Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dirt

I just received a greeting card from a friend which states that what I need is a totally out-of-control, deeply significant, all-consuming passion ..... other than my hair!
My hair has been described as 'hair of an angel' 'out of control' 'medusa-like' 'unkempt' and one I like most of all - 'boing-ey.'
In this particular entry I will not describe the tortured hair years of my childhood and teenage years - I shall leave that for a future entry.
I got married at the age of 25 and had been with my husband for several years before then. To the best of his knowledge, he married a woman with straight hair. After our wedding we travelled around Europe in a VW bus. A watershed moment occurred one cold and rainy night in a camping site in Amsterdam. I had washed my hair and wound it tightly around my head, clipping it down and waiting for it to almost dry, at which point I would unclip it and wind it in reverse, so to speak. This method had always worked and my dry hair hung as straight around my face as naturally curly hair can hang i.e. with kinks at the roots, and suspicious looking grooves, just waiting for a hint of moisture in the air to spring upward and outward, and spoil the entire painstakingly wrought straight facade. That particular night it was very cold and damp and after about two hours of my hair being clipped down I realized it was never going to dry and I may die of a cold instead. I unclipped it and combed it and went to bed. When I awoke my hair stood out in an afro, which, thankfully at that time, was all the rage. Imagine my husband's shock!
That was the last time I ever tried to straighten my hair. From then on I have paid no heed to the fashions of the moment, I just let it be. However, a new problem emerged - how to keep the curls looking ok and not a frizzy mess, looking like I have just stuck my fingers in the nearest electric socket!
My life has been spent in an eternal quest for the holy grail of hair products. I am deeply ashamed to admit that I have probably spent thousands upon thousands of dollars on mousses, gels, magic potions, pomades, oils from Morocco, shea butter from Africa, coconut oils from India, magic oils from Polynesia, olive oil, petroleum, non petroleum, phthalate free, silicone-full, silicone-free, and the designer 'curly' lines which have only appeared in the last few years. All to no avail, not one of them works as promised by brilliant advertisers. Nevertheless, I doggedly persist in trying everything in my pursuit of perfection. Inevitably after one or two pumps I give them away, recycle the bottles, or just throw it all away feeling terribly guilty for adding to the landfill and general pollution of our air and our waterways.
Have I learned anything on my life quest? have I become wiser in my advanced age? have I realized that this is as elusive a journey as is the quest for the meaning of life? the elixir of youth? the holy grail? -  of course not.
So, during the recent holiday season I attended a pop-up shop in Oakland. A beautiful african american woman with perfect, shiny, curly hair, was selling products for curly hair. She painstaking described each product to me - enticing mixtures of creams and oils and essential oils, all chemical free, hand made, not tested on animals, biodegradable. I looked at the array and settled on a product that she said was a shampoo and conditioner and curl enhancer all in one - I would not need anything else. The name of this product, on a cute hand painted label in soy based ink was "Dirt." That alone should have provided me with just a hint of what was to happen, but no, I plonked down my money, and put the bottle in my bag. Just before I walked away she said "oh, I must warn you to be careful when opening the bottle, because it grows."
"Grows" - what is she talking about, I smiled politely to pacify her and left.
The next day under the shower I opened my bottle of dirt. It positively exploded - a volcanic eruption of brown lava shot up like a fountain, on to the shower curtain and walls and bottom of the tub floor of the bathroom, and continued to spew forth, unabated for at least five minutes.
I wiped up globs of lava then put it in my hair and washed and rinsed it. It felt odd, like a mixture of seaweed, slime, and .. yes, dirt - mud in fact.  It was very difficult to comb out and then when it dried - not in Botticelli curls, it stuck out in strange spikes and coils and had very hard feel to it, almost like I could, if I so desired, begin to carve at it and sculpt it.
I decided I had not read the instructions properly. I read the now runny label - no particular expertise required, just to wash and rinse the hair. If you can believe it, I tried again, the next day, after the same lavic explosion had occurred.
I had a hair appointment the following day and I sat in the chair as my curly haired hairdresser tried to comb my hair.
"It feels strange," she said, "I can't get the comb through it Can I chisel it? I am going to wash and condition this before I do anything.
I broke down and confessed to her that I had washed my hair in dirt. She shrugged and clucked sympathetically, as a naturally curly haired woman she too understands the lifelong search. After she commiserated she assured me it is ok to throw away the bottle of dirt.
I came home with my hair looking soft and shiny, full of free flowing curls and ringlets, and threw away my bottle of Dirt.



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