Category Archives: Prompts

“Stop Touching My Hair!” A Short Rant From a Curlicue Woman

Happy International Women’s Day, everyone!

So, taking a break from movies and whatnot…here’s an issue facing some women I know. A lesser one when compared to many, mind you, but still obnoxious:

“I wish I had hair like yours.”

Trust me, ladies. No you don’t.

The first Disney Princess with realistic-looking hair, let alone curly.

Having other women tell you how much they’re lusting after your “luscious curls” is well-meaning, but about as annoying as hearing, “When are you going to have children?” Or hearing an attached person groan about minor relationship problems when you  yourself are unhappily single.

The first two phrases are often used as “small talk”, but I try to give the former a little bit more credit. After all, it comes with genuine admiration, and tends to evoke less of a “none of your business” reaction on the part of the receiver.

That is, until people start touching your hair without so much as a “by your leave”.

 

This is probably why I’ve started to dislike the comment “I want your hair”: the handsy-ness that accompanies it. Having curls means adjusting to friends and sometimes even total strangers playing with your hair when it suits them, much like how some people seem to think they are entitled to touch a pregnant woman’s belly, just by virtue of it existing.

A few weeks ago, while chatting with a friend who was getting her hair done (I wasn’t), I was only partially surprised by one of the other stylists appearing suddenly behind me, hands buried firmly in my ‘do’.

Scrunch scrunch. “I’m sorry,” she said happily once I had noticed her, not retreating in the slightest. “I just love the way you did your hair. These are natural, aren’t they?” Scrunch scrunch.

At one point in my youth, I might have asked back, “I’m sorry, are we talking about hair or breasts?” It would have seemed equally as impertinent of a question, if only because of the hands.

Instead, I smiled. “Yep, it’s natural. Sorry if it feels a little sticky. I gel the crap out of it just to keep its shape.”

Not that I felt that bad if she got stuff on her hands. If you choose to stick your foot on a mousetrap, it shouldn’t surprise you when it snaps down on your toes. 

Hell, why was I even apologizing to her? “Sorry if you touched my hair without permission and didn’t like what you felt”?! How cowed am I?
She shook her head, not visibly put-off at all.

“Are you one with the curls?” she then murmured in a distinctly cult-y way, along with several other things like that. She made my hair sound like a state of being, rather than something that was on my head.

“Of course!” I tried to laugh jokingly, taking it in stride as I have for my whole life. As I said, that’s what it means to have curls for me.

In school, friends would bat at my ponytail, because it was “so soft and fluffy!” I was often pet on the head like a dog, as if my hair was actually some cute little animal. But hey, at least I knew who they were, and most of them asked first. 

 

Having curls, for me, means being told I look “unprofessional,” or, at best, “cute”. The other day, one person actually used the word “precious”.

Women who aren’t white might hear the former or worse, just because they want to work with what they were born with. I don’t know who decided that straight hair obviously translates to having one’s life together, but I can tell you this: at the shortest (about shoulder-length), my hair takes nearly two hours to straighten. Unless I want that look on a given day, why spend all that time burning myself and my hair?

Having curls has often meant hating my hair on most days, because after a shower, my curls are good for precisely one, and then they become a tangled rats’ nest if I don’t sleep on them exactly the right way. And even then, as I mentioned, it takes a lot of product to hold them in the hellishly-oppressive humidity that naturally occurs where I live.

After one good brushing, my hair becomes a frizzy, wavy pyramid. Huzzah

Source here.

Having curls meant being bullied occasionally, because in addition to wearing glasses, I had weird, loopy, frizzy hair while most other girls had straight or wavy locks. Having curls also means being told by some of those same little girls how much they want my hair as grown women.

Oh, to hear what they’d do if they had it…

Having curls means tangles and snags, often painful to remove. I end up pulling it back after I inevitably exhaust all known tactics to try and tame it, and after people see it down for the first time, they remark what a shame it is that I don’t wear it that way more often.

If only I could.   

Having curls means wanting to have your hair instead, because even if you say“Oh, no!  It’s too flat”, “oily”, or “thin”, at least it’s under control. Trust me; I could make it work.  Nice hair costs time and money, as I learn every time I go for a haircut.

If you’re shy, good luck not being noticed with curly hair. Corkscrews make a statement whether you’re trying to or not, so marvels and coos are sure to follow. And yet no one really exclaims at straight hair that looks like it’s straight out of a shampoo commercial, all sleek and shiny and gorgeous.

Imagine if curly girls started doing the same thing to straight-haired girls. Would this seem weird to you?

Source here.

