Can we talk about hair for a moment?
I was born bald. That was the last time my hair was manageable. It quickly grew into Shirley Temple ringlets. Aww, sweet, right? No. First of all, Shirley Temple didn’t even have Shirley Temple ringlets, hers were done with rollers. Mine just grew out of my head like that, all nightmarish. Super awesome for old ladies at the mall—not so super awesome for my mother who had to manage those Hell-springs.
Then my hair became impossibly thick. I started getting teased in grade school as the adorable curls morphed into some curls, some shag carpeting. I cut it into a “cap cut” otherwise known as a mushroom cut or bowl cut. It was 1988, it was a thing. Is that a giant penis walking around off in the distance? Oh, no, that’s eight-year-old me.
I let it grow out, and it began to curl somewhat evenly again, but became nearly impossible to maintain. In grade 6, my hair was so thick that I had to brush it with a dog grooming wire brush because regular brushes could not get through it and it would literally mat like a St. Bernard. This was fine at home, but made my first trip to summer camp pretty awkward, since twelve-year-old girls are the devil incarnate.
In high school, I learned how to straighten it with a curling iron. I had to do it from wet. It took five solid hours. (if you are wondering how long it takes my hair to dry naturally, the answer is eight hours if down, three days if in a ponytail, or at least that’s when I gave up that experiment.)
It looked reasonable after this procedure. Huzzah! So I did this once a week and invested in shower caps. But my hair was sort of like a Gremlin—you did not want to get it wet.
If it got wet or wet-adjacent, it exploded. We’re talking full Rosanne Rosanna Danna. I mean barely clear a doorway big. Like, picture a blowfish, but on my head.
So I spent my teen years living in fear. Like Clark Kent trying to hide his true identity, I did everything in my power not to let my natural hair slip out. When it did, I was so self-conscious it caused my self-esteem to take a nose-dive.
And I got comments. Hairdressers told me it was the most hair they had ever seen in their careers. They had visibly sore arms trying to dry it. My peers commented on the voluminous nature of my locks, and not in a Finesse commercial kind of way. My first requited crush nicknamed me Fluffy.
When it came time for the swimming section of grade nine Phys Ed, I went into sheer panic mode. I was a fat kid with frizzy hair, this was a high school fever dream. I ran between classes to meet with a friend outside the music room for her to quickly French braid my still-wet hair before anyone saw me.
When it rained, I covered myself like it was a monsoon, even if it was just three drops. I avoided over-heating. I wore toques in the summer if we were in the car with the windows open.
This anxiety about my hair, let’s call it hairanoia, continued right through my 20s, until I hit 30, had a baby, and said Eff. This. Noise.
I said, “Hair, do your thing, I don’t have the energy for you anymore,” and my hair said, “Hold my beer.”
Since then, it has been tame, it has been wild, it has been short, it has been long, and it has even been purple. It’s also mostly grey now, because it turns out that when you reach an age where you stop caring what people think, you are also old enough to look old enough.
A few months ago, in a moment of, “Know what I’ve never done and should do now that I have embraced this not giving a shit thing? I should shave my head.”
And I did. And I broke a pair of scissors and a pair of clippers in the process because my hair is just that thick.
“This is great!” I thought. “My hair will grow back dye-free, and all the same length, like a fresh start.”
And my hair said, “Are you still holding my beer? Hold my pretzels too.”
My hair is coming back in evenly, all right. Evenly and straight up. Not kind of tussled, we’re talking defying gravity, Troll doll, Don King called to tell me nice ‘do, straight up.
This is new.
So if you see me walking around looking like the Bride of Frankenstein, or are concerned that I am oblivious to the fact that I am being electrocuted, fear not, this is just my hair now, apparently.
And my hair is not who I am. I no longer fear it or feel embarrassment over it. It is just hair. And it may not be covergirl worthy, but it is unique—like me.
This post originally appeared on Facebook. It has been reprinted with permission.