I Am Not My Hair But My Hair is Me

20140327_101545As a teenager (not unlike most young girls) I struggled with self-esteem and self confidence issues.  I knew that I was awesome on the inside but I didn’t feel the same sense of awesomenes about my outsides.  A large part of this had to do with my hair.  Yes, my hair.  Which may seem ridiculous to some of you yet remains the truth.  For the record I don’t think my complex is a ‘black girl issue’, nor a ‘mixed girl issue’, it’s just a girl issue (and probably a guy issue to some extent, though I doubt they would be so inclined to admit it).  My complex stemmed from a lack of knowledge and experience caring for my hair and to a large extent a lack of representation in the media. Magazines, TV, Film all displayed images of beautiful women (black, white, asian or otherwise) with long, straight hair.  If their hair was curly it was that curling iron, self-inflicted type of curls – not my tight, coily curls.  This was the ideal beauty and being a naive, impressionable young girl, an ideal I felt I should strive for and so I relaxed the crap out of my hair.  That’s what my hair dresser said I should do, that’s what everyone around me did, and that was all I knew.  Today’s young girls probably don’t know just how lucky the are to grow up with youtube, instagram and hell even google for that matter.  They are unaware of how amazing it is to have quick and easy access to these resources and how awesome it is to easily find real women they can identify with.

So let’s proceed.  I relaxed my hair.  Every three months I sat at the hair salon, ALL DAY, got my scalp burns, paid my $60 and left with beautiful, straight, flat hair.  Perfect, I thought at the time.  Of course I could never blow my hair out the way my hair dresser did and sure enough after about a month, I was back to ponytails (blech.. which of course I felt was ugly).  Now for whatever reason, one night when I was 15 and getting ready to go to the movies with my friends, I decided not to blow dry and flat iron my hair (most likely because of time contraints).  I found some gel and used a quarter of the bottle on my hair, for fear that it would dry into a pouf-ball and embarrass me.  I was left with defined, springy curls.  This was the first time I questioned my decision to have ‘beautiful straight hair’ or rather it was less of a decision and more of the fact that I didn’t really think about it.  My thought process: “This looks fine I guess and I have to go anyway”.  After receiving a few compliments that night, I looked at myself in the mirror when I got home and thought, “Maybe this is better than alright?”.  I decided to try it out at a school dance shortly there after.  Again, a few compliments, but the reality was I couldn’t sustain that gel overload all the time as it dried out my hair to a straw-like quality, nor did I like the crunchy leaf feeling it left behind.  I quickly gave up on the gel and returned to ponytails.  In hindsight, how much better than the gel was the heat damage I was inflicting on my hair with the constant blow drying and flat ironing?  But let’s move on.

I had always wanted to colour my hair, but never had the courage for fear that my hair would break off.  Heaven forbid I should have short hair, I mean how ugly would that be?  Nevertheless I tried to colour my hair with box colours three times in a three month timeframe.  Why three times?  Well, my natural dark hair colour didn’t budge of course, so I kept trying again, and again.  Although the colour didn’t change, I was making some progress; damaging my hair.  After a while I felt my hair was so dry an unmanageable that I asked my hair dresser to relax it.  Contrary to what I had hoped, this did not help at all.  In fact, the breakage was so uneven I could do nothing with my hair and after two week’s time, I decided enough was enough.  It was summertime, the summer before I started university, and the first day I had off of work, I called my hair dresser up and said, “I’m coming over and you are cutting this all off!”.

I didn’t tell my mom.  I didn’t tell anyone for fear that they would try to persuade me not to do it and I would lose my resolve.  I went straight over to her house before I changed my mind.  When I got there, of course her first instinct was to try to deter me.  Let’s keep in mind that I was reluctant to ever let her even trim my ends for fear of losing length, Length, LENGTH!  “Do it.” I said, staring her dead in the eyes.  She went to work and in what seemed to me like in eternity but was probably only about 20 minutes, it was gone.  She gave me the mirror and braced for impact.  I looked at it.  Slow blinks.  Ran my fingers through the three inches of curls left on my head and I kid you not, I have never felt so relieved in my life.  It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my head and my heart.  I felt liberated.  I felt free.  I felt beautiful.  Most important, I felt like me for the first time, well ever.  How ironic is it that as soon as I stopped trying so hard to get my hair to be something it wasn’t to make myself happy, I finally feel happy?  I thanked her and hugged her.  This was actually the last time she did my hair.  She had been relaxing it since I was about 7, and she moved away shortly after this last appointment.  I walked home on cloud nine.

