Letter to...

An Apology to My Curly Hair

We've been through thick and thin, and to hell and back, but from now on I promise to treat you like a lady

Dear Luisa's Hair,

This is a letter of apology for all the terrible things I’ve done to you—starting when I was a teenager. I blame the beginning of my cruelty on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." I watched it on Nick at Nite and was entranced by Mary Tyler Moore’s smooth, perfect flip. You were kind of the opposite: super-curly and super-unruly. But I’d never had a problem with you before I laid eyes on Laura Petrie. Suddenly, I wanted my hair to look like hers. I started innocently enough, with rollers to flatten out the curl. Then I graduated to blowouts.

Poor, poor Hair—you never knew what hit you. Hours spent in the cheapest beauty parlors I could find, having you pulled taut under the heat of a blow dryer and then a flat iron. I'm sure you also recall when I experimented with bleaching. I know, it was a terrible trauma for the both of us, having the pigment stripped from my strands—and, really, for what purpose other than an impulsive desire to be blonde after becoming obsessed with Tuesday Weld?

I almost passed out from the bleach fumes and the discomfort of having my scalp practically set afire with an unfortunate blend of chemicals better suited for cleaning a toilet. I remember stumbling out of the salon chair to sit on the stoop outside, breathing in fresh air and letting the cool breeze hit my head.

After being blonde, I went back to brunette, and then tried an at-home straightening kit just for the heck of it. That was when you, my beautiful Hair, had had enough, and I can't say that I blame you. Brushing after the barbaric process I had just inflicted upon you, I found pieces of you breaking off in my hands. I knew I had crossed a line, and that my only recourse was to embrace “the Sinéad O’Connor” (also known as “the Sigourney Weaver in 'Alien 3'”): a shaved head.

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Although it freaked people out—and it goes without saying how much I missed you—I actually liked having a buzz cut. Morning routine? Simple: pop in the shower, pop out. Dress. Done. Plus, it felt really good to rub my head. The hair growing in was the perfect balance between soft and fuzzy. My co-workers would walk by my desk and pat me on the head, which was like a good luck charm.

Then, beautiful Hair, if you recall, I vowed to be good to you. I stopped dying you and bought products for natural curly-heads. What happened next wasn’t my fault, exactly—I got the lead role in a movie, and the director had a very specific idea of what my hair should look like: a little browner—it was back to the salon to go a wee bit lighter than my natural black; much straighter—that meant daily blow-outs and merciless sessions with a flat iron. And ponytailed. Perkily, adorably ponytailed, it was easiest for the stylist to cut it into a ponytail shape so that once we rubber-banded it, it was pony perfection. (When it was down, it wasn’t perfect anything. Sorry about that, Hair.)

OK, after the movie, then I vowed to be good to you. And I’ve pretty much kept my promise, haven’t I? Shampooing you, but not too much. Conditioning every day. Twisting my fingers around you to embrace your corkscrew tendencies. Straightening once in a while for a little bit of change.

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As for the dyeing … well, just as I thought I’d never dye you again, then came a silver hair here, and another there. And, you know what, Hair? I’m just not ready to go gray. So you’re going to have to indulge me, restoring you back to your original, glorious brunette every few months or so (and perhaps more frequently as I get older and the grays really start multiplying).

I apologize for what I’ve done to you in the past, dear Hair. I’m glad to have you, glad you’ve stuck by me and remained as thick and plentiful as always. In fact, one of the things that has occurred to me as I’ve gotten older is how many people would kill to have you. I’m serious—how unbelievably awful for men and women who lose their hair because of illness or stress or say, the ordeal and trauma of chemotherapy. And there I was, for years, messing around with you, and why? Because of Laura Petrie? Tuesday Weld? Natalie Wood (especially in "West Side Story")? No, not good enough. I am who I am, and you, dear beautiful curly Hair, are part of me.

I accept and embrace you—your unruliness, your unfashionable curliness, your tendency to grow up instead of down, the way you react so, so unfairly to the slightest bit of humidity, the way you do your own thing no matter what it is I want to do with you. Thanks for sticking around, Hair. I'm looking forward to our growing old together.

   
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