Having curls means reading magazines and watching movies and TV shows where straight hair is dominant or the only style shown, subtly reinforcing the idea that there must be wrong with my hair.

And before you start rolling your eyes, yes, I’ll admit that this is a mentality carried over from childhood. Which makes it hard to shake off, even as an adult. In 2015, a report by Common Sense Media found that “more than half of girls and one-third of boys as young as 6 to 8” have already developed issues with self-image, particularly that of body weight.

Even the more neutral excuse, “Curly hair is just not as marketable,” is an implicit dis that leaves many girls feeling like they have to change their hair, in order to be beautiful and fit in. The times are getting way better thankfully, but still. 

It’s not like head hair is linked to obesity or anything. It doesn’t change much about you for the better if you burn it or perm it or shave it all off.

…Look, I’m not trying to be bitter, or bash other women with naturally straight hair. I know this is just yet another poorly thought out nicety that people pepper into conversations to be complimentary, polite, or just generally social. It’s not wrong to long for some simple human contact, even from people you don’t know, and sometimes we’re all just scrambling for ideas about how to start.

Or maybe you feel compelled to say something, anything, just to acknowledge that someone is, in fact, there.

 

What I’m trying to say is the same basic thing people mean when they beg you not to pry into their number of children, marital status, health conditions, etc.: don’t just assume, and try to think before you speak. Or in this case, touch.

It took me a long time to accept my hair, let alone love it.
*These images do not belong to me.

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Knowing What’s Lost, and How to Find It

I lose everything important to me at least once. If I’m lucky, it’s only once a month.

My phone gets lost at least once a day, and my boyfriend  loves to tease me about the fact that I can’t find it moments after I set it down.

It’s always funnier in retrospect. I maintain that he loses his phone often too, but I will admit, he looks a lot less pathetic about it than I do.

When makeup disappears from its spot below the bathroom mirror, I don’t even know where to begin looking for it. Ask someone else, and all they have to contribute is, “What do you mean it’s not there? That’s where you left it, right?”

That’s like telling explores seeking Shangri-La, “well, all I know for sure is that it’s not in Cleveland.” What am I supposed to do with that? I don’t care if you didn’t move it. Just help me look!

When I was younger, I would lose my glasses or sunglasses and panic to find them, only to realize that they were sitting perched on my head or, worse yet, right on my face. That seems like it should be impossible for people with imperfect vision, but hey, I was young, and apparently I was freaking out too much to notice my own strangely clear eyesight.

Everything tends to blur a little bit when it feels like your world is falling apart. I couldn’t find my purse one early morning before work, and I began crying quietly about being late and not being able to find it, torn between waking my roommates to help me look for it and leaving without it, hoping I would neither get pulled over nor need to buy something that day.  I did eventually wake someone up and find it, feeling extremely embarrassed during the entire drive to work because I know it wasn’t really worth freaking out over. Even when someone tells you it’s fine, it’s not so much that I hate to inconvenience someone else (which I do) as that it gives them the impression that a) I don’t have my life together, and b) that when that happens, I fall apart instantly.

In reality, they just saw me on a bad day. I was tired, stressed, and “absolutely sure I had put it down here just last night, and damn it, I can’t be late for work because of this stupid, cumbersome thing that’s always messy anyways and-”

“Yeah, sure. Whatever.”

Trying to save face, or indeed keep face together, in everyone’s eyes is an impossibly elusive endeavor, but I still can’t help but feel embarrassed, even when it’s a total stranger who I’ll probably never see again.

My life now is hardly what I imagined it to be even 5 years ago, but I don’t see myself as one who falls apart super easily anymore. There are times when it’s appropriate for emotions to be more subdued, but trying to bottle them up indefinitely or, as in my case sometimes, letting them go off like a runaway train that jumped the rails is where people tend to run into problems.  Nowadays, I find it easier to judge situations. Did I overreact, and/or was there some justification for it?

Some days, I can face unpleasant realities with a plastered-on smile and a ready retort, and other days, not so much, but I don’t feel so different in that regard from any other person on this planet. I just happen to be a more emotionally driven person than some. It doesn’t always work out socially in my favor, but on the other hand, I experience intense feelings that some other people might not feel even once in their whole lives.

Some days, that idea is comforting; some days, it rings hollow and too fluffy to be realistic in any way. Other days, it’s just as intangible as my missing glasses.

