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Hair of the Damned This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     I have always hated hairstylists. This hatred seems to have stemmed from what is stemming from my scalp. I have the weirdest hair imaginable. Half of it is the kind that should, ordinarily, curl nicely onto the shoulders and frame the face. The other half is its demise. It lives beneath its upper counterpart, stewing in a malicious cycle of making my life hell. It lifts the upper half out to the sides if allowed to dry naturally, thus creating a yield-sign effect.

When I was little, the upper and lower halves of my hair were one. My entire head was puffy and frizzy and, according to my mom’s simpering friends, “Oh-so-adorable,” which is to say, I had an afro. This hair is one of the reasons I need to fight the temptation to weep every time I look in the mirror. It used to be the only reason, until Uncle Acne decided to pay a very long and frustrating visit, not to mention Grandpa Big-Crooked-Nose and Grandma Curves, who look as if they’re never going to leave unless I surgically remove them from the couch in the living room of my DNA. They are now watching “Jeopardy,” but one day I’m going to evict them.

Anyway, back to my hair. It is a being unto itself. It was unmanageable until last summer, where with the help of a really nice Israeli hair stylist (the only ones who know what to do with it) and 13 minutes of chemicals, it became like a psychotic mental patient after a few tranquilizers - not totally submissive, but zonked out enough to be dragged into bed.

When I was little, I was that kid you passed on the street and said, “Mommy, look at that girl’s hair!” while your own straight, fair strands streamed out behind you. Women would pass my mother and me in airports and ask if I got perms. Everyone else just turned all the colors of the rainbow and puffed out their cheeks in an effort to swallow their howls of laughter when they caught sight of me, the seemingly white girl with the ’fro.

Considering the ongoing childhood psychological abuse inflicted as a result of my stupid hair, imagine the following scenario: The stylist calls my name, looking around hopefully at the straight-haired women. She is looking at everyone but me to avoid jinxing herself and getting me as a client. But surprise, she’s got me. As I stand up (and tower over her), she glances at my head. It’s one of those looks that are supposed to be invisible and yet are the most obvious of all. Her huge smile falters a bit, and a black cloud settles over her eyes as she takes in my situation.

I sit in the chair and take my hair down. She pulls chunks of it apart with her fingers, as if trying to find something. She looks a little lost.

“Wow, your hair is so ... thick.” As if I don’t know that, you imbecile. Thank you for enlightening me about something that, if you used even an ounce of your hair-straightener-fried brain, you would realize I probably know, having been condemned to spend eternity with this curse.

“Yeah, I know. There’s a lot of it.” This is my standard reply. If she’s going to act stupid, why should I let her know that I possess any intellect?

She asks me what I want her to do with it. She’s using the same tone as an Eskimo would if you gave him a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic SPF 15 lotion. As in, what the heck do you want me to do with this?

When I tell her I want it shorter, with the same style it has now, she is visibly dumfounded. Apparently she is unaware that my hair has layers, thanks to the nice Israeli stylist. To her it looks like one tangled mass, rooted in some poor 13-year-old giant’s scalp. Not that I’m a giant, it’s just that she’s about 4' 10", and I’m 5' 4". Unless you’re a sociopath, put yourself in her shoes. Imagine a tall, sort-of-white girl with a ’fro asking you to keep this style, just shorten everything. What would you do? Jesus would have run for the hills already.

I ask her first to straighten it and then to go back in with a curling iron. This request seems impossible to understand at first for most stylists. So I am forced to explain. “I want it straightened, but then could you curl it, so it’s not so straight and more soft and wavy?” Okay, now she gets it. Until this point, the previous scenario is the formulaic unfolding of events that occurs no matter what salon, no matter what stylist. What comes next falls into one of two scenarios.

Since my hair is wild and curly, it must be beaten into submission before being cut. That means procedures must be undertaken to wrest my hair free of its natural kinks and curls. This involves a lot of heat and smelly products, which are supposed to smell good but clash with each another. There are two ways to go about this straightening, and both are long, arduous, and occasionally painful.

Option One: Shampoo, condition, blow dry, then straighten, cut, and curl. This option is uniquely perplexing because of the way the stylist blows my hair dry. Instead of using a brush and pulling my hair straight like she is taught, she simply aims the dryer at my head and waits until it dries into its customary ’fro. Once that’s done, she fries it in a flatiron until it looks appropriately fake, cuts it, and then goes in with a curling iron so I look a little less Beverly Hills brunette and a little more like my mom. I then leave slightly annoyed about her blow-dry technique, but pleased with the overall effect of having transformed me into something resembling a human being with human hair.

However, we still have Option Two. This takes less time but is less hygienic. Also, it infuriates my mother without me having to do anything. The stylist brushes my hair while it’s dry, achieving an arguably impostor-worthy Diana Ross effect. Then, she straightens my hair so it goes from Diana Ross to Asian. Then, after cutting, she goes in with the curling iron and again transforms me into something resembling a human being with human hair. The reason I say this option is unhygienic is because the stylist doesn’t wash my hair. And I don’t wash my hair every day. And it’s rude to have someone spend two hours on your hair and then wash it the next day, which will ruin it. So, to avoid feeling guilty, I have to leave my hair unwashed and fried for at least four days, adding to the two or so it has already been unwashed. Then factor in some dandruff, and you’ve got yourself a pretty nasty head of fake-straightened hair.

Suffice it to say, salons are my personal torture chambers. The nail-removing pliers are disguised as flatirons and the tear gas comes in a conveniently innocent bottle of antifrizz spray. My torturers are vapid, straight-haired women dressed in black whose combined brains wouldn’t fill one of their Vitamin Water bottles. And, of course, who can forget the suffocation bags? These have been scientifically revamped into the shape of a bottle of hairspray.

I must endure these tri-monthly torture sessions in order to console the little afro-cursed girls in my preschool photos. To give a mental finger to those people who said how cute my afro was. I’m not saying that it wasn’t, but I’d look even more ridiculous than I already do if I had one now.

After my hair is finished, I look in the mirror at the actual human staring back at me. I smile at the poor stylist in the mirror. I really appreciate her perseverance. She looks like she has just hacked her way through a jungle with a machete, and I reward her with a dazzling smile, a shy thank you, and my mom’s credit card plus tip. Then I stand up, shake off the salon’s robe, and stride out into the street. As I walk along, I glance at my reflection in the store windows. And I feel pretty good.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the November 2007 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






Join the Discussion

This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

Alaskan92 said...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 8:59 pm

My hair certainly doesn't sound as perplexing as yours, but I understand the unmanageable curls! I used to have a fro too when I was little. 

I enjoyed the piece and I think that it's a quality reflection upon the trouble that hair can be. Very well written! 

 
AznxAngel said...
Jul. 15, 2009 at 7:27 pm
I hear stories like this all the time, told to me by my friends. But wow! I've never seen it said like that. Your work is beautiful, and you transformed the story of a trip to the salon into something much more.
 
doverdrama said...
Jul. 15, 2009 at 2:48 pm
this article is pretty cool. i didn't know that one person could have so much trouble with her hair, but I guess it's possible. keep writing, you're really good!
 
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