I wish I could be one of those lucky weirdos who are happy with their hair in its natural state—but I've always been sure I could do better than what Mother Nature intended. As a child I coiled my hair in rags to curl it as I slept, giving it a slightly lumpy quality; I had bed head for eight years. Later I went for a series of celebrity 'dos: the Nancy Wilson, the Anne Murray, the Suzi Quatro. I now have extensive photographic evidence that I look awful in bangs. As a teenager, I buzzed my hair on one side and dyed my head maroon, prompting my parents to take me to a psychiatrist, who asked me, "Why are you hiding behind your hair?" He had a point.
But my point is this: After decades of tweaking and torturing it into a dozen varieties of hideousness, I finally love my hair. It's a pretty color (somewhere between spun honey and baby deer) and a nice length (just below my shoulders), and it flatters my face. I put 43 years into thinking about my hair so I would no longer have to—only to realize that that's an impossible dream. Because now that my hair is perfect, I'm terrified something will go wrong. I suffer from recurring nightmares in which I lose my mind and decide to try a henna-and-bowl-cut combo again (yes, I said again), or a colorist accidentally bleaches it white, which is what happened ten years ago. (I still can't think about that incident without wanting to vomit a little; I can't talk about it without crying.) When someone unfamiliar does my hair—an unavoidable part of my job—it gives me a curious physical sensation, as though my center were dropping out.
What scares me more than anything is that no matter how well I protect my hair from having horrible things done to it, I can do absolutely nothing to stop it from changing on its own. Lately, wiry, cat-whisker hairs are sprouting from my crown, and my hair is growing dryer, even a bit—dare I say—brittle. There's a lesson to be learned here, I suppose, about the certainty of change. But it's awfully nice having that one thing, that reliable go-to in your life with which you're truly, finally content.
Okay, yes, fine, I also have my job, my husband, my children. Children, Mommy loves you. Just keep your fudgy fingers away from my hair.
Next: How one woman learns to love her natural haircolor