Summer in the northeast means meteorologists’ forecasts will revolve around the dreaded 3 H’s: hazy, hot and humid. The haziness doesn’t bother me, but there are days when the air is so hot and moist it clings to you like a sweaty t-shirt after a workout.
Over the past year, I have been letting my hair grow. It’s the longest it has ever been and this is my first summer contending with long hair and high humidity. Back in the spring, before the great outdoors became a sauna, I decided to let my hair return to its naturally wavy state. It was a philosophical approach to hair styling; hair as a metaphor for life. Let nature take its course and every day will be a little bit different. Some days will be out of control, but there is still beauty in that.
I thought letting my hair do its own thing would be liberating. I thought it would make my morning routine easier. I was wrong. Most days have been a battle. As it turns out, it takes a lot of effort and hair products to make the natural look look natural and not like I styled my hair with a whisk. I accept that this new hair philosophy means I won’t get the same result every day, but when the humidity hit, my hair took on a life of its own. The gentle waves I left the house with in the morning turned to a frizzy mop by the time I arrived at work. As the day progressed, my hair seemed to grow larger and larger. Every time I saw a reflection of myself in a mirror or computer screen, I was stunned to see how much my hair had changed since my last glimpse. Upon recommendations from my friends and hair stylist, I tried a myriad of hair care products designed to cut down on frizz, make my natural waves wavier and keep my hair from doubling in size over the course of the day. So far, the only product that has consistently worked to tame my hair is a pony tail holder.
New hair philosophy or not, I was growing weary of losing the daily styling struggle going on in front of my bathroom mirror and the monotony of wearing my hair in a pony tail. The only other viable option I could think of was a climate-controlled space helmet like the astronauts wear. As much as that would solve my hair problems, it was a bit impractical and probably difficult to obtain. By the end of May, I considered cutting my hair to a more manageable chin-length style. Both Oregano and my hair stylist offered a list of the pros and cons of shorter hair. After much contemplation, I left the salon with all the hair I had when I entered.
Several weeks later on a particularly steamy day, I mentioned my hair frustrations to my friend, Pimento. She too urged me to keep it long.
“Why don’t you just braid your hair?” she asked.
“Braid my hair? I have no idea how to braid hair.”
“It’s easy,” she responded. “I’ll do it for you. If you like it, I can teach you how to do it yourself,” She sounded optimistic. I was worried I’d wind up looking like I’d run away from herding sheep in the Alps.
“Once you learn how to do it, you can braid your hair while it is wet. When you remove the braid, you’ll have great curls,” she added.
Later that afternoon, Pimento braided my hair. As expected, I looked like Heidi, but I have to admit, it was cooler, not frizzy and a nice change from my humdrum pony tail.
“This is great, but it’s the end of the day. It won’t last until tomorrow,” I said forlornly.
“Before you go to sleep, take a cotton bandana and tie it around your head like Aunt Jemima,” she recommended. “You need the knot to be on the top so it doesn’t rub against the braids at the bottom. The braids should keep just fine. If they come undone, you can remove them and you’ll still have nice curls.”
I was skeptical this was going to end with luscious curls, but that night, as directed, I tied a shmata around my head. I snapped a selfie and texted it to Pimento, “So, do I look like Aunt Jemima?”
“More like Rosie the Riveter!” was her response.
When I got into bed with my braids trussed up in the bandana, Oregano glanced at me. “This is new. I’m not even going to ask,” he chuckled and turned out the light.
I drifted off to sleep thinking about how much easier it would be to get ready for work the next morning. It was predicted to be another steamy day and I was eager to not spend my morning fighting what the frizz fairy had left behind.
As I’m sure you’ve surmised by now, things didn’t turn out as expected. I don’t usually write about situations that go swimmingly. There’s more humor when things go wrong and in this case, they went very wrong.
I woke up with such hope and great expectations. I leapt out of bed and bounded into the bathroom to remove the protective bandana and see how the braids had held up in the night. Much to my chagrin, but not entirely unexpectedly, the top of the braid was intact, but the bottom had started to fray. I contemplated undoing then redoing just the bottom part of the braid, but that seemed like pulling on a loose string on a sweater that then causes the whole sweater to unravel. I took a moment to consider my options. I only had 30 minutes before I had to leave for work. There wasn’t a lot of time to make alternate plans or to fix things if they went awry.
Pimento did say that if the braid came undone, I could take the whole thing out and be left with waves. Still hopeful, I began to carefully unbraid my hair. With each twist I took out, that hope died just a little bit more. The image slowly emerging in the mirror was worse than I could have imagined. When I was done, there was nothing to do but laugh at my Einsteinesque reflection.
Oregano walked into the bathroom and stopped short in his tracks. “Yikes! Please tell me that is not the look you were going for,” he said gently touching the giant poof of hair standing out straight from my head in all directions.
I stared back at the rat’s nest that had once been my hair then snapped a quick selfie of the coiffure catastrophe before I set about trying to rectify the damage. No pony tail was going to save this mess. This was a job that only a full shampoo could fix.
My dreams of an expedited morning routine were dashed as I quickly washed my hair slathered anti-frizz serum through it and ran out the door only a few minutes behind schedule.
Pimento caught up to me in the parking lot at work. “How did it go this morning?” she asked eyeballing my damp hair.
“It wasn’t quite what I expected,” I said diplomatically as I pulled my phone out of my purse.
“The braids frayed while you were sleeping?” she asked as I scrolled through my photo gallery.
“That was only the beginning. The braids did fray, but the real problem revealed itself when I took the braids out,” I said thrusting the scary hair selfie towards her.
Pimento burst out laughing louder than I ever heard her laugh before. “That wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said when she finally caught her breath.
Trying to be optimistic, I said, “Well, this certainly makes my other bad hair days seem not quite so bad.”