First off, I was blond as a kid. My hair was straight, baby fine, tangled easily and never really stayed put in any scrunchies, rubber bands or barrettes. And then it got darker. From plain ol’ blond to dishwater blond to non-descript all-over medium brown. My hair had turned into the epitomy of Plain.
My hair is straight, very straight – and will not hold a curl. You curl it, you look at it for 10 minutes, and the curl’s gone. It’s magic! When I was younger it was also amazingly frustrating. Also, the hair, being straight, fine and plentiful, tended to lay itself down against my head under its own weight and fineness. And it was greasy. Oh, the remedies I subjected my follicles to! From green soap to so-called dry shampoo, rubbing perfume on it (alcohol was supposed to be drying), giving myself dandruff and itchiness and split ends in the process – and still my hair stayed greasy.
And my hair never grew past my shoulder blades. Never. It’d grow really fast up to a an inch past my shoulders and then – nothing. So I’ve had longish hair on and off during my life (I arrived in Norway with longish hair both times), for the most part it’s been short. To the collar short or to the earlobes short, straight or permed, even standing straight up, but not long. Never able-to-gather-all-hairs-on-top-of-head long; something shorter would always fall out immediately, and that something short was always there.
So over the years, I saw my hair as impossible and plain. Oh, it was healthy and shiny, and for that I was grateful and got compliments, but it wasn’t toss-your-head-and-get-the-guys gorgeous (I thought).
The first break-through in peace talks came when my mother told me of a friend of hers who simply washed her hair every day to handle the oilyness. So simple, and when you think about it, so obvious! But I had believed all the advertisements. Once I started washing my hair daily, I never again needed “Shampoo for oily hair; leaves hair bouncy and oil-free longer” (no, it doesn’t).
I arrived in Norway with a fading perm, landed in a salon and was asked the one question I hate getting from a hairdresser: “What do you want done with it?” I want miracles done with it, but at that point I hadn’t met a miracle-worker. The only response possible from me was, “What can you do with it?”, accompanied by a pained, begging look. (I actually said, “I don’t know.”) She suggested refreshing the perm. I agreed, but was disappointed.
Over the years, perms have been tried, to gain curls, lift, dryness, bounce, a change from Straight As A Ruler. On again, off again, with the drudgery of waiting for enough new hair to have grown to leave something left after all the old, worn and now-hated chemical loops had been cut off. My hair’s been striped, bleached, highlighted, toned, colorized, rinsed. It’s been longish, shorter than long, shortish, short, so short it defied gravity (a first!). Bangs, no bangs, some bangs, wispy bangs, thick bangs, straight bangs, asymmetrical bangs. And then there were all the attempts at learning to style my hair: Spray, gel, wax, paste, mousse, gum, setting lotion (got to give the hair product folks credit for creativity).
I very quickly discovered I can’t style hair. It took me years just to figure out how to coordinate the blow-drier in one hand with the styling brush in the other. I loved the finger-drying period. That meant just one hand had to be co-ordinated and I could avoid searing my face, scalp or ears during styling.
So back to that bit about being disappointed with the perm. I wasn’t happy with a hairdresser that could offer no suggestions to me about What To Do With Plain Besides Chemical Warfare. A friend told me of a new salon and I tried it. I got the owner himself, a man only a year-and-a-half older than myself but already his salon had been in business and thriving for a year (I myself was a mere 21 1/2). He ran his fingers through mousy brown fineness. He studied my face. He asked me about my lifestyle. I told him I could walk in stiletto heels without wobbling, but needed a nurse on hand for the curling iron. He nodded, brought up the scissors – and I walked out of a salon for the first time in my life with a cut I actually liked immediately and that I knew I could manage.
In the course of the 23 years I have been going to this salon, no, to this one hairdresser (Trond), I have had all the above-mentioned haircuts and chemical treatments, each one more satisfying than the previous. Somewhere in my 20’s, I discovered the “Color me a season” thing, that my coloring is Winter: Cool, clear, rich colors; it made my mousy brown look better. Somewhere in my late 30’s, I wanted to get rid of all chemicals in my hair and let the last bits of color and curls courtesy of bottles be cut away. The hair that emerged was soft, shiny and according to Trond, of a glorious and even ash brown color. He also told me that healthy, glossy and soft hair like mine didn’t need conditioners.
Gorgeous color? Healthy? Glossy?
I peered more closely into the mirror. Shine everywhere, evenness everywhere. Being straight and unstylable hadn’t mattered in a good while, now that I got good haircuts all the time. Being greasy also hadn’t mattered in years, especially not with nice, expensive salon-formula shampoos (can you say Redken?). And yes, it was true, my hair and scalp had never given me problems with itchy, flaking, scaling, dryness, allergies, once I stopped beating it with harsh treatments, nor even too much static electricity. I had wonderful hair – hair that posed no problems! Lucky me!
So yes, Sravana, I do have lovely, trouble-free hair, and finally the sense to appreciate it. Thank you for reminding me.