I have always had very thick, very curly hair. It’s gotten a little less curly as I’ve aged, but it’s as thick as ever and still has quite a wave. My mom didn’t really know what to do with my thick, curly hair and she often tried to brush or comb it — thus separating the curls, and making them fight each other and go in a million different directions. Let me tell anyone at this point who may be confused — you do not brush curly hair. Ever.
When I got older and took control of my hair (and thus, my own brushing routine), it got a little better, but I had intense straight hair envy. I begged my mom for every weird contraption or chemical that the late night commercials tried to sell my soft, pliable teen brain — a brush that twirls while you hold it and heats up to a million degrees? Sure! A chemical that you pour on your head (in the comfort of your own home!) that changes the physical structure of your hair so that it naturally dries soft, silky, and above all, straight? Sign me up! Four easy payments of $49.99 seems like a measly price for my happiness! But my begging rarely worked, and presumably, the products wouldn’t have, either.
I had to look for solace elsewhere. I had to figure out how to do my hair myself, without some magic bullet, or just learn to be happy with the way I was — frizz and all. As it would happen, I’d find my answer by doing a little bit of both.
The time I was most unhappy with my hair was also the time I was happiest with the Friday night TV lineup. Boy Meets World and Sabrina the Teenage Witch were often on back to back, and both of those shows were my JAM. I loved it all, but one of the main reasons I loved BMW was because of Topanga. She was weird, headstrong, knew what she wanted, spoke her mind — and her hair often had a mind of its own. And the thing was, that was a CHOICE! Her hair seemed to be naturally straight and luscious, and the show’s stylers crimped and curled it in a way that gave it frizz and oomph, the same thing that I’d been afraid of all my life. If she could be as outgoing and proud of herself as she was, maybe I could be, too.
Then, there was Mia Thermopolis of The Princess Diaries. She wasn’t quite as steady on her feet as Topanga, to be sure, but we all loved her anyway — we saw in her what she couldn’t quite see yet, and she was perfect just the way she was, before all the makeover hullabaloo. There was something different about her after the makeover — while she was still as smart and lovely as ever, her style wasn’t quite hers, and it made me wonder — would straight hair take something away from me, similarly? I admired when Mia started to push back against the changes that were asked of her, and decided to be a princess, but in her own way.
And then, there’s Hermione. Bless Hermione, for what she’s done for all of us. She made me feel not only like I could have a frizzy, bushy head of hair and still be beautiful, but also like it didn’t matter if I was beautiful at all — because I’m smart as hell, and a great friend, and those are the most beautiful things about me. She never placed much emphasis on how she looked, even though she is objectively wonderful-looking, and she isn’t distracted by that fact. She gets more done in a day than most people get done in a week, and does things right the first time.
These women all helped ease my fears that I’d never be taken seriously unless I looked a certain way — while it may sound silly because they’re fictional characters and I’m a real, flesh and bones person, fiction can often do for us what real life can’t.