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Me And My Hair This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I was never like the others. In my kindergarten photograph I appear to be standing beneath a globe of tangled brown curls. The globe is so voluminous that it is the first thing you notice when looking at the picture. The globe makes me look taller, so tall that the man with the camera made me stand on the risers for the picture, with all the icky boys. My friends Gayle and Andrea were the shortest, so they sat on the orange trucks, right smack in the middle. I wanted to sit on an orange truck. But the man said no.

By September of the second grade when picture time rolled around, my hair had taken on a life of its own. Though the tight corkscrew curls had loosened a great deal, the actual circumference of my head was embarrassingly, almost comically, inflated. No haircut ever cured the problem. I envied Andrea's two perfect french braids with the pink ribbons, and Lisa's shiny, stick-straight, blonde, barretted mane. In the second-grade picture Gabrielle's long red hair was pulled into a side-ponytail and tied with a shiny blue bow. At age seven I had already given up on my hair. Adults, even strangers, claimed to love my unruly hair, but I loathed it, blaming it for all my problems and wishing every day to have long, straight, pretty hair in ribbons and clips like all the other girls.

By age ten I'd decided it was all my parents' fault. They had somehow, either genetically or deliberately, wished this horrid hair upon me, like a curse. In elementary school, where most children are teased about one attribute or another, I proved no exception. In every class there is the kid labeled "fatty" and the kid labeled "four-eyes" and the kid who is always picked last, but my title felt worse than all others combined. I was the girl with the hair. The ridicule was not exclusive to one week or one grade, or to a particular stage of development. It was continuous, it was cruel, and it was everywhere.

The summer before eighth grade, while sitting in a bus on a trip with my camp, some boys from the back collectively chewed a huge, sopping wad of yellow gum and launched it into my hair. Before I could even make an effort to dislodge the mass, they sent another glorious wad sailing onto my brand-new shirt. While laughter erupted from the back seat, I focused both on removing the gum and on denying them the satisfaction of seeing me cry. But festering within me after years of torment was a wild scream, a savage tornado, an overt act of retaliation which I knew was almost ready to emerge.

Perhaps it was the gum incident I had in the back of my mind last week when I got my hair chemically straightened. Or maybe I just wanted a chance, once and for all, to blend in with everyone else. But, those teasing days being long gone, I really just wanted my hair straightened because it makes my life easier.

I no longer lay the blame on my parents. Because, as I eventually did yell to the tormentors in the back of the bus, "the hair that God gave me is the hair that God gave me, and there's nothing I can do about it!"

These days I wear my hair in headbands and barrettes. c


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






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