Me, age 2

Feature photo by insomnia90

If you look at baby pictures of me, you’d see a cute, chubby-cheeked girl with straight, smooth black hair. I had “baby hair” as we call it in my family: the perfect silky hair that little ones have; the kind of hair that you can tussle and will go back exactly as it was.

Fast forward to me this morning: the outer part of my hair is in thick, wide waves atop my head and underneath it is smoother and straighter with a bit of curl at the bottom. I am standing in front of my bathroom mirror deciding if I should brush it (knowing it’ll likely get poofier and coarser), style it (for 35-60+ minutes), throw some of my old school rollers in it (and hope it consolidates somewhat), or put it in a bun with a million bobby pins, or just not give a damn and be done with it. But, of course, regardless, my hair will pretty much do whatever it wants.

Managing and keeping up with my hair’s moods is a constant experiment and source of annoyance. Layers, thinning it out, bangs, angled cuts, washing it, not washing it, dry scalp, oily scalp, frustration, deep conditioner, smoothing serum, natural oils, hair ties, headbands, boredom, on my neck, off my face, split ends, silk pillowcases, combs, boar hair bristles, round brushes, curling irons, flat irons, sweating, avoiding humidity, trying not to burn anything, the cold air setting on my hair dryer, my arms hurting, good advice, bad advice, wasted hours and money, capitalism, nihilism. Many of these are issues that most people deal with, but I can’t help but wonder if they too feel that their hair has a vendetta against them, and that most hair products are bottles of broken promises. I’ve had a degree of family and hairdresser guidance on how to maintain my mane, but since my early teen years, my hair’s texture has been changing. It’s like a super virus that mutates so that old antidotes become obsolete, or maybe never had a real cure to begin with. Silly airbrushed commercials of hair products show maybe three kinds of flowing hair (straight and smooth, wavy and smooth, curly and smooth), and my hair is none of these kinds and all of them at once.

In the mainstream beauty products market, any hair that does not fit close to these categories — especially dark hair — is often lumped into an “ethnic hair” category despite there being countless of hair types within this group. “Ethnic Hair” often gets its own separate shelf at the drugstore and ads on TV, but in my case, it means always having the person doing my hair saying “oh…you have so much hair.. or “your hair is ‘nappy’; that’s weird!”, it means having people with thin hair always telling me I shall never be bald, it means getting complimented on my hair only when I spend time straightening it.. It means wondering if this is just about me and my personal hair woes, or if it’s a society that dictates standards of beauty primarily based on ideals about youth, femininity, and normative Caucasian features. It means a lot of envisaging tales of oppression and thinking that they are probably true.

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