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  • Writer's picturegallagherkara

A Post About My Hair

“But I just want to dye it brown and make it straight!”

I used to say this to my mom, through tears, after school. More than once I would come home upset because I had been teased, again, about my hair. It was red, and curly, and I was the girl who played football with the boys at recess, so it was usually, uh, unkempt.

“Do you know how many people pay to have their hair look like yours?” My mom would say this often, stroking my wild mane, trying to be ease my tears away.

“I don’t CARE! I just want to look like everyone else!”

Thankfully, my mom insisted on and instilled the idea in me that different is good. (She also didn’t tell me that the boys who were teasing me “liked” me, thank goodness. I was lucky to not have that false narrative handed over.) It was a hard lesson, because the teasing was often, and I was a little kid! But my backbone got a little straighter each time I answered a “HEY CARROT TOP” with “carrot tops are green, my hair is not green,” or just a calm walk away, repeating the mantra, “different is good, I am unique and that’s ok.”

Anyway! This isn’t about mean kids, but I did want to talk about my hair. And part of where I am now as an adult was partly shaped by comments, both cruel and kind about this unique top I’ve carried around my whole life. I have some core truths that have weirdly come in part, from my hair.

Can I share a few thoughts? About my hair? Cool. Thanks.

  • Get your hair wet.

I like sweaty yoga, and swimming in the ocean, and going to the pool with my kids and throwing barbells over my head sometimes. I never want to miss out on things I enjoy because I’m afraid of my hair getting a little wet. Hats, headbands, braids, dry shampoo -- I have a plethora of tools I employ to keep me looking like I understand how society works. I also understand that I do have some kind of “hair privilege” with curls and thickness and all. I can throw it on top of my head in some kind of pile and it can still pass for some kind of hair do. So I choose mangled mess or hidden under a hat, because no three day straightened style, on a regular basis, is worth giving up things I like to do.

  • Hair grows back.

Ok, again, I have to openly admit my hair privilege here, because I had a dear friend go through chemotherapy and lose her hair, so for some people, this business of hair growing back is a very personal and emotional topic. There’s way more to it than my small bullet point up there. For those of us lucky enough to have the health to be able to fall in this category, hair grows back. Quick story about one of my babysitters. My sitter had this really long hair, down the middle of her back, and one day, it was to her shoulders. “Wow!” I said. “You really went for it, it looks great. I can’t believe you cut it all off in one swoop! Do you miss it?”

“Eh. Not really. I figure that if I can’t handle changes in my hair, than I won’t be able to handle the kind of change that really matters.”

Whoa. 20 year old just cooly giving me life lessons via a haircut. I heard her loud and clear. This was my truth too. Which leads me to my shaved sides.

  • Go for it.

I talked about shaving one side of my head for about 4 months. I loved the look on other people, but wasn’t quite sure how it would look on me. I kept talking and talking and talking about it. One day, a friend of mine had had enough of my talk. “Are you going to keep talking about it, or are you actually going to do it?” Again, loud and clear. 2 hours later, it was done. And when I had talked to my husband about doing the other side, it wasn’t 4 months of talk. I just did it. I am going to grow it out eventually, just not yet. I’m thinking a mohawk will do the trick. When? Who knows! Trying not to live in the hair past or future, focusing more on the hair and now. (Eh? Eh? Puns anyone?)

Life is too unpredictable and too short and too amazing to get bogged down in one way of thinking, one hairstyle, or caring if the mean boys up the street call you names or not. Try making big decisions with the same ease as you do the little ones. Release yourself to that vast universe that you have no control over while truly enjoying the things that move you. Keep that head high, know you’re unique and go ahead and jump in that very real and sometimes proverbial water.

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