I remember the first day I walked in my ninth grade math class and realized that I was different from every other single girl sitting there. I started some hardcore hair roll call in my head:
Stick effin’ straight.
Kind of wavy except not really.
Wannabe straight hair poser.
I looked down at my own hair for the eight millionth time, praying to the Hair Goddesses that my hair was straight. Nope, still a curly, tangled mess.
Most people would find other parts of their freshman year high school experiences to be traumatizing: having no friends, failing classes, listening to too much Flo Rida, eating cafeteria food. But for me, it was my hair. My goddamn curly hair.
I remember watching girls flip their straight locks back and forth and let their fingers run through their shiny, styled tresses. I tried to do the same thing and nearly broke my hand. Hairbrushes went on strike every time I brought them close to my head. Straightening irons scoffed and rolled their eyes at my attempts. Humidity was like that mean, bitchy friend who hangs out with you even though she hates you.
I think what most people don’t understand is this: straight hair is the mascot of the Southern lady. The mascot is sick and you need a Plan B? Call in the uber stylized, hairspray-laden waves. There’s no other route to go. And thus, I, a proud Northeasterner hailing from Jersey, found myself in a bind. How the hell was I going to survive high school, let alone real life, without awesome straight hair?
I was in full blown typical hair-jaded adolescent mode when I was switched into a new study hall for second semester freshman year. I sat down at a desk, pulled out my math homework, and turned my iPod on.
I need to listen to something moody, I thought. Naturally, being the sullen fourteen year-old that I was, I turned on Taylor Swift. The first lines of “Teardrops on My Guitar” started to play, and I began doing my usual hair roll call.
Way too straight.
This curly-haired girl (or rather, MAVEN) sat in the back of the room laughing hysterically at some story a guy was telling her. Her tight, curly ringlets ran down her back. They were frizz-free and yet somehow not overly stylized. They were just kind of there. And she didn’t seem to care at all.
I looked down at my iPod to change the song and suddenly I saw Taylor Swift’s album cover staring up at me, her curly blonde locks flying all over the place.
I looked back at the study hall girl.
Then Taylor Swift.
Then study hall girl.
A thought slapped me across the face: You don’t have to straighten your stubborn tresses; you just have to figure out how the hell to tame them!
Call this the Second Enlightenment, because I now knew what I had to do. I had a hair mission, a Monty Python-esque quest. I was going to make my hair look good curly, or waste all my money in the Walgreens hair products aisle trying.
I have to say, getting my hair to curl and “de-puff” (yes, de-puff) the way I wanted wasn’t an easy task. There were days of utter disaster where my hair doubled the surface area of my head, and there were days where my Latin teacher said I had the hair of a Greek goddess (that legitimately happened). I tried every drugstore product the consumer market could offer and there was some hardcore experimentin’ going on in my bathroom.
And now, four years later and many hairstyles gone awry, I’ve gotta say: I love my hair. One of the best compliments I ever received was when a girl in college said, “There’s too much responsibility when you’re given a mane like that. You’ve got to own it, the hair and the personality.”
It’s become almost a running joke: did I make my hair or did my hair make me? Of course, at this point, they’re one in the same. And since I’m in college now and there’s every type of haircut and color imaginable, my finger-breaking curls aren’t at the forefront of my hair troubles. However, I’ve found another defining feature of my hair to think about, one that never really occurred to me during my time as in the sunny South.
I walked into my first student government meeting, now a freshman in college. And suddenly, a whole new roll call began.
I looked down at my own hair.