I stopped liking my hair the day I set foot in seventh grade in a new school, new state, new continent. Rows of identically layered, poker-straight, blonde ponytails swiveled to give me a cold onceover. I failed the test. At 12 years old, I was nearly finished growing, but I still had my messy, childish, wavy hair that I brushed once in the morning and forgot about unless forcibly reminded. No bangs. No layers. No natural (or ruthlessly Sun-Inned) blonde coloring. At thirteen, I cut myself wispy bangs in the hurried five minutes in the bathroom after PE class. I didn’t own a round brush or a straightening iron; didn’t even know what either of them was for. Hair horns ensued. Mom was no help whatsoever since her own poker-straight hair looked much the same whether air-dried or styled. The only clue was the presence or absence of mousse-crunchy strands. She didn’t understand my horror of my hair. “People pay a lot of money for waves like yours,” she consistently pointed out. I didn’t care if it was true. I wanted that perfectly-layered, high ponytail, tied with a black satin ribbon a scant few atoms wide, just like the other girls. (Of course, I wanted to be thin and athletic like them too, and see how that turned out!)
At 14 I cut my hair above my shoulders. This was my first major cut, and I chose the layered bob everyone else had. I’d never had anything beyond a half inch trim before, and my hair was just halfway down my chest. Even though the cut transformed my head into a Mardi Gras of curls, I liked the cut. I wouldn’t have hair below my shoulders again until I was 25.
College led to the epiphanies of the round brush and straightening iron. Had some vaguely mullet-like cuts in there, but they weren’t that unflattering once I tamed the frizzies. I got married at age 20 with my hair just below my jawline, which was unbelievably chic with my grandmother’s Juliet Cap veil, circa 1932.
Now at 26, my hair is experiencing the recession. I haven’t cut it since a half-hearted reshaping in January that I paid too much for. I have a long side bang I cut myself. The rest of my head has reverted to the messy, childish waves I used to hate. The tips of my grown-out inverted bob are just stretching below my collarbone. My husband loves my longer hair, which I find bemusing since it was much more flattering and stylish shorter. Must be a primal male thing. I’ll take the attention, though. After all, as a married woman, whom do I need to impress with my beauty? None but him. Today, I realized that my scanty braids were just long enough to climb up the sides of my head for an almost-there German milkmaid look. I pinned my hair up and stood in front of Will. When he glanced up from his iPhone zombie smashing, his eyes glowed. I never got a look like that with a sassier cut. So we’ll see how long I can go until the next cut. Part of me is curious to see my genetically pre-programmed maximum length. Another part of me misses the frothy curls. But I keep reminding myself that “people pay a lot of money for waves like mine. “ Thanks, Mom. You got through to me and it only took a decade!