In Writing

I am hungry… no, aching… for frivolity. So thank you in advance for letting me indulge. I’ll go back to spewing fire soon, probably after the holiday. I’m just as motivated and energized as ever. It’s just that I want to spend a pleasant moment writing of something of no importance whatsoever, and forget about my quaking fears for humanity.

So… my hair.

Now, I don’t think it will come as much surprise to anyone who knows me that I am pretty vain about my hair. It’s not my fault, really. Some of my earliest memories are of people telling me how beautiful my hair was. In the second grade, cascading to my waist, it’s the one thing my snarky teachers in Argentina would comment on about me, how shiny my hair was, how thick, how long. Like anything superficial, it was not an honor I did anything to earn, but this did not stop me from reaping the bounty of compliments. This introduced me to the unfairness and randomness of life. There was no reason I should take credit for the state of my hair. There was no studying craft or staying up to the wee hours trying to improve. There were just my follicles, follicling, making my luscious mane without any direction from me. And yet the compliments came and I gobbled them up.

My hair was the subject of compliments throughout my childhood and adolescence. My friends were (and are) jealous. It was not until adulthood that I began to understand that not everyone grew hair at the alarming rate and with the iron strength of mine. I could cut my hair in a bob with no trepidation, knowing than in a year it would be down near the middle of my waist. (In fact, last November I did just that, bobbed it to my chin, and now it’s here).

My one complaint about my mane was its unruliness. The bottom part – the underhairs, I always liked to call them – were a distinctly different kingdom from my top hairs, darker, coarser, prone to wire bristle roughness that only settled down the second day after a shampoo. The top hairs wouldn’t hold a curl. It’s always taken a whole lot of product, and then a little prayer, Cinderella-like, that my bounty wouldn’t turn back to flat nothing by midnight when I was on a date or wearing a gown. On my worst days, the rainy ones, my hair would hold an unflattering resemblance to Roseanne Rosanadanna. I regularly snap pony tail holders because they’re not strong or wide enough to hold all this.

There have been times where all the stars have aligned and my hair has looked perfect and done just what I wanted it to do. Very often these times were on vacation. There was one trip to San Diego when I washed and curled my hair and it stayed glorious for days… I was afraid to jinx it by washing it again until I got home, at which point it returned to its wiry, independent thinking. I remembered these times like legends, and dreamed about repeating them. And yet it was not until this past week in Alaska that it finally occurred to me, like Helen Keller feeling her teacher’s hand under the water and finally understanding that the woman was spelling a word.

The water.

I washed my hair in Alaska, and, trying to keep the front from looking too disheveled, I curled it. The curls were glorious, picture perfect, my hair shinier than usual, not a smidge of frizz. Its softness was unlike anything I’d ever felt, except on a two-year-old child. Day after day, the curl held. What could it possibly be? I Googled it and there it was: soft water. The mineral content of the water in Anchorage is low. Unburdened by its usual load of calcium and chlorine, my hair was free to bounce and shine. And, miracle of miracles, hold a curl.

This realization so electrified me that I laid out a plan while still on the plane on the way home. I’d always known the water in my home town was hard, full of minerals, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that it might affect my hair. How could I not have known?!?

I did my research. What did I need to do to replicate the Alaska experience? Water filter on the shower head. Apple cider vinegar and distilled water 10-minute soak. A big old wash with clarifying shampoo. Although I was still beat and jet-lagged on Monday, I ran around and got everything I needed. Tuesday morning I put the wheels in motion.

The first sign it was working was the massive lathering that happened when I washed my hair. It had been that way in Alaska, but never at home. I felt like a giddy kid who wanted to play with the soap bubbles. Rinsing took forever. When I was finished, my hair squeaked. I conditioned it, then let it air dry most of the way. I blow dried it straight and curled it.

Tuesday morning curls.

Tuesday morning curls.

It’s been all day and the curl is still as strong and bouncy as ever with not even a smidge of spray or mousse or holding gel or any other blessed thing that never worked anyway. It is softer than a puff of heaven. I cannot overstate the giddiness this causes in me. I have grappled with the unruliness of my hair my whole life. I thought it was just a given. Who knew that all it took was a trip to Alaska and a water filter?!?

Here, for your viewing pleasure, it the gloriosity of my natural (well… unsprayed) curl. A bit vain? Sure. But isn’t this more fun than another post about the plight of our land? Let’s both enjoy it. I’ll see you on the other side. I’ll have my social justice warrior hat back on by then. But it will be over a damn fine head of curls.

PS- yes, that shirt says “I’m perfect,” but I promise you that’s an Alaska joke. The rest of it says, “You adjust. Alaska.”





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