Thom’s post, in which he mentioned his longing for thick, straight hair, got me thinking about non-straight hair. Shall we call it queer hair? I have the queer gene, which I inherited from two curly-haired parents. Tenth grade biology only covers that T-square thingy for eye color, so I don’t know how hair genetics work. I just know that I have wavy-to-curly hair, and that my younger sister could go full fro if she didn’t use about a pound of product to wrangle her hair into a bun everyday.
Recently I watched an episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker. There’s no excuse for that, but here’s mine: I don’t have cable at home and therefore binge like a kid who’s never tasted candy whenever I’m in a hotel room. The matchmaker, whose schtick is to do the dirty work so her clients can play it cool, gave telling-it-like-it-is assessments to dozens of gold-digging women. Or maybe they were millionaires too—I was a little unclear. To one, she said (I’m paraphrasing), “Get a blowout before your date tonight. Men don’t like curly hair. They want shiny and straight. I’m just telling it like it is.”
This was news to me, and not just because I’m not in the business of dating millionaires of any gender. Weren’t Goldilocks’ locks curly? What about Nellie Oleson, the picture of prairie privilege?* And let’s not forget Simone on Head of the Class, who was my curly hair idol for years.
Okay, so maybe these examples have not aged well. But every time I see one of those posters for the Brazilian blowout—which apparently works its wonders with formaldehyde and gives hairstylists nosebleeds or something—I can’t help but like the “before” pictures better.
Don’t get me wrong—I think straight hair is beautiful. My girlfriend’s hair is a shorter version of the “after” picture above. Once she got a haircut that she claimed made her look like Jesus. “Come on, admit it,” she said. “When I walk in a room, doesn’t a little part of you think, ‘Here comes the Savior’?”
But Jesus was from the queer-haired Middle East, whereas, I explained to C.C., “You’ve got New World hair, baby.”
So yeah, there are all these ethnic and sociological undercurrents to the curly-vs.-straight debate, as there are with so many aspects of fashion and beauty. At its loudest, we have the Nappy Hair controversy. In subtler forms, we get Keri Russell and Chelsea Clinton trading the curls of their awkward years for sleek new ‘dos. Each time, my sister moans, “Where’s your curly pride?”
As anyone who’s shelled out $9 for a thimble-full of Frizz-Ease knows, the dark underbelly of lovely, cascading curls is frizz. Why do we hate it? It’s our natural state! Of course, so are hairy pits, bushy beards, bushy bushes and death at age 45. Most arguments elevating what’s “natural” fall apart quickly; one of the perks of having opposable thumbs is that we can mess around with what nature gave us. But there’s something very star-bellied Sneetches about always wanting the opposite of what we’ve got.
So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I like a little frizz. Half of the beauty rituals women perform are to make it look like they just had sex, and what’s more post-coital than hair that has rubbed against a pillowcase for twenty minutes? I don’t just mean messy hair—“beachy” and “tousled” looks come and go. I mean more like this:
Of course, what works on the runway often doesn’t work in real life. I found the Marc Jacobs photo above on a beauty website under the headline “Don’t Celebrate Frizzy Hair.” They can’t stop me though. Here I go—I’m gonna celebrate it!
So is Anna Wintour’s foil, Grace Coddington, who I want to be when I grow up. Her hair accurately announces, I am an original and an old soul, and I travel with a wind machine.
So is this woman. She’s taking in gorgeous tropical views and not worrying about the humidity, thanks to a trusty bandana whose job is to contain, not hide.
So is this dog. You just know breeders worked for hundreds of years to get those bad-ass dreadlocks.
So is this My Little Pony.**
I am a tidy person by nature. I like beds made, I like shirts folded and I hate it when my Frappuccino oozes out from the crack between the cup and the bubble lid, even though the barista probably thinks she was being nice by giving me extra.
But that’s probably why I need a little frizz in my life, whether on my own head or others’. Frizz is like garment gaping or pencil lines showing beneath paint. It reveals a secret, and that secret is someone’s vulnerability—the thing that wasn’t planned.
I remember learning that back in the day, Italian architects built cathedrals with asymmetrical windows or other small “flaws” to let God know that they weren’t trying to imitate his perfection. Which is hugely egotistical if you think about it—I mean, I’m sure that building had a ding or two in it even before they added the funky windows. And I’m sure that Jesus, with his mussed-from-all-that-healing-the-blind curls, knew that nothing is more perfect than a little imperfection.
*I would like to say that this is my last Little House reference, but I can’t make any promises.
**There will probably be more My Little Pony references in future posts too. Their style is just undeniable.