brave new world, purposely avoiding any glass windows or mirrors along the way. Getting home a couple of hours later, I headed for the bathroom mirror for the results, and without a word of a lie, I didn’t know who was staring back at me. Completely dry now, my hair was curly with even a few ringlets, wavy where it was supposed to wave, and not a frizz in sight! And I was overwhelmed with a feeling that at last, my au natural wasn’t so bad. I would call that a miracle. I’ve done it again twice since then, and each time it’s better. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then behold – I like my hair! Finally.
Janice Rosen is a freelance writer, blogger and fashion consultant based in Toronto.
© Janice Rosen 2013