A couple years ago, I tried out a new salon in Manhattan for my annual haircut (…I’m very lazy). During the pre-shampoo evaluation, the stylist ran her fingers through my hair and announced, “It’s very thin, so we should probably go shorter.” I was appalled–not because she said my hair was thin, but because she was wrong. My hair was not thin. It was thick and wavy and took hours to dry and it had always been that way, ever since I was a kid and my mom would blow-dry it into “The Rachel” with one of those big round brushes before school. I let her do her thing but knew I wouldn’t be returning. How could a stylist not know the difference between thin and thick hair?

The next year, when I went to a different stylist who said the very same thing, I realized that I am an idiot. My hair used to be thick, but after a couple of decades on this here green (is it still green?) earth, it changed. Now my hair is thin, and gasp, even a little gray.

I think it took so long for me to acknowledge this change because hair has always felt like such an integral part of my identity. I’m not much of a makeup person, my fashion sense can pretty much be reduced to the toddler-grandma look, but my hair is where I often spent most of my getting-ready time, whether subjecting it to the trusty flat iron or figuring out the right product to tame the frizz and go au natural. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that after finally figuring out how to best treat my hair, I had to start all over again.

Most women I know have spent a lot of time (and money!!!) dealing with their hair. For many Jewish women, it’s dealing with the dreaded/beloved Jew-fro. Leandra Medine of Man Repeller recently wrote about how she stopped straightening her hair cold-turkey, which feels like a truly brave act. Whether you’re dealing with stick straight locks or crazy curls, I think it’s safe to say that most women have a LOT of feelings about their hair, so I decided to ask some of them about it. Here we go.

Joelle, 22:

curly hair

I love my hair. It is curly and golden and incredibly frizzy if I brush it while dry. It took me a while to learn how to take care of it, but hey–doesn’t anything worthwhile take practice? I remember, in kindergarten, a girl named Jessica had the cutest black curls. Dimpled ringlets that sprung all over the place. One day, she came into class with flat strands hanging down–she’d been Japanese straightened, the big trend in the early aughts. She was 6. “Poor girl,” my mom said. “It’ll take her 10 years to grow that out.” I nodded and agreed. I wouldn’t give up my curls for anything. Particularly later on, when I found the right products to handle it.

Why is it a thing that Jewish girls are supposed to hate their curls? Or straighten them into submission whenever handed a burning flat-iron? Why is this the look? Can’t we reclaim the bounce? Fresh outta college and my hair is still my babe. I’m growing it long again. In the sun I like to whip it around. After lakes and oceans I like it natural. When it’s frizzy, I let it grow large, for no matter the shape it takes, it’s a look. That look is mine. Curls deserve the whole of their thirst. They should be celebrated, proud! And never straightened down.

Stephanie, 30: 

stephanie hair

I hate my hair. Naturally frizzy and wavy. If I straighten it, I feel guilty about frying it, and if I wear it curly, it looks good for only the first 30 minutes. It’s curlier in the front, which is a nightmare. I’ve often dreamt about shaving it all off and starting over. I’m always searching for tips and products to tame it.

Lauren, 31:

lauren hair

My hair is amazing, apparently. I’m easily told this at least twice a day, so eventually I started to believe it. I’m told by guys, girls, drive-thru employees, everyone’s mom, and on a good hair day, that’s when it gets to be a bit much. I don’t mean to sound unappreciative. I know so many women would kill to have hair like mine, but they aren’t there day in day out, they just see the finished product walking past them on the street.

They don’t sit through the five-hour hair appointments. They aren’t regularly purchasing absurd amounts of expensive product because it requires twice the normal amount to clean and style it and those are the ONLY ones after years of trial and error that work. They aren’t being ridiculed by their friends because to get your hair ready to go out it just happens to take much longer than theirs and you’re always making them wait. They aren’t there when after taking all that time to get ready, it starts to drizzle and all your hard work is for nothing. And they certainly aren’t there in the morning when the beautiful curls have turned back into a ratty nest that no bun nor headband can tame, stealing from me any sort of facade that I wake up effortlessly beautiful.

I love my hair, and I’m damn lucky to have any at all, let alone the ample amount that I’ve been blessed with, but holy cow is it a goddamn pain in my ass. But thank you mom, seriously, thank you.

Hane, 26:

hane hair

I sometimes love my hair and it’s my favorite thing about myself, and sometimes I hate it. It’s probably the part of me I take care of the most, so when the weather or just unknown factors mess it up, it frustrates me so much! Another thing is that whenever I feel bad or sad I get a haircut. It makes me feel great and like a new person. Better than therapy every time.

Lauren, 31:

lauren hair

My hair is dark, straight, and thin. It isn’t “typical Jewish hair” and I’m lucky that my hair has always been pretty easy to deal with. I can let it air dry, but it’s got fly-aways and frizz so I usually blow dry it, which takes about 5-10 minutes or so. I feel like my hair is kind of boring and blah and I don’t really know how to do much with it. I suppose I’m lucky to not have to deal with hair products, but I always wanted curly hair! I guess we always want what we can’t have.

Sarah, 34:

sarah hair

I loved my hair as a child, long (butt-length at times), braidable, impossible to brush and detangle, but thick and ebullient and strong. I hated it like poison after puberty: unruly, frizzy, a mushroom cloud of shame that symbolized my inability to fit in, to disappear (one that has since provided fuel for my fiction).

After my hormones calmed down, I graduated college, and I found a good (Jewish) stylist, I grew to love it again, fully—its madwoman defiance of gravity, its heft, its inability to decide on an identity: neither straight nor neatly curled. And yet on bad days (and on humid days), I still sometimes wish it would just behave itself, just like I wish I could shut my mouth, or think before I tweet. I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d had uninteresting, obedient hair: whether my personality has taken cues from my wild locks, or whether these two things are just in sync because they’re fated to be. I can’t really say, but I realize that I need a haircut.

Samantha, 31: 

samantha hair

I hate that my hair gets so knotty super quick and I hate how I get split ends ALL the time. I wish I had thicker hair, too. I love having relatively straight hair because it doesn’t require a ton of maintenance. I like my color because I think I’ll easily be able to do a gradual shift to blonde or a fairly light color once the grays start taking over. My hair seems to look best the day after I wash and blow dry it, but if I don’t wash it every other day it starts getting greasy looking.

Anna, 30: 

anna hair

I love my hair! It grows pretty fast and is fairly low maintenance. A year and a half ago I tried to re-embrace my curls after straightening and dying it habitually for years. I went to a curly hair specialist salon, swore off all hot tools, and ended up cutting it short just to get to undamaged hair. Anyway, it turns out that my hair just isn’t curly anymore. It still does its own thing, and now that I’m growing it out half the time I feel like Peter Brady, but I don’t know what happened to the super curls of my adolescence/early 20s.

Shevy, 29:

shevy hair

I feel like I am the opposite of most Jewish women when it comes to hair. My hair is thin and fine. There’s not that much of it. It’s not curly. Despite its uncomplicated-ness, it took me a long time to figure out what to do with it. Seriously, why did I have a high pony tail phase in high school?! I can’t explain that look today. Now when I get my hair cut, a stylist will not-so-politely remind me how little hair I have. (Thanks. really.)

Got any #hairfeels you want to get off your chest–er–head? Share a photo on Instagram and tag @hey.alma to join the conversation.

 

 

Molly Tolsky

Molly Tolsky is the editor of Alma.

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