As silly as it sounds, this hair cut was like a metamorphosis for me.  It was the start of self-acceptance and the beginning of a reliazation that I was more than fine just the way that I was, I was beautiful.  I am beautiful.  Also, who knew that these lovely curls were under there the whole time sans hair gel? Geeze, sure would have saved me a lot of time and agravation getting ready all those years.  My hair grew back in the next year and a half and even in the inbetween stage when it was no longer shaped but too short to pull into a ponytail, I rocked it and I loved it.

I still didn’t know how to care for my hair though.  I became a product junkie.  I tried anything and everything and spent hundreads at a time whether at the salon or the beauty supply store.  At the salon, I bought whatever the stylist recommended, because she should know right?  At the beauty supply store, I bought whatever bottle had the best description.  I coloured my hair, a lot.  I love colour and I enjoy expressing myself through colour.  But all of this dye damage meant I should have been paying even more attention to the health of my hair and it’s care, but I didn’t.  All the while, I listened to everyone else’s suggestions without asking my own hair, “What do you need?”.

Fast forward to a little over a year ago.  I went through my hair product cupboard for the millionth fa-fillionth time, and thought, “There has got to be a better way”.  Putting my research skills to good use, I started reading books and web pages dedicated specifically to curly hair and came across the Curly Girl Method and The Tightly Curly Method.  I tried both of these regimines and neither worked exactly the way I wanted.  So then I decided to take certain aspects from each that did work for me and put them together.  This landed me and no shampoo, co-washing and leaving conditioner in my hair.  This was good, but it could be better and then a few months later I found myself searching youtube.

Wow!  What I discovered was shocking and amazing.  Apparently it is a ‘thing’ to go natural, as well as to have a ‘big chop’.  I found natural girls who had done this only 5 years prior and had much longer hair than me.  WTF!  I was about 10 years ‘natural’ (didn’t even know there was a terminology for this either) and my hair had appeared to stop growing.  In reality it didn’t stop growing, it was just unhealthy and breaking off as it grew.  That voice in the back of my head awoke again “length, length, length’.  I was fixated.  Although now I’ve accepted that this fixation wasn’t all bad, because it forced me to start listening to my hair.  It forced me to really look at it and ask, “What do you really need?  Moisture? Protein? Strength?”.  It put me in a position to look for solutions to these specific issues, whether it be something homemade or store bought.  My hair started to thank me with health, and I began praising its awesomeness again.

I made a decision not to colour my hair as the combination of dye damage and not yet using the right line up of products would prove to be too many independant variables for my experimentation.  But over the last few months, I have been itching to colour and a few weeks ago I decided or rather realized: I really don’t care about length.  I am more than fine with short, medium or average length hair.  I care about colour.  I like colours.  I love colours and I want them on my hair!  They are an expression and extension of me and I am doing it.  Since I am happy with my hair regimine now (to be shared in a future post for anyone interested) and I have made a promise to myself to keep up with said regimine, bring on the hair dye.

This weekend I bleached, toned and coloured my hair all by myself (YAY!).  Pictures to follow on my instagram (@jveroniq) this week, as my hair is deep conditioning in a plastic cap at the moment.  For anyone wondering, all of the blonde, caramel, pink, purple, chocolate brown, red, blue, green colours that I had in my hair over the last 10 years were all done by a professional.  This is the first time that I mixed colours and developers and dyed my hair myself.  Another learning lesson: box colours don’t work for me.  I will always mix my own colours from now on.  Result:  The hair on my crown is now purple and fuschia and I simply cannot wait to wear it in my frohawk tomorrow.

Here’s the bottom-line of this long ass story.  Love the skin or hair your in.  You will gain little from wanting someone else’s hair and you will benefit greatly from understanding your own before you try to emulate someone else’s hair.  How many times have you done this?  You look at another woman and think to yourself “Her x looks amazing, I want it.”.  It’s easy to succom to this initial feeling, but ask yourself first, “What do I want?  Do I really want that?  Why do I want that?”.  I am all for self-improvement, but it should always be paired with self-awareness.  Isn’t the ultimate goal happiness anyway?  You may find that you are already happy as you are.

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Author: thirtysomethingsinglevegan

Twitter: @JanelleJuteram Instagram: janellejuteram Snapchat: jveronique

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