The care-about-hair gene


Growing up, Saturdays at the beauty salon were a way of life.

My mom has always been faithful about her monthly haircuts. I spent many a morning sitting with my sister in the reception area of Diane’s beauty shop, the smell of perm solution and chatter of adult women part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

It was an adult’s world in the salon — a grown-up world, a sophisticated world. A place for gossip and transformations. I loved seeing the women enter with pin-straight locks and emerge from a loud contraption with luscious curls. Watching the stylists work their magic, setting it all with a halo of hairspray, I was pretty mesmerized.

When Katie and I got too old for my mother’s trims over the bathroom sink at home, we, too, began seeing Diane for our cuts. I don’t remember the first time I went for a legitimate lady ‘do, but I do remember that with my new bob — circa 1995 — and oversized red eyeglasses, people said I looked like a little Sally Jesse Raphael.

Music to a 10-year-old’s ears, as you’d imagine.

I have friends who make standing hair appointments every month, showing up to see their stylist like clockwork. Their cuts might not vary, but they’re religious about returning to see the same individual month after month, year after year.

At 31, I still go to Diane — but my appointments are . . . well, a little haphazard.

As in, I tend to go in when my hair’s length is suddenly making me insane — and I want to cut it right that second. I grow it long; I cut it short. I grow it long; I cut it short. It’s a cycle.

My mane is fussy, wavy and frizzy and thick. It’s not curly enough to be cute and sassy, yet far from straight. I once spent time trying to straighten it, and even considered begging my parents to fund a semi-permanent straightening solution as a teen.

But later, something weird happened.

I stopped caring.

Today, my hair does what it does and I don’t worry much about it. I’m all about simple, low-maintenance hairstyles — and for me, that typically translates to keeping it long-ish with layers so I can easily pull it away from my face. Which I do. Just about every single day.

“Hair down” days have become special occasions. For one? Right now I’m a perpetually-hot pregnant lady, and hair tickling my neck sends me into a sweaty rage. Even on the days I vow to look professional-ish and keep my hair down for work, I wind up scraping it into a ponytail before I’ve even stepped foot in the office. I don’t even use a mirror. You know: just living on the edge.

Sometimes I wonder if I the care-about-hair gene just skipped a generation. My mom and grandma certainly have it, both arriving for regular sessions with their stylists for cuts and color. Even my great-grandmother, well into her 80s, would have my aunt take her for regular perms. Losing her eyesight didn’t prevent her from wanting to tend to her tresses, and I can remember her self-consciously patting her locks as we’d arrive from a long trip, asking if she looked like “ZaSu Pitts.”

I won’t be one of those people that just blames their appearance on motherhood, but . . . well, as you’d imagine, if I didn’t care a whole lot about my hair before? I care even less now. My morning routine is pretty low maintenance, mostly involving a shower and quick blow-dry before Oliver starts calling from his crib and I have to get both of us out the door. I’ve done my makeup the same way for decades, so I can get that step done in minutes. The easier, the better.

Maybe I’ve just . . . given up. Like many teens, I used to page through magazines filled with cute hairstyles and dog-ear pages with looks I loved. But when I arrived at Diane’s for the big hair transformation, the result — on me — would always look . . . off. I never took into account the different types of hair best for each style. When my hairdresser would gently try to steer me away from certain looks, I just dug in my heels. I wanted to look like Natalie Portman! I wanted to be Keira Knightley! How bad could it be?


Now in my thirties, I like to think I’ve simply embraced who I am and stopped trying to fight the natural wave of whatever my hair wants to do. It’s a special kind of ridiculous to be both pregnant and going gray, but the increasingly wiry strands at my temples don’t lie. I’m getting close to needing a decision on whether I’ll start coloring my hair, too, but I’ve been hesitant to give in.

I mean, plucking the offending follicles will only work for so long. I think I’m creating a bald patch.

Ah, well. Nothing a ponytail won’t hide.


5 thoughts on “The care-about-hair gene

  1. I am 100% the EXACT same way. I probably cut my hair once or twice a year, at most. Ooops. I dry it right before I go to work, and that’s it. I honestly don’t care. When it gets too long, I chop it all off, let it grow, then rinse and repeat. I don’t even have a special hair place that I go to. Anywhere will do.

    I am so not a girly girl AT ALL.


  2. Ha, I have the straightest hair one can imagine, and recall that I would have killed for curls as a kid. But I am exactly as low maintenance as you seem to be. And this is just fine. When I reached your stage with graying, I decided to not hide the whites. Once you start, you have to keep re-colouring it, as it grows. That thought made the decisions easy: no dye for me as long as possible. I’m 48 now and still ok (albeit a lot whiter than my former dark brown).


  3. All of this!

    My mom still reminds me to put on makeup before my husband comes home from work. She still believes that we owe men our best appearances and I think that might be where my stubborn refusal stems from. I do love to get dolled up from time to time, but it isn’t practical in a daily life that balances caring for my son and working from home. I cut my hair maybe once a year. I want to look clean and put together, but looking perfectly polished and oh so pretty on a daily basis? Mostly it’s just not that important to me, and I’m so grateful that’s a generational burden I’m not going to carry it pass on.


  4. Okay, my issue is grey eyebrows, and no pony tail is going to mask that. I’m starting to understand why all my great aunts had eye pencil eyebrows. Great post!


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