Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Hair Affair.

"It's just hair! If you color it or cut it, it'll grow.
Do what you want! It's just hair."
- statement made all the time by everyone everywhere, except my family

You see, I was "blessed" with my Grandma Johnson's hair. (I put "blessed" in quotation marks only because curly hair does what it wants to do, and only with the right product, weather, and mood does it do what YOU want it to do when  you want it to do it.)

My hair is auburn -- not red, according to Grandma Johnson's very stern admonitions throughout the first 14 years of my life -- and it's curly. When I grew it longer after high school, older family members started telling me that not only the color, but also the all-one-length curls reminded them of Grandma Johnson when she was younger. This was particularly special to me since she died during my freshman year of high school. She was also older when she had my dad, so I never knew her with red -- ahem, auburn -- hair, but I took their word for it, and thought it was kind of fun.

Strangely for a redhead, from what I hear, I have never minded my hair color. It doesn't disgust me, and I never got picked on or taunted like Gingers in the infamous South Park episode did. (Heads up: there's questionable language in that video, so watch at  your own discretion.) When anyone (namely 14-year-old boys, or people who happen to be having a 14-year-old boy moment at any age) has ever joked with me, it's been very good natured and hasn't ever upset me.

I've really always kind of liked the uniqueness of the color, honestly. I didn't even realize how much I'd gotten used to hearing comments about how "you don't see that hair color everywhere you go" until a recent visit to Scotland, when it took me a few days of being in the Land of Gingers before comprehending that it might've been the first period of my life that no one new had commented on my hair color.
Disclaimer: I know that sounds kind of vain. I don't mean for it to at all -- seriously! I'm also not saying it's not awkward to be complimented on something you didn't create and have no control over, but when you're used to the attention, you notice when it's gone. That's all. And for the record, as a child, I wanted Elizabeth Taylor's curly, black hair. This may or may not have been because she was in "National Velvet" and I logically thought that with her hair, I'd get a horse like hers.
Back to Grandma Johnson's hair (which coincidentally is known as "Rebekah's hair" outside of my family).

Grandma's hair is auburn, and it's curly.

"People pay for hair like that!" became a running joke with my sister after hearing it a few times years ago. I often respond to that sort of comment that I, too, pay for what makes anyone ever compliment my hair, which is product. Without it, I would still be the frizzball head I was all during my awkward phase that lasted no less than 11 years.

So, to recap Grandma Johnson's hair, we have color and we have curls.

About that color:

A while back, I decided I wanted to try highlights. You know, like the rest of the world. For some reason I still don't understand, I mentioned this to my family. I received such wise counsel as, "Color that beautiful red hair? That would RUIN it," etc. (I'm not saying any of this is rational, btw. I'm just telling it like it is.) Despite these warnings of hairpocalypse, I did get my hairdresser to try a couple of tiny highlights in the front of my still curly, still long, still red hair. When my only living grandmother, Nan, saw it, she gave me a very ingenuine little smile. Later, I learned she told my cousin I had "a big ol' yella streak in th' front of" my hair. (This was a slight exaggeration.)

Later, after I moved to Baton Rouge, I pulled My Only Successful April Fool's Joke via Facebook and somehow convinced even my mother that I had dyed my hair blonde. (If I could in any way pull off a blonde look, this would be more hilarious. I totally could not!) Anyway, after getting loving feedback from her like, "That's the worst frost job I've ever seen!" and hearing "You are KIDDING me. You did THAT and I get harrassed for covering my grays with highlights?!" from my sister, I was reminded once again that this hair situation is nothing to play around with in my family. However, the blonde joke did make it easier for everyone to process when I actually DID get highlights to cover MY grays a couple of years later. So that worked out for the best. For me, at least. My mother still has post-traumatic spasms when we talk about "that frost job."

So anyway, on to the curls:

After college, some girlfriends started talking about this crazy contraption that people like me had never heard of: the flat iron. One friend insisted that I should try using it, even after I adamantly told her that my hair would NEVER straighten. I just knew it wouldn't. But guess what? It did! I was thrilled! All my life, I'd had one hair option: curls. Now, I had two: straight, or curls! It was great!

I know that since you've stuck with this post this far along, you'll be nothing less than shocked and awed to hear that my family did NOT think the flat iron was so great of an invention. My mom was very reasonable about that, which I appreciated, but it was clear from Day One that Nan did not like it. I learned this when she leaned over in church one Sunday that I was home for Easter or Mother's Day or something and whispered to me while stroking my long, silky, still red, unhighlighted hair, "Hon-ey.I.don't.like.it."

Much later, I learned my dad was in Nan's boat by his announcement to a room full of cousins, aunts, and uncles who had traveled to Mississippi for a family reunion: "Don't you think Rebekah's going to ruin her hair if she keeps puttin' all that heat on it? I wonder why she doesn't like her curls? I hope that heat doesn't burn her hair altogether." While I know my male, adult cousin that my father was talking to really cared and was genuinely interested in the topic, it was an enlightening way for me to learn that straight did not equal great in my daddy's eyes.

So as you can tell, I've dealt with a lot of abuse surrounding my hair. (And I've only touched on people I'm related to, not the oddly hair-obsessive ex-boyfriend who literally sulked every time I got it slightly trimmed, "because it's not as long anymore." Weirdo.)

But, there is a bright side! I'm happy to announce that after years of pro bono therapy from a friend, she helped me realize a hidden gem of truth: It's not my hair. It's Grandma Johnson's hair. That's why everyone feels free to give me so much input about it.

(Oprah may have more money than America, but she's not the only one who can have "aha" moments!)

Continuing on -- because this does have a point, I promise -- I recently decided to chop off my long, still red, still curly hair. As you can imagine, I didn't exactly feel like my history with my wild and crazy hair decisions set me up for any sort of success, but I still really wanted to cut it.

I'd always wanted to donate to Locks of Love, but had never wanted short hair. I never thought I'd like it, or would look good with it. But after convincing myself I could pull it off (and yes, getting counsel from 68 of my closest friends and family members by sending them pictures of Christina Applegate from her "Samantha Who?" days), I went to Via Veneto and asked Mimi* to let the scissors fly.

And guess what? I love it! And I haven't yet talked to anyone who's said (to me) that they miss my long hair. Which trust me, I thought I'd hear from at least twelve relatives. It's so refreshing for it not to be a major ordeal!

Not only do I love the new 'do, but I was also able to donate 8 inches of Grandma Johnson's long, curly, red hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, another cancer/wig program (Locks of Love takes 12 inches minimum), which was lagniappe I'm very grateful I was able to do.

The moral of my story? I have cut my hair. It is still red. It is still curly most of the time (I like how the curls bounce with the new cut, and I hate fighting humidity). And for the most part, crazy hair days aside, I don't growl at the mirror too much.

Which really is the best part of any affair, right? True love and genuine contentment?

Ok. Maybe that was a stretch.  Guess it's time to head back to Angela for counseling. :-)

* Note to Dyanne Sellers and fellow followers of Dyanne: I would have loved for my longtime hair artist to have made this drastic change. However, time, distance, and the price of gasoline kept us apart. But I did get Dyanne's very thorough counsel on the decision, and she did give it her Seal of Approval. Also, BIG props to Mimi for putting up with my "please just trim what Dyanne did!" requests for the past several years since I moved to Baton Rouge. AND for giving me a fun, fabulous haircut that I ADORE. Adore.

1 comment:

Throw me sumthin', mister!