I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I’m sure most of you can relate: you’re hair’s poker straight and you wish you had curls, or vice versa. Perhaps your bed head is the most epic thing about you, but the bottom line is that your hair never does what you want it to. This is why there is so much money in hair products.
But I digress.
I grew up rurally; that is to say I spent most of my childhood on a boat, or on a farm and basically messing about in the woods and on the beach, more often barefoot than not. How I looked was not a big issue with a little tomboy like little ol’ me, so my hair was in braids of some form or another all the time to keep it out of my face. Mom and I washed our hair in the sink because we did not have a shower. In fact in once place we lived we had to bathe in a galvanized laundry tub with water heated over the wood stove. I’d stand on a chair when I was little and mom would pour warm water from a measuring cup over the back of my head to wash the shampoo out. You knew it was a special occasion when my hair was loose, because that entailed a) my mother combing all the tangles out and b) me sitting still long enough for my mother to comb all the tangles out. Surely you remember this; those of you who had long hair as a child – the way your head invariably tilted backward with each firm stroke of the brush as whichever parent it was yarded on it to rip out the tangles. My mother, having very fine hair herself enjoyed brushing and braiding my thick, unruly hair for the most part. Her own hair was so fine she didn’t dare use anything except shampoo and hairspray to hold her perpetually perfect bun in place. (To this day I can’t replicate that bun, she rolled it so neatly that everyone thought she had twice as much hair as she really did!)
It wasn’t until junior high that I started to take an interest in my appearance. Up until then it took everything anyone had to get me out of my comfy jogging pants and t-shirts for formal occasions (yeah, I was that kid). Junior high saw my first pair of jeans (they even had little zippers at the ankle!) and my first bottle of hairspray. Unfortunately for me, no matter how much hairspray I used I had a zillion flyaways; little broken or new hair that fuzzed out all over. This earned me several nicknames, most of which related me to a Sasquatch or an electrocuted poodle and honestly the comparisons weren’t far off. My photos of that year (a year where enormous back-combed bangs was still the thing to have… oh 80’s and early 90’s I don’t miss you!) show me with a permanent frown and a mass of curling brownish hair that refused to actually curl or be straight all at once. Complete the look with big round glasses and an oversize Club Monaco sweatshirt (Oh it was the THING to have – I’d begged my mother for it for three straight months only to have it stolen off the back clothes line before the year was through) and you have the reason I was the butt of many nerd jokes.
It wasn’t until the next year; grade eight, that I learned something that would change my life forever. At least in terms of hair. I recall we were in the girls’ change room and someone was lighting sprays of hairspray on fire, watching the flames crawl and then die over the hospital green walls. My best friend was cursing another girl out for using her hair brush and I was patiently untangling a mass of knots that was threatening to become a mat; the result of the wrestling portion of our PE class. (Yes, wrestling. We had a choice between that and football and since neither of us relished the thought of being tackled into the foot of mud that passed as a playing field or having weird-shaped balls flying at our faces – or any balls for that matter – we’d opted for the former.) Someone said offhand, after watching me curse the hair I wished was long and luxurious rather than ratty and matted.
“Why don’t you use conditioner?”
Conditioner? I turned around to look at her, slightly puzzled. I’d seen bottles of this so-called conditioner on the shelves at the pharmacy and wondered as to it’s purpose, but never actually connected that it might be something I’d need.
“It’s supposed to smooth your hair so you don’t get so many tangles and split ends,” she explained further. It was like a choir of angels had started singing in my head. I didn’t even care that the girl was using a tone like she was talking to a retard (to use the slang of the time). I blinked and said the first thing that came to mind.
“I don’t think my mother even knows what that is.”
“Well go buy some, maybe then you won’t look like such a freak,” she sneered, much to the hilarity of nearly everyone in the room.
“At least I only look like one. Some people in this room really are freaks,” my best friend retorted hotly before turning to me and hissing. “You don’t use conditioner?” as if it was the most heinous thing I’d ever admitted to anyone. I shrugged. Mom sure as hell had no reason to use it and my beauty regimen was based on her natural approach; if it’s not broken don’t fix it. The fact that I owned eye shadow and eyeliner was a step far beyond my mother who only relied on a tube of lipstick to accent her delicate features.
It wasn’t until the weekend that I was able to convince my mother to purchase some shampoo and conditioner just for me. It was the kind my best friend used (Joico) because, naturally, she was the one I asked for hair product advice. It smelled of hair salons; a place I went once a year to get my ends trimmed – but it worked. Oh how it worked. My hair felt smooth, like actual hair rather than a bird’s nest. Instead of parts of it curling every which way and other parts of it refusing to, the whole mass started to wave and the frizzy little bits lay down long enough for me to look less like a static canine and more like a human girl. I think I washed my hair twice as often as usual that weekend because I couldn’t get over the results. It was like magic.
Of course, when it’s wet outside my hair still takes on poodle qualities, but nothing like it did pre-conditioner. So thank you hair products for helping me convince the world that I am not, actually of Sasquatch decent!
Listening to: Emancipator – Jet Stream
Drinking: Arizona Iced Tea
Reading: China Mieville – Railsea
Wrote: 2187 words today