Tangled, South Asian Edition

My hair is quite interesting to say the least.

When I was a one year old, it fell in waves until my parents shaved it off. Curls followed and by age seven, my hair was nothing but a feather duster poof. That was when the single braid started; everyday my mother would enter my room, brush it out, and braid it into the rope that endured twenty four hours of running about.

There was no taming my hair (my mom would joke that it was a bird’s nest): frizzy strands of tight waves that would find a way to tie themselves up into knots. By third grade I had given up on any possibility of hairstyling; girls in my classes were letting down their hair and occasionally appearing with Princess Leia buns.

During Summer 2008, a relative introduced me to permanent straightening. Everyone was on board, as the comments I received were nothing but positive: “Straight hair suits you more”, “You look so much more beautiful with straight hair”, the list went on. I was bored of my single plait; I wanted to be able to wear my hair down for once! Finally, I gave into my insecurity and had it chemically weakened and flattened into sleek tendrils.

For the next five years, the cycle repeated itself: I would go to India over the summer, flatten my hair, and return to two months without bad hair days. Then the natural coarse hair that refused to disappear grew, resulting in a frizzy mess with straight ends. By the next year, my hair would be an amalgam of frizz and thin strands, forcing me to put it in a ponytail. Every year when I went to the hair salon, the hair stylist would tell me that my hair was “unhealthy”, and she would list off why: dry, coarse, not soft. I would sit for three hours and inhale substances, which in California would probably mandate a Prop 65 sign. All I would tell myself was that this was how my hair should be and that I was genetically unlucky; I could just do this for the rest of my life and spare myself some self-esteem issues.

But some point after Winter 2013 I said no. To this day, I still can’t recall at which point I cracked: the exhaustion of straightening my hair to maintain texture consistency or the increasing number of articles stressing how damaging the procedure was. Yet after that, all the dollars went to hair products and masques to ensure damage control. It took me over two years to grow it all back, during which keeping it somewhat in order required two hours of hair product and patience after showers.

My current hair remains a poof-ball. However, the last time I went into a haircut, I was told it was healthier. And I’ve learned the truth behind the myth: my hair is manageable and I don’t need to burn it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit to make anyone happy. True the shampoos on the mainstream market aren’t meant for my hair texture. But today, I’d rather have my frizzy nest than burning my scalp in carcinogens for three hours.

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