(This is an expanded version of an essay that appeared at Queen Mob’s Teahouse.)
I had straight hair until I was fourteen. It took about a decade after the shift to stop doing what straight-haired people do to their hair–mine just wasn’t going to be smooth and neat no matter what–but I didn’t figure out full-on curly for at least another decade. I can braid it and it will stay in without a clip. I can hold a bun together with a pen (which turns out to be a handy way to store pens). I can’t wash it every day or it gets crispy and impenetrable, although more like a bramble patch than dreadlocks. I massage in a handful of official leave-in conditioner or unofficial hand lotion or cooking oil, and shampoo it out an hour or a day later. Regular conditioner every day. The official products have too much fragrance in them (or curly hair, which is more porous than straight, holds a lot of fragrance). Walnut, almond, grapeseed oil–do some grooming and then make a salad.
When my hair was changing from straight to curly, I tried to get it to do things: curl away from my neck, say, or not stick out so much. After a few minutes or hours, though, it would go back to its natural lie. The stylist who got it straight used three products and a flat iron. The plus side is that I can wear a bike helmet or a stocking cap or forget to pack a hairbrush, and it doesn’t have much effect on the result.
All this hair, you’d think I’d have no trouble staying warm, but I like to wear hats. I also like to knit, so I have plenty to choose from. Wool yarn grips itself and holds a shape as well as warmth–it will mold to your body after you’ve worn it a while. This summer I made a cloche out of a bamboo-silk blend, and it’s much more fluid. That hat flops and drapes and I can’t keep the brim out of my eyes. My kids and even the twenty-year-olds in my office wear their stocking hats all day long as soon as the weather cools even slightly, so I tuck that one lock that doesn’t curl as short as the others toward the back and don’t hurry to take my hat-cum-hairband off once I’m inside.
I have two nieces and a son with bone-straight hair; another straight-haired son is starting to turn. My hair is turning gray, which means its texture is changing again, corkscrewy strands sticking up from the rest of the waves. I’m still a little surprised to see it–curly and salt and pepper–but here it is under this lighting too, and that Instagram filter. I’ll give myself another decade to adjust.Tweet