When I was in 7th grade, I used to spend hours with a blow dryer and a curling iron trying to get my hair to do the perfect feathered curl that one of the popular girls at school achieved – seemingly effortlessly – every day. I’d wash my hair, condition it, blow it dry, and then lay in with the curling iron – giving myself multiple hickey burns each day – and then weep in frustration as my hair, instead of doing what her hair did, fell into sausage curls or cowlicks or anything other than what I longed for it to do. I couldn’t even blame humidity, since we were living in Tucson at the time.
Since then, I’ve gone through a number of hair phases. The 8th grade short bob – adopted after the boy who sat behind me put chewing gum in my hair that could only be cut out. After I escaped him, I let my hair grow long, longer, until it was almost to my waist, and permed it for the perfect triangle hair (with bangs) – and then wore it braided most of the time. For a season after I graduated, I had a Bertonelli shag. Then I went really short, pretty much a crew cut with soft bangs. Then, when my hairdresser abandoned New York, longer and I wore it in pigtails. Then I went through my anchorwoman phase (literally, my hairdresser worked in the news industry).
For the past few years, I’ve stuck with short, so short that I could just finger comb and toss it and it worked perfectly as long as I got it cut religiously every five weeks. If I skipped a week, it behaved awesomely for a few days, then crashed and burned.
And then Covid hit.
At first, I was relieved because getting a trim was the last thing I did before locking down in March so I had 5 weeks grace. In the 6th week, I started to get anxious and, right on schedule, my hair went nuts. As I watched everyone else on Zoom calls adopt hats and hairbands, I knew we were all going through similar hair-angst.
A couple of weeks later, my hair stopped going nuts and started doing interesting new things. Since May, it’s been a new style every week. I go a few weeks, it gets better. Then I have an off week. Then it does something new and I wonder “where is this going” and it gets better again. By September, I may be able to put it in pigtails.
And yesterday, it did suddenly did that thing I had been trying to get it to do in 7th grade. Effortlessly, without me even really trying. Suddenly there it was.
Have you ever wanted to appear to your younger self, just show up in the mirror one day, and give them a message from the future? Maybe say, Don’t worry – it all works out. Some day you’ll grow out of this, you’ll meet the love of your life, you’ll be successful and happy. Or maybe, I do wish you would quit skipping PE – just suck it up. If you can form an exercise habit early and stick with it, you’ll be healthier in the long run.
Or perhaps, Look, it’s not worth singeing yourself every morning and crying until your face is blotchy. Focus on other things and I promise you that decades from now, when you least expect it, a pandemic will hit, you won’t be able to get a hair cut for months and it will finally achieve that perfect feather without even trying.