Please forgive me. I have been abusing you for years.
I take no responsibility for when you were pulled hard into braids, pigtails, and painful barrettes during my childhood, but I admit that when we were in our teens, it was my fault that you were permed to mimic the early days of Madonna. Later, when we were desperately trying to fit in with the cool milieu of high school, we went punk for a while before we became mods.
You must admit that during our junior year in high school, I let you be. True, I never gave you regular trims and you expressed your disapproval with split ends. Also true is that I would yank you into a messy bun with painful rubber bands. You were down to my waist in thick, lustrous tresses that swayed from side to side as I walked aimlessly on the streets of New York.
Our twenties were a disaster for you, this much I now know. You were Annie Lennox-esque—short and bleached into a platinum shade that burned your scalp. My compulsive obsession was ferociously overruled by the-fashion-slave-that-is-I; you have suffered considerably through my abuse. Yes, our twenties were all about perpetually cutting then growing out, getting highlights and being glazed into different colors every six weeks.
Still, you held strong for me until my infatuation with Giselle, her glorious soft waves and her long, cascading layered hair had my heart pounding. I coveted and pledged to grow you out. The task took years, but we did it and you were not happy with my next step of getting big, wavy perms.
Then 9/11 happened to us. I took my stress, anger and endlessly devastating forlornness out at you. I chopped everything off into a bob with bangs—remember those tiresome upkeeps? Around this time, I started to verbally abuse you while I yanked the gray strands that spiraled out every morning with a tweezer until it became hopeless—I sprinted to the colorist.
But we did discover something new about you, with the natural bend you possessed given the right layering, you became beautifully, naturally wavy—thanks to Orlando. My hair wanderlust was finally over; we conquered our signature style naturally from scissor masters like Serge, who is now exclusively the only one who can touch you, and you know that is a purely luxurious splurge. I’m well aware that you had to get the grays covered every month, suffering the itchy scalp and the fumes. I was ultimately content—isn’t that the most significant thing? Me.
After the recession, I lovingly colored you myself, the dyes I used contained no ammonia—no more smells and burns—but your displeasures became intensely alarming. You conveyed your anger by leaving me gifts of enraged clumps of hair. Like clockwork, when I turned forty, you even changed the outline of my hairline: you took away my widow’s peak and I had to dye you every three weeks.
Is it a karmic joke that I have always told everyone, “My hair is too thick?” Is it a warning sign that I now notice elderly Asian ladies that are left with uneven bald spots in their perms? Are you punishing me for my vain, narcissistic vanity? Is this a truth-test or an affirmation that I should look my age and stop abusing you? Are you testing my insecurities? If you are, it’s working: I do not want to look like a grandma, and no, we are not cutting our hair short like everyone has suggested.
It’s has now been eight weeks since I stopped abusing you with hair dyes. I have forgotten how lovely your own dark-brown hair is with those natural, reddish highlights, facets of color impossible to recreate from a box of hair dye. There are more grays than I had anticipated. I’m still not used to this, in certain lighting they look like silvery highlights, but sometimes it just simply looks erroneous.
You seem to be accepting my peace offering in your usual cool-silent way, but the gentle sign of hair growth is enough for me.
I’m uncertain how to express my gratitude for making me face my natural state daily; I guess it’s your turn to make me suffer. Currently, I can’t give you a lifetime commitment, or even a simple pinky promise to continue with this phase of our partnership, but for now, I will let you rest peacefully since you will outlive me—we are in dire need of hats by the truckloads.