There's a picture of myself taken around the age of 5 that sticks out in my mind. Perhaps because it was taken on family portrait day at the church my family used to attend in California, and that is the only family portrait that has hung on the walls of every home my parents have lived in since. So when I remember my earliest 'do, this is the one I remember. And of course, it was a hideous bowl cut.
I've always had freckles and my hair has always been auburn (British genes are some hardy stock!), but in my early years my hair was straight. As I got closer to puberty (GAWD, doesn't even just reading that word make you feel awkward all over again?), my hair grew wavy, and at the height of pube--you know--my hair was a curly mess. Except I didn't quite realize it. Or I was in denial. You see, in high school, every girl wants pin-straight, Sun-In'd hair. No substitutions. No imitations. And I, enlightened though I like to believe I was, fell prey to the same desires.
I would sit in my room, Third Eye Blind playing on my boombox, back propped against my twin bed, and point my red hair dryer straight down at my head, as Seventeen and YM magazine instructed me to do if I wanted to get Stick! Straight! Hair! I bought a paddle brush, as I was also instructed to do, and I slept very carefully, so as not to mess up my 'do. I was convinced that I had tamed the beast. Apparently, I didn't own a working mirror.
It wasn't until I saw my senior portrait that I realized I had only been fooling myself. In a cruel twist of fate, senior pictures were scheduled in the middle of summer, the height of humidity season. Alas, all my blow drying and brushing were for naught. And so, late in my senior year of high school, I began to let my true self emerge. The curls came out, and I did my best to come to terms with it.
With college and all the cliched 'finding yourself' that comes with it, my curls and I came to an understanding. I agreed not to hide them (at least not as often) and they agreed to become an asset of mine. And whaddya know, I began to embrace them as my trademark. People would refer to me as the curly redhead, and I wouldn't cringe. In fact, I began to feel proud of them. I had reddish curls, and freckles. I was unique, and I stood out from the crowd. The curls achieved near corkscrew status, snaked down my shoulder and halfway down my back.
My hairdresser told me a while back that your hair changes every 7 years. I looked at him skeptically. I'm an adult, isn't everything all set? I'm 5'5 and won't ever need to buy 'Tall' jeans. I wear a 7.5 shoe and will never get that beautiful shoe on the clearance rack because 365,769 women before me already got to it. And my hair is curly. I know what kind of mousse I need.
And yet, I had to admit that over the past several years there were slight changes. My hard-to-manage curls had become more manageable. A straightened 'do held its form just a little bit longer.
This weekend I sat in my hairdresser's seat as he busily worked his magic above me. He stopped.
"Sarah?" he asked
"Yes?" I replied
"Is your hair losing its curl?"
It wasn't all in my head? I mean, I had had my suspicions, but here was the expert confirming...what? my fear? Was I actually sad about losing my curls? I had fought the tide for so many years before accepting, and then embracing, my reality. And now that reality is waning and transforming into a new one.
"How old are you?" my hairdresser asked.
"I'll be 28 in August."
He nodded sagely, and went back to cutting.