A mane confidence-builder: Hair therapy

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Women might be surprised to know that some men's rooms lack mirrors. What's more, few men seem to notice.

"Let it fly in the breeze

And get caught in the trees

Give a home to the fleas in my hair."

-- "Hair"

All right, I know it's pretty vain. I've been through another "it's not the heat, it's the humidity" Washington summer, and once again I am barreling into winter hating my hair.

From the time I could recognize myself in the mirror, my mane has made me crazy. Big, brown, a hodgepodge of curls, waves, frizz, ringlets and cowlicks, like a wild horse, nothing contains it. Barrettes would pop under the strain. Rubber bands went flying, as if the strands themselves were launching pads for projectiles. Headbands sat on top of the chaos, unable or unwilling to dive closer to my scalp.

I always wanted hair that moved. I wanted hair that blew in the wind. I wanted to bend my head forward and have my hair cover my eyes. I wanted to throw my head backward and let shimmery tresses cascade down my back. I wanted soft braids, pigtails or a cute little flip. I wanted to channel Rapunzel.

In my teens, I tried ironing my hair. I used tomato soup cans for rollers. I used rattail combs, brushes meant for dogs, lemon juice, petroleum jelly, mayonnaise and my uncle's Brylcreem. I smelled like a combination salad bar/gas station.

My hair seemed to grow wider rather than longer. I tried cutting it short. The cowlicks prevailed. I tried a French twist. I used industrial-size bobby pins and a can of super-hold spray to keep it in place. That worked for a while but defeated the purpose. I wanted straight hair that moved. I wanted hair like Lady Godiva. I wanted hair like Pocahontas. I wanted hair like Cher.

The women's movement and self-esteem books and conversations with friends demanded a different response. I should be happy with who I am. I should revel in the countenance that stares back at me in the mirror. I must glorify my Self. I am woman.

And yet . . .

Some deep primal need to try something different, to not actually become someone else, just be a happier me, prevailed. So when I heard about a process that would once and for all rid my hair of frizz, cowlicks, wired curls and waves, I knew it was time for a change.

I called my stylist in Silver Spring and begged. I mentioned I looked like a nuclear accident. My hair had become a separate being. No brush or comb was strong enough, no roller sufficient, no scrunchy in existence could render it tame. Not only would it not move when I did, I worried that it would remain in place when I walked away.

So I had my hair "treated," sort of like therapy but with a hairdresser instead of a psychologist. We spent hours applying creams and gels and irons and driers and possibly some Brylcreem thrown in for good measure.

When I emerged from the salon, I had long, straight hair. Hair that moved. Hair that I needed to push back from my face with a flick of the hand. Soft hair. The hair I have always wanted.

In the scheme of things, I know it is a frivolous choice. There are other actions I could have accomplished with my time and money. I also know that I do those kinds of things all the time and that there are a few times in my life that I must do something selfishly, totally just for me.

So now it's like this. Sometime you might see me and a soft wind will blow and my hair will trail behind me, fluttering like hundreds of silk strands in the breeze. If you squint and wear sunglasses and it's midnight and I'm standing blocks away, there is a small but very real possibility that you might mistake me for Cher. Only way younger.

-- Cheryl Kravitz,

Silver Spring

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