Rupa was the new girl in our class in 7th grade. And she came into Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School wearing steel-toed Doc Marten boots, all black clothes, and a handmade leather strap necklace with stainless steel letters that spelled out the name KURT. She was the only goth in our whole school at the time, but that wasn’t what made her look stand out. It was her unbelievably long, black-to-purple hair, which cascaded down her back in loose wave-curls, like an Indian Rapunzel who had long given up on princes. RIP Cobain.
Since then, I’ve been stanning Rupa’s exceptionally dope hair. Long or short, it is poetry. Dyed or left to its own devices, it is a remarkable shade. Curly or straight, it is the appropriate punctuation mark for whatever statement she’s trying to make.
Gleefully unruly! It’s currently chin length and wavy/curly, somewhere between a 2C and a 3A for those of you who love labels.
After years of fighting its true nature, I’ve finally decided to just let it do its thing with minimal intervention, and we’re both much happier for it!
I’ve worn my hair long for most of my life—I would go through cycles of getting sick of it and chopping it to about shoulder length, letting it grow to my waist, getting sick of it, and chopping it all off again.
In the last year or so, I’ve kept it short and will probably continue to do so for a number of reasons. Primarily, I work out a ton (lifting and running) and end up having to shower twice a day usually. I’m, of course, not washing my hair twice a day or even every day (that would be madness), but it is infinitely more easy to deal with at this length.
I do sometimes miss having long mermaid hair swinging around while doing deadlifts or the sensation of wind blowing through it, but only sometimes.
When I had long hair, I also felt like I was feeding into the stereotypical cultural (read: male) ideal of what women should look like. Can you name any short-haired Disney princesses? So, wearing it short feels like a subtle middle finger to the male gaze.
Like those of us who have dropped 10 pounds during bad breakups, my hair probably looked its best when it was actually the saddest (i.e., when I was straightening it every day). Waist-length, jet black, pin straight, super glam.
It also had purple and blue streaks for about 10 years, from my teens to mid-twenties, which I loved!
When I was in high school, and it was down to my butt and various shades of purple and pink (the pink not being intentional, how dare you? That was just the color the purple turned when it faded) and super dramatic. Unfortunately it was also an unhealthy mess with split ends galore. [Editor’s note: It was still dope though.]
I’m the kind of person who is absolutely painstaking and meticulous when it comes to makeup but utterly lazy and low-effort when it comes to my hair. I usually just go to bed with it wet with product in it and in the morning it’s big and happy and curly.
If I want to look a little more fancy, I’ll go through it with a curling wand when it’s dry to make some of the curls more well-defined. So, usually 1 minute, at most 5 minutes. #blessed
For super special occasions, I’ll break out the hot rollers, which feels incredibly high maintenance and performative, but the results are bangin’.
Every 6 months.
At the positive end of the spectrum, I’ll ruffle my hands through it to make it bigger or do dramatic hair flips when I’m dancing or after a particularly satisfying set at the gym. At the negative end of the spectrum, I have an awful habit of running my hands through it and picking at my scalp when I’m anxious. :/
I feel like femininity and hair have been intertwined forever, and it’s impossible to disentangle how I feel about my hair from how I feel about being a woman. But I feel like it maps pretty neatly to how I’ve felt about myself at different periods of my life, which is fun.
As a teen, it was wild and did not give a fuck. I was a twentysomething with something to prove and went to great lengths to do so—like trying to put forth a very severe, sleek, serious version of myself by straightening it all the time.
As a thirtysomething, it is again wild and does not give a fuck, but in a much more presentable, well-maintained, and healthy way!
A snapshot: as a reckless twentysomething, I got a couple traffic tickets. I was in the middle of my high corporate goth phase and straightening my hair all the time, but whenever I had to go to traffic court, I wore it natural and curly because I thought it made me look more innocent and less likely to have, um, tailgated a cop car.