A sense of confidence is sometimes elusive; confidence in the choices you have made, in what has led you to this very moment. That is then affected by a sometimes equally elusive sense of security, optimism, financial stability, self-love, love from others, etc. Whatever you feel you are missing in life can leak into other aspects of happiness and contentment. For example, I can take steps to alleviate my forgetful tendencies, but on some level, I will always be that person. You know, the one who takes forever to realize that her wallet is just a quick glance down and to the right, easily within sight and reach.

I wish it wasn’t, but the skill of “finding everything you ever set down somewhere right when you need it” will always be hard to achieve, and on some level, I need to be okay with that. Other people might not be, but that’s when you try to make them laugh instead.

The trick in life is to improve yourself, but not get ridiculously hung up on what you cannot change. Elusivity should be a challenge, a motivator to keep you moving forward, not something that makes you stop, look back, and ultimately give up. To truly know yourself is to tweak what you can and find peace with everything else. For me, that means accepting a few chuckles now and again, and even laughing at myself when my stuff goes a similar way to Schrödinger’s cat; missing, but at the same time not.

Only when I slow down, calm down, and retrace my remembered steps is whatever I lost then typically found.

 

Written for the daily prompt: Elusive.

The Feast: Something We Can All Learn from Dogs

There was once a time when I found myself unnerved by the unblinking stare of the family dog. You know the one.

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These days, having lived with at least two dogs – one of whom was raised to be comfortable making prolonged eye contact with people – I don’t notice it so much anymore. If I do, it’s usually to laugh at it, or laugh at the person who actually IS unnerved by it. As if to say, “Seriously? Hah! It’s not like I’ve ever been there!”

But I think we can all agree that the act is more off-putting and potentially even threatening when people do it.

Some dogs are raised better. Some humans are stricter and more consistent about treating their pets, others don’t give them “people food” at all. But most dogs I know do this in some capacity, acting like the dry scrap of wheat toast in my hand is the greatest feast they have ever seen.

Very similar to how humans have an instinctive desire for carbs and sugars – despite having evidence that plenty are available to us at just about any time – I think dogs are worried that they won’t find their next meal, no matter how reliably it comes every evening. Sure, if you eat a particular food that they adore, that might inspire them to stare harder than usual, but no matter what you eat, they recognize it as “food” that must be begged for. They have to make the most of whatever we give them, and once they get it, they look like they just won the lottery.

happy-dog-funny-cool-nice-Favim.com-698052[1]

 

Lucy, my current roommate’s dog, loves carrots, bananas, and blueberries. Like my old dog, Angie, she will eat just about anything that isn’t lettuce or spinach, but those are the foods she really bounces off the wall for. Literally.

Once, she snuck into my room and managed to score some General Tso’s Chicken before I discovered her and chased her off. After that, she wandered around the apartment licking her lips, completely satisfied and yet clearly experiencing “spiciness” for the first time. On another occasion, my boyfriend left macaroni and cheese on a low table and came back to find Lucy halfway through it. She was very uncomfortable later, but that didn’t matter to her at all in the moment. Dogs lack the gift of foresight like that, but then, people often have it and still make plenty of bad decisions. In that case, are we really much better off than they are?

What is also fun, and much better for dogs than Chinese food, is sticking a bit of peanut butter on their nose and watching them try to lick it off. Even if they manage to get it, they’ll be licking for half an hour.

I love feeding Lucy treats. Angie was bigger and a lot more introverted, but it was still fun to feed her the occasional plain cheeseburger on long drives.

Sometimes, I secretly enjoy  seeing or hearing about Lucy getting into something she shouldn’t. Not if it’s poisonous, of course, but the look of utter satisfaction on her face is joyfully infectious to me. Like the fun of getting your best friend hooked on a show you like watching.

Or, perhaps more relevantly, cooking or baking something for a special someone, and watching them really savor it.

Often times, people coast through life, taking all of the minutiae for granted. Food is not the best thing to make an activity out of, but it is something that brings us pleasure as well as sustenance, and it can be easy to sometimes forget that not everyone in the world has the luxury to eat well as we Americans do.

Seeing someone or something (an animal) take such visible, almost earth-shattering joy in something so simple, when we ourselves can forget what a nice, tasty breakfast we had not a few hours ago, reminds me that small moments really do matter. They can pile up together into a bad day, or individually be left to the wayside.

But only rarely do we look for them and appreciate them one at a time, for their contributions to an awesome or at least pleasant day. And the same people who always say to be thankful for the little things can forget their own advice, just like everyone else.

Lucy and other dogs make feasts out of loose crumbs and fallen blueberries, and they love us all the more when we are there and “allow” them those indulgences. I don’t know about you, but I could personally use practice in allowing myself to indulge – or feast on, if you will – good feelings. Basic moments of, say, a rare smile and genuine “thank you” from a customer; a walk on a breezy, but warm, sunny day; or someone hanging back to hold the door for me.

