My first haircut, at age 15, was the result of a three-month campaign of begging and pleading with my parents. My father is a bit of a disciplinarian (speaking of hair, his staunch mustache helped cultivate this image). It was very important to him that my two siblings and I maintained our Sikh identity. This meant we weren’t allowed to participate in a number of social practices, including consuming alcoholic beverages, staying out past 6 pm or cutting our hair. My parents patiently explained to me that growing out our hair was an important part of Sikhism. Of course, my parents could never get very far saying this to a 15-year-old with incredibly thick and wiry black hair (prone to tangles) who wanted nothing more than to blend in with her peers.
This was especially true in the summer, a tough time during my formative years. In grade six, my school got portables, a cheap and easy way of making more room in an ever-growing neighbourhood of Brampton, ON. Unfortunately, portables have little ventilation and absolutely no air conditioning. Sitting in a sticky classroom trying to concentrate on the differences between the mean, median and mode was substantially more difficult when seated across from blonde-haired Sarah, who would effortlessly push away her bangs when they became troublesome. She always looked so effing comfortable, like she stepped out of J-14, as I sat there with my long braid stuck to my back in pure envy. Here was my “I NEED A HAIRCUT” moment.
I finally wore down my parents – my inspiration was an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart and Lisa relentlessly badger Homer with requests to visit Mount Splashmore. “CANIGETAHAIRCUT, CANIGETAHAIRCUT, CANIGETAHAIRCUT” became my campaign’s official slogan. Never underestimate the stamina of a young child with access to basic cable.
My mother took me to a salon owned by an Italian family. They didn’t take appointments, so we sat in the waiting area flipping through magazines. I already knew I wanted Mandy Moore bangs, and even the Olsen Twins’ pin straight yellow hair couldn’t entice me out of that decision. When it was my turn, I walked over to the stylist and pulled out a slightly wrinkled magazine clipping of Moore. The woman looked at me, and then back to the clipping.
“This might be difficult,” she said. “You don’t have white girl hair.”
My haircut didn’t turn out like the magazine clipping. I didn’t have the Princess Diaries moment I had hoped for and was left with something a bit shorter and much puffier, with the odd curl protruding from of my head. It wasn’t a good look. I felt like a fraud, someone trying too hard to achieve a certain level of beauty. If anything, the differences between me and Mandy Moore seemed magnified.
In university, my roommate introduced me to the hair straightener. With it I was able to turn my poorly-coiffed curls into hair you might find on a model in a Sears catalogue. Sure, I didn’t look like Mandy Moore, but I did recognize myself a bit better. I still had the thick floppy black hair, it was just a little bit more manageable.
This past weekend while at the farmers market, a woman behind an organic honey and soap stall stopped me to tell me that I had the best hair style she’d ever seen. My roommate suggested I should get a prize for such an honour, and the woman happily gave me a free sample. So, I guess now my hair gets me organic oatmeal blueberry moisturizing soap.