By Septembre Anderson
For as long as I can remember my scalp has been a battleground. One of my earliest hair memories is of my mother bribing me with a trip to the park if I would cooperate (re: not bawl my eyes out) when hair washing and styling time came that night.
I have the type of hair that is most feared: Black hair. My hair is a revolutionary that refuses to be colonized. In its natural state it is thick beyond belief, difficult to comb and even more difficult to style. While my hair can withstand anything (over the years it has been subjected to bleaching, extreme dyeing, extreme heat and even more extreme hairstyles) it takes a lot of patience, hair products and upper body strength to mold it into something other than an untamed Afro.
By Scaachi Koul
Bushy eyebrows come and go in fashion. Women do weird, new things with their pubic hair every decade or so. But arm hair has never been cute.
It was in junior high when I first noticed that the other (read: thinner, prettier, whiter, blonder) girls in my school didn’t have arm hair. Then I noticed that the women in both American films and my mother’s Bollywood collection had bare arms as well. Even my female cousins, all ten to fifteen years older than me, had smooth, hairless arms. Even my mother’s arm hair was comparatively thin and sparse. They were all like soft, supple babies. By 13, my olive-skinned arms were sprouting dark black hairs.
I thought I was getting away with it, too. Leg hair removal felt unavoidable, and socially required, but I figured arm hair was okay to take to the mall. I was wrong. “Why do you have that?” a male classmate asked me when I was 13, pointing to my arms. “You’re hairier than I am.” I was also meaner and more likely to punch someone in the face, but I didn’t reply. Instead, I sheepishly pulled my arms back into my sweater.
By Caroline Shaheed
Caroline curly, Caroline straight
“Nice hair, did you see a ghost?!” That’s what a homeless guy said to me a couple years ago as I was walking down Church Street. It made me laugh to myself, but comments about my hair weren’t always funny to me.
My hair is brown, intensely curly and impossibly thick. My nickname in public school was “Poufy.” That name was given to me by a boy two grades older than me. People used to ask if I lost things in my hair, and one went so far as to stick a quarter in it to see if it would come out. It was one more way I felt different than the kids in my school.
My skin is not white, as most of theirs was. I have olive skin, brown eyes and I tan very, very easily as I am 100% Egyptian. I say this with pride, maybe a pride I didn’t have as a kid who was born and raised in London, Ontario, which used to seem like the whitest place on Earth.
Some people see me and say lovely things about my hair. Other people act like they never to have seen anyone different than themselves. “Oh that’s so cool!” they exclaim. “I just want to touch it! It’s basically inviting me to touch it!” I assure you: my hair is NOT inviting you to touch it. I do not want your paws grabbing at my tresses. I’m not a stuffed animal and grabbing at my hair and asking where I come from, is a terrible conversation starter, FYI.
By Jef Catapang
Fej circa '07, stage one of "The Hair Era"
Jef stares at himself in the mirror. He looks into his eyes, assesses the darkness of the bags below. He rubs his head vigorously, Denzel Washington- style.
Jef: What’s up, Denzel.
Jef’s reflection looks Jef up and down.
Fej: You look like shit.
Jef: Right back atcha, playa.
Fej: Please don’t talk like that. Why do you insist on talking like that?
Jef looks intensely into his own eyes.
Jef: BECAUSE YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. ANYTHING YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH, YOU CAN.
Fej: … Can’t we just have a normal conversation for once?
Jef’s attention moves downward.
Jef: God, we need to trim our nose hairs.
Fej: I KNOW, RIGHT?
They laugh while tickling their nose hairs.
Fej: So anyway, I was wondering if I could ask you some questions. About your hair. The ones on your head.
Jef: Sure. Shoot.
Fej: What happened to it?
By Navi Lamba
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.
By Kelli Korducki
I have never been one of nature’s blondes, one of my aching desires as a kid. Before I come off like some Aryan Nation weirdo, I should mention that my motives were strictly pragmatic. See, my future career backup plan was to become a Spanish-language television personality.
Outlandish as it may seem, this vision was fairly sketched out. Ideally I’d host my own song-and-dance variety show—something Xuxa-esque, but weirder—but I’d have settled for a telenovela gig too. (This seemed less far-fetched than my other ambition, to one day make a living by writing things.) The overwhelming majority of women on Spanish TV, the ones who weren’t playing maids on the prime-time soaps, looked a lot like me—as in, they too were white as hell. Univision, the Miami-based Spanish television network we picked up at our house, was (and continues to be) a virtually Mestiza-free zone. I figured a Caucasian-looking halfie like me stood at least a semi-decent shot.
By Canice Leung
Being Chinese, I’ve received countless compliments about how nice it must be to have pin-straight hair. Fair enough… I came of age in the flat-iron era, when every girl had a freaking ionic ceramic whatever Babyliss with which they enthusiastically straightened their curly/wavy/poofy/voluminous/mostly-straight-but-maybe-kind-of-textured hair into these swingy, horse-mane shags. Like, even the girls with mostly straight hair straightened, with irons or carcinogenic “Japanese straightening treatments.” Not just the white girls, either, but Asian girls too. It always seemed to me a bit like Hudson’s Bay traders selling beaver pelts back to the natives — our look had been fetishized, commoditized, and they were selling it back to you for lots of money (anywhere from $400 to $1,200). You’d sometimes see girls in the hallways of my high school and university with burn marks around their ears or forehead, or maybe one of them fretting about how she forgot to turn off their iron that morning, and was it going to burn her bathroom down? Her dad would kill her. Or trying to figure out how to get mom and dad to pay for relaxers.
And yet, the more they wanted my kind of hair, the less I did.