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Admiration

My hair is untamed and tempestuous, a creature all its own. Despite its frantic mood swings, snarls and corkscrews, I love it. I love it so much I'm willing to wash it every day, and groom it, and feed it all the necessary vitamins and minerals, much like the way one may care for a beloved dog. Often, people stroke their greasy, grimy fingers through my hair, weaving their dirt-embedded skin into my pristine locks. This broad range of touchy people includes my sister, boyfriend, anybody standing behind me on a line, people I like, people I dislike, raisin-faced ladies who frantically pet my hair hoping to possibly re-grow their own by divine touch, and my best friend Michelle.
Michelle has brown hair, needle-straight, and chin-length. She hates her hair, and she won't let anybody forget it. She often jokes that she has some Asian gene that forces her hair into an immaculately straight submission. While some girls consider Michelle to have tremendous luck with her God-given hair, Michelle doesn’t care for it.
One morning, Michelle and I went for a walk. The early spring sky looked blue but lazy, lacking its usual luster and sunny disposition. I quickly observed that Michelle constantly wrapped her stubby ponytail around her finger, trying with quiet desperation to transform it into a corkscrew. “You tried to curl your hair last night, didn't you?” I asked.
Now, when you think of hair-curling, you may consider of a hot metal rod enveloped in warning labels that a girl will pass off as decorative stickers. Michelle has used the hair-curling toy, and within an hour of using it, her lovely banana curls straightened to string beans again. But that didn't discourage her from trying on her own, scheming up new methods to curl her stubborn hair.
Michelle nodded to me as she proudly displayed her attempt at lush curly locks. A pathetic attempt, at that, I thought snidely; I am the one with the coiffed lion's mane.
We walked in silence for a while, occasionally commenting on the hot guy driving the Jeep Wrangler, or our favorite “Glee” episode. Unprompted, Michelle launched into one of her garrulous speeches I'd heard so often that I'd grown immune, even jaded to them. It was always the same struggles: “My sister isn't coming home from school until next week, and I really miss her!” “I worked out at the gym for, like, five hours yesterday, my ass is so sore!” “My mom is making me start another diet, can you believe it?” “I screamed at my psychologist again yesterday, and then my mom wouldn't stop telling me how impolite I was.” “I had to send in my papers for the health and wellness camp last night. It was so depressing.” Then Michelle, all the while twirling her make-shift hair-curl, meticulously told me every minute detail about this camp. How she would be exercising for “like, a zillion hours a day,” how the other girls would bring their own emotional baggage, and how she would come back completely changed. The curious thing about Michelle was that she kept her voice even and calm. She didn't seem afraid; she wasn't scared of the potential emotional breakdowns, the dormant bouts of rage waiting to erupt.
For the first time during the walk, I let out my own whoosh of a sigh, adding to Michelle's breathing, but I didn't speak; I listened to her ramble. Her commitment to the wellness camp alone impressed me, but her optimism shocked me. She never did intimate fear; not one word indicated sophomoric whining or apprehension. Of course she had her complaints, but she never permitted herself to show genuine panic.
Part of me always had envied Michelle’s perpetually perfect hair, but her locks weren’t good enough for her; so she worked for the hair she wanted. I’ve never seen her give up anything she desired, be it a hair-style or a life goal. While I would be writing to my heart's content in Putney, Vermont that summer, Michelle would spend eight arduous weeks doing grueling physical exercise and behavioral therapy, things that took an admirable patience and determination I had not yet honed. Michelle would have to confront many demons at that place this summer, and it would either be dreadful or alleviating. After all, while I simply had to wake up in the morning to have curly hair, Michelle had to do all the hard work herself.



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