Hair. We cut it, perm it, straighten it, pull it tight, leave it loose, change its color, let it grow, love it, and complain about it, amongst so many other things.
Hair. It is more than just that “thing” that keeps your head warm during the winter. At one point in life, it was a chunk of my identity. It was part of me that my mother could not tame when I was a child. “Córtale ese pelo ya,” the local Dominican hairstylist would tell her as she lovingly puffed on a cigarette and yanked my hair straight. “Pelo bonito aguanta jalones, niña,” she would graciously remind me. Even she did not want to deal with my hair. It was the part of me that remained in a braid for so much of my childhood because I thought my naturally curly, at times frizzy, hair was ugly.
It was the part of me that I tried desperately, in my naïve youthful days, to assimilate by coating it in Dominican relaxers to the point where it took on the identity of a wet mop. I wanted to easily style my hair like all my pelo lacio having friends would. As I got older and had my heartbroken, it was what I cut off to symbolically, “shed the weight.” “New me!”, I would boldly declare.
Hair. There is so much power in hair. It can set the tone for the day when it behaves the way we want it to. It can hide certain facial imperfections and make us feel safe. When sickness rears its ugly head and we lose it, it can either empower us or knock the wind out of us.
While hair can mean so much to us, I have come to learn that it does not, in any way, truly define us. Rather, it is that little extra oomph we have that helps elevate our self-esteem. It was the first thing my husband noticed when he saw my head full of curls, but it was my sense of humor, personality, love of Hip-Hop and other assets(Ha!) that sealed the deal. All those times when I cut my hair after being dumped, it was really my ego saying, “Let him go as easily as you are letting go of this hair.” As a new mom, I let it down and let my daughter explore the texture of it, exposing her to a new sense of touch.
So, here’s to hair! That wonderful bouncy, curly, straight, thinning, full-bodied, at times colorful accessory provided to us. Thank you, hair, for taking all the abuse that I have hurled at you over the years. Thank you for helping me feel empowered, safe, and downright beautiful.
by Patricia Gonzalez
Photo by Ivana Cajina