It’s simple, but it’s not beneath us.

 

Written for the Tuesday daily prompt: Feast.

The Nightmare: The Unstoppable Car

It’s interesting how the simplest nightmare can be the most terrifying, and the most revealing.

When I was about 10 years old, I started noticing recurring dreams. At least once a year, I would dream that the hag from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves would chase me through an enlarged version of the dwarves’ cottage. Occasionally, I would also dream that she was my grandma, and for some reason, I wasn’t afraid of her then. I still haven’t quite figured out what those were all about, if anything, but they seemed a little too specific, and too frequent to be meaningless.

I still shudder whenever I watch that movie, watching her creepy eyes peer straight at the camera, almost like she sees me…

I remember having dreams about Halloween, and being so sad when I woke up, instantly ending whatever adventure had taken place. These became more prevalent just before I went off to college, and I took them to represent me pinning for my soon-to-be-lost childhood.

But the dream I remember with the most clarity was a nightmare, and while I stopped having it long ago, the memory of it stays with me even to this day.

In it, I was about 5 years old, sitting behind the wheel of my dad’s oldest car. I know it was his because I recognized the inside, as well as the huge, spider-like crack in the center of the windshield. He told me that he got that mark driving on a winding mountain road, when a rock fell off the back of the truck in front of him.

The car was on the street, not the driveway, and within seconds, it began to move. Not racing by any means; it just began drifting along at 5-10 mph. But if you can, remember when you were little; back when you had no idea how a car worked. Now, imagine being set behind the wheel without supervision and pushed down a steep hill, with nothing but a shout of “good luck!” from your parents.

I panicked, of course. I wasn’t sure how to stop it, and I was worried that it might hit something if I did nothing. All I could do was grab the wheel with both hands and struggle to look for a way to stop in between scanning the road for any objects or pedestrians.

In the end, all I could do was drive around the neighborhood, which, incidentally, is one big loop. I did that all night, or at least that was what it felt like. And as much as I wanted them to, no one appeared to help me stop the car. No one appeared in general; I was alone on the road.

I don’t think I’ve ever realized that I was in a dream mid-dream, and I remember this one in particular being absolutely terrifying in the moment.

But even as a kid, I was decently perceptive. If dreams mean anything at all, surely this one was a reflection of my fear of losing control. I’m not the most stubborn person usually, but I could get very easily distressed when I felt like I had no control over a situation. As a little girl, more times than I would like to admit, I spent recess or daycare crying, wondering what I had done to make all my “friends” ignore me. I hated feeling so scared and frustrated, not knowing why that was happening or if it would ever stop. I felt powerless, but had to keep going anyway.

That was what the nightmare felt like. There was no time to stop; no time to figure out what happened. Before I had even fully processed what was going on, I had to steer a two-something-ton deathtrap – something I normally loved riding in with Dad and my brother Jack – and keep it from ruining my life and possibly someone else’s. I don’t remember it being particularly hard to steer, but my anxiety was more than enough to keep me freaking out, as the brakes continually refused to be brakes.

I think they actually made the car go a little faster.

I find this all the more revealing (and helpful) as an adult, when I am constantly having to decide what I have control over and what I don’t. I have to decide when I did my best, or when I could have done more. Practically everything has multiple interpretations depending on your mood, and sometimes I think I let myself off easy, simply because the alternative would drive me insane to think about.

There are times when you have few choices. You have few resources, so you have to water down your ideals to something easier to swallow. And you can sit around blaming your job, your parents, or other obligations, but at the end of the day, you are the one who has to set limitations for yourself.

One the other hand, having too many choices can sometimes be just as bad. Too much freedom is paralyzing, and it leaves a lot more what if’s.

Choices are hard when you aren’t sure what you want, or when you want something and can’t have it. Sometimes, a choice hurts you in the moment, but pays off later on. Sometimes, it’s vice versa.

Other times, a choice is simply choosing to do nothing.

Seems paradoxical, doesn’t it? But how many of us really look at doing nothing as a choice all its own? Because it is.

In essence, that’s what I take from this nightmare. It was reality seeping into a world that usually barely resembles it, trying to teach me something even when I was so young. I barely knew anything about the world, but something semi-wise came from my own mind and said, “Sometimes, all you can do is just keep steering.”

Sometimes it’s scary to think that we move in anything but giant strides – great leaps toward the future – but hey, at least it’s still forward motion.