Frizz and All: The Power of Big Hair
One of my best friends just started wearing her hair curly, and it’s like hanging out with a whole new person.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I think I was privileged enough to know the curly version of her even before she started wearing it on the outside. I’ve understood for a long time that she’s a special kind of crazy. (Given she’s a serious corporate lawyer, I think introducing me to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ ‘Thrift Shop’ and rapping the whole thing in my living room was a bit of a giveaway).
What I didn’t know was that her hair was naturally more or less as curly as mine. I’d only ever seen her sleek and groomed and had assumed - as is our wont as human beings - that her tumbling tresses came easy in a way my hair never could. Turns out she was putting as much effort and product and time into maintaining her mane as I was. And that hasn’t changed, of course. Because anyone who tells you that natural curls aren’t a massive hassle doesn’t have natural curls. So what’s different? Well, what’s different for my friend is that I think she’s taken a little step towards loving and accepting the wilder, messier side of her nature (a side which, naturally, I adore). Her curls are an extension of her awesome playfulness, but they are also a way of stepping into her boldness, her courage, and her determination to kick-ass in the workplace and on a personal level, AS HERSELF. And damn, she looks good.
What we do with our hair (or any other element of our personal presentation) can be a tremendous give-away as regards how we think of ourselves and how we strive to be perceived (or not perceived). Had you asked me four or five years ago if I would ever wear my hair unclipped I would have provided an unequivocal ‘hell no’. I learned how to (sort of) control my hair towards the end of my teens, after an adolescence spent in clueless frizz. I’d had more than enough of being called ‘le bush’ at school, so once I learned how to semi-tame it I treated my hair like an enemy that had to be mercilessly restrained. My dear friend and university housemate Davina used to despair at my relentless squishing of volume. I would smooth down the top of my head with gel and clip each side to hold it in place. The result, which can still be spied in the occasional photo, was a cascade of curls behind my head that came, apparently, from nowhere. Davina urged me to wear my hair BIG. The bigger the better. Massive. I steadfastly refused. My curls didn’t fit in with the sleek look of choice sported by my peers, and I didn’t have the confidence to stand out from the crowd. Of course, neither could I actually replicate the casually smooth look on myself, especially not in that chilly northern town where rain was rarely more than a few minutes away. So I was stuck, feeling inferior to the slinky ponytails around me, but unable to achieve even a poor facsimile of them. Which left me somewhere in the middle, neither curly nor straight, neither myself nor able to pass as anyone else. A perfect place in which to play it small.
I look back on those university days and I wonder what might have been different if I’d lived a bit curlier. What if I’d had the courage to truly inhabit myself, frizz and all? I have no answer to that question. I can’t go back and change the past. But I can make a guess that I wouldn’t have stayed quite so long in a relationship with someone I knew didn’t love me any more, and that I definitely wouldn’t have started a year-long relationship with someone who told me outright, within a month or so, that he could never love me. (What was I thinking? That’s another story entirely). I’m also going to guess that I would have given up trying to fit in with a bunch of people who were never going to truly embrace me, and that I would have spent more time pursuing friendships with people who valued quirk and presence over cookie-cutter similarity to themselves. Those people, by the way - the special ones who will embrace and celebrate you for exactly who you are - come from all classes and backgrounds and walks of life. They have big hair and short hair and no hair. And they don’t actually give a stuff about how you look.
My journey to living curly was a long and torturous one. I didn’t wake up one day, toss my head jauntily to the side and exclaim ‘I’m worth it’. I went through several permutations of clips and products and styles, moving slowly towards a place of acceptance and, ultimately, enjoyment of my natural mop. (Well, sort of natural. I still dye the heck out of the grey hairs that insist on taking over my head. But shhh, don’t tell anyone). These days I think of Davina often, as I toss my head upside down to encourage extra bounce. Turns out she was right. I look better with my hair big. Not because curls are intrinsically superior to any other hairstyle, but because I’ve finally stopped trying to fight myself. It’s a tremendous relief.
How about you? Where are you playing small in your life? Where are you squishing your own instinct for self-expression? Where are you telling yourself “what I am is not right, is not good enough, is not what people want or expect”. Where are you fighting yourself? And aren’t you getting tired of it?
Trust me, we want to see you, metaphorical frizz and all. Come out to play. You’re beautiful.