Angela Nissel on learning to feel beautiful.

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Hair Peace by Angela Nissel
At least once a week, a stranger approaches me, runs her fingers through my hair, and asks questions about my racial heritage. Growing up, I hated the attention my full, fuzzy hair attracted. Throughout my Catholic school years, when I was supposed to be praying for impoverished children, I would instead beg to be blessed with either "black girl" or "white girl" hair. "Your choice, God! Just get rid of this umbrella-shaped poodle perm my Afro-Indo-Euro blood has cursed me with. Amen."

God had bigger problems, so hair drama followed me into adulthood. My first postcollege job—as a temporary receptionist at a conservative law office—had a strict list of acceptable hairstyles. To fit in, I'd spend two hours every morning pulling at my hair with a professional-grade hot comb, then sealing the style with my special "mixed girl" concoction—a blend of hair gel, leave-in conditioner, and Jheri curl activator.

One morning my hot comb died, and I went into work with quite a bit of frizz. My boss gave me a dress-code warning. I decided to give him my two-weeks' notice and immediately went cold turkey on trying to control my hair.

I soon realized that I had never actually paid attention to my hair; I'd only tried to flatten it out and hide it so people wouldn't peg me as different. It took a while, but as my hair grew I began to appreciate how many textures exist on my scalp. The thin pieces in the front give me spiky haute couture bangs. My 2-year-old nephew thinks I'm magic because I can wrap pencils in the thicker coils, and even when I shake my head violently, the pencils stay put.

Now I actually look forward to strangers asking, "What do you use to get your hair like this?" It's called Multicontinent DNA. Cool, right?
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