Last weekend my two lovely nieces visited me. Between all the chit chats and updates on their school and friends, the older one quipped, “I am gonna grow my hair long. I want to have hair like Rapunzel”. I was surprised to catch myself shaking my head saying, “Nah, nah. That’s not for us, dear”. She, like myself, my Mom and her Mom belonged to the part of the family born with naturally curly, very curly hair.
Growing up in South India, the prized posession was to have long hair falling all the way to your knees, slightly wavy, jet black hair that can hoist an arm’s length of jasmine strings; stuff that makes up classic paintings and literature. Although I loved my hair and wouldn’t have it any other way, curly hair never really could be tamed like that. In spite of all the oil and grooming, within minutes it would return to its unkempt look prompting my mother to apply another handful of coconut oil. It was a tangled mess which hours of de tangling could never completely fix. And, it didn’t grow long. Waist length is the most I could achieve before I realised that my own Rapunzel dreams will remain unfulfilled.
After the ugly duckling school days that mandated hair in a double braid, folded in two and tied with black ribbons as part of the strict uniform code, I went to college for undergrad. With no more restrictions, the self proclaimed princesses around me would experiment with steps, layers and bangs. I stayed content with crunchies and single braids (more stylish than double braids, you see). I did not even dare to leave my hair open afraid of the voluminous mess it would form around my head.
It wasn’t until I went to that U.S. to work did I discover that curls can be stylish and people curl their straight hairs intentionally. Madness, I thought. Nevertheless, for once I did not have to tame my curls. I was even admired for my hair! But yet, getting them to stay soft and “luxurious” remained a far away dream. There were rows and rows of products in the super market that promised exactly that but would end up leaving my hair stiff or smelling funny. My hair would either be dry and rough or flat depending on the weather and sometimes the day of the week. I crawled back into the security of crunchies and clips.
I smile at my niece. I still struggle with my hair and get occasionally bored with the short nape length hair-do I have been sporting for a couple of years now. But after years of fighting, I have learnt a trick or two. So when my niece grows into her teens and laments that she does not have salon smooth silky hair, I can look in her eyes and tell her to be proud and show her how to carry them off. I can teach her the advantages of having curly hair. You save tons on money and time for example. You don’t need a hair brush or a blow dryer or expensive styling products; just a good leave in conditioner and a nonsulphate shampoo. You just need a couple of minutes to prep your hair (any more time spent will be wasted anyway).
Medusa or Shirley Temple, this is the hair I will take to my grave (if I have any left by then) and I might as well enjoy it.