I was at a meeting the other day, and as it wrapped up a compliment was whispered in my ear: “Your hair is always perfect.” Awash in gratitude and admittedly a bit of vanity, I assured him it wasn’t my genetics but a good stylist.
Does any woman have perfect hair? Not me. I don’t even have good hair. Most of my life, I’ve hated my hair.
My mother had particularly fine, thin locks, and I learned early on from her what a curse that can be. Some of my earliest memories include her toiling with hot rollers before bed — no wonder she was tired and crabby in the morning! After unrolling it, she would apply so much hairspray her hair didn’t move and probably would have remained so, even in tornadic winds.
As with most young women growing up in the '70s, I had long, straight hair. I fell under the spell of Farrah Fawcett’s look and desperately tried to imitate it.
Tried is the operative word. Those wind-swept bangs never looked sexy or natural on my head. It took a curling iron, hairspray and too much time in the morning to get even a façade of wind swept. It was a battle every morning — one that was over by lunchtime, when my hair hung limp after gym class. No wonder I didn’t smile in my senior year photo.
I don’t know why, but I cut my hair pixie short that year just before prom. I’m convinced that my Twiggy look drove my date that night into the arms of a long-haired, pony-tailed rival.
The beauty of hair is that you can change it, and I did with a fervor. Long, short, curly, blond, dark blond, highlights, spiked, reddish tones, permed — you get the point. I’ve had so many styles and colors over the years, I’m surprised my husband recognizes me.
It took a hair guru to get me to stop hating my DNA. I was 30 at the time and about to have my first child, when a new stylist told me, “You don’t have bad hair, you just have a bad cut.”
That, my friends, changed my life. He taught me to put down the curling iron and “use what I have.” According to this wise man, my hair may be straight and fine, but I have a lot of it, and it’s very obedient and trainable. For the first time in my life I felt like I had hit the jackpot!
With that bit of knowledge, I gained power over my coif. I learned to use a round brush and a hair dryer like a pro. I’ve kept my hair approximately the same length over the past 20-something years, save for one last-ditch attempt at growing my stands when I turned 50. I’ve since gone back to the chin-length cut, or bob, that works best for me.
I’ve learned to silently thank my stylist every time my hair looks good. And to keep calm and carry on when it doesn’t.
Few women love their hair, and most of us wish we had something completely different — until we do. I’ve learned that there is no greater compliment for a woman than one about her hair.
Except, perhaps, one about her writing.