I just read a pretty spot on article about the ‘beauty’ obsessed nature of body positivity movements.
In summary the article basically says that ‘beautiful’ shouldn’t have to be a requirement of having value as a person. Body positivity shouldn’t be “everyone is beautiful” it should be “who cares if you’re beautiful? You’re still very important!”.
Firstly I’d like to acknowledge that I don’t have a great need for body positivity myself. I have a pretty decent amount of self confidence and aside from the usual adolescent insecurities I’ve never suffered too much. Sure, I don’t think I’m the most stunning creature ever. I’m alright. I’m definitely not the most photogenic (hence the lack of photo in this post), my nose is a bit bigger than I’d like and I could do without my broad shoulders. Given the choice I’d wake up tomorrow looking like Charlize Theron. However I’m young, white and slim enough that I am not too much opposed to narrow beauty ideals.
The one insecurity that gets on my nerves nearly every day is my hair. If you’re my facebook friend or my friend in any capacity you’re probably already bored sick of my hair-based angst or at least had a giggle at one of my self deprecating jokes.
I have Irish Hair. For those of you without Celtic genes and a weirdly spelled name, you probably don’t know what that is. I have Irish blood on both sides of the family, mostly from my Granny who emigrated from Roscommon. Mostly, I like being vaguely Irish. I wish I was more Irish. I have an interesting name, I got a slightly different perspective on the world growing up Catholic in a Church of England country (we’re more dramatic and interesting, and our churches are ostentatious and fabulous) and I can credit it for my distinctive colouring (pale skin, dark hair, blue eyes). The hair, however, I could do without.
Irish hair is never neat. It is dry and wild no matter how expensive your conditioner is. It is neither curly nor straight, it simply twists and turns of it’s own accord. It is so fine and light it feels like it’s not there. It is extremely breakable particularly when stressed. In my case, it also happens to be thinner than a potato-free stew. It also gets greasy quickly, whilst still remaining dry and brittle. The slightest presence of wind or rain makes me look like a crazed fortune teller. You know when you tie your hair back and endearing little strands of it fall down around your face? Irish hair springs out in wild curls that stick out horizontaly. In short, everything that can possibly be wrong with hair is present in my hair. It almost never looks good and I also happen to be cursed with a total lack of ability to style hair. My immediate family suffer the same thing, but aside from them no one seems to have much understanding of what wild Irish Hair is like.
I remember at school having to wear a ponytail (my hair was down to my waist, scouse Mums don’t do bobs) and always despairing the little wiry curls that would escape the bobble and surround my face the second I got to school. So began my life long fight with my hair. In secondary school when I started to notice everything wrong with me I tried to take control. I cut my hair short. After a lifetime of freakishly long hair I was bored. I dyed it every possible colour to distract from the fact it was terrible and I couldn’t style it. I washed it every day and during my punkier phases I straightened it almost every day. Naturally my hair viscously bit back like a lion when I tried to tame it. It thinned out more than Donald Trump’s. So I layed off the dye and the heat application. Now it was just boring and brown and wilder than ever. Last year I panicked when I saw actual bald spots and thin, witchy patches. I started taking iron tablets and consciously upping my protein (being vegetarian and a student probably doesn’t help). I reduced the amount I washed it by half and, sure enough, it has got better. For a while, though, it was bad. I would cringe and feel close to tears of I caught sight of my pathetic amount of whispy hair in a mirror.
I would burn with envy when other girls would swish around their thick, healthy hair and style it constantly without the ugly results I had to put up with. I still bubble with anger when thick haired people complain about the cards they’ve been dealt. It weighs down on your head? It’s hard to style? It takes a long time to dry? Cry me a river. Why don’t you complain that you’re wallet is too heavy, or you have nowhere to store all the flowers Tom Hiddleston sends you? I may sound bitter and it’s because I am. Thick haired people seem genuinely surprised that I have zero sympathy for their “problems” or that I simply can’t, or rather refuse to, understand how “difficult” it can be to have stunning, healthy, thick hair. And no, you would not prefer mine. After washing it’s so flimsey and unimpressive a professional hairdresser probably wouldn’t notice it. A day after washing it’s so wiry it looks like the insides of a scarecrow. Catching sight of it in the shadow of a projector is the worst, I look like a Quentin Blake illustration.
Speaking of hairdressers, I feel like they are an alien species. They ask me if I want layers, a side fringe, feathering when all I want to say is “help me. Just look at this and do the best you can”. I remember getting it curled professionally for my sixth form prom and picking out an airbrushed model in a magazine sporting the hair I would sell semi vital organs for. “Ha! I’ll do the best I can!” said the stylist. If I was Joan Rivers I would probably say something like “Hairdressers call most people that come into their salons their ‘clients’, they call me their ‘patient’!” In my dreams I either have flowing, shiny mermaid locks, or the hair of Princess Merida, or even an adorable pixie bob. Even a cute cropped hairdo wouldn’t work, although it would get rid of a lot of my problems it would only exacerbate my less-than-delicate features and big face and most likely make me look like Dylan Moran or a less hot version of Helena Bonham Carter in Fight Club. Mostly I just get a shoulder length boring cut that is as uninspiring as a cup a soup. Any longer and I look like a witch, any shorter and my face looks weird. Of course such haircuts never last. Another fun thing my hair does is growing faster than bamboo.
So we’ve had the other stages of hair grief, when comes the acceptance? I’m working on that. No, I’m not working on the part of this blog post where I wrap it up and tell you I am in fact a goddess and my hair is perf, I am working on accepting my hair. Is there anything good about it? It does style easily. If I actually knew how to style it this would be a huge bonus, but recently I attempted a quiff which looked somewhat impressive and stayed in place with only a shot of hairspray. I like the colour. It’s dark brown and it suits me. Sometimes it falls nicely and can form natural curls when left to dry on it’s own. It always feels soft, too soft, like “brown smoke” as my friend says, but I suppose that’s something. I have other decent features I suppose. I like my hands and my eyebrows, I’ve been told nice things about my eyes. My face is sometimes like “daaaayym!” to me and sometimes it’s “damm!”. I am beginning to finally accept my hair. I know it won’t change and when I try it turns into a battle in which my hair always wins. My hair is not a benevolent helpful force that enhances any beauty I might have, it is a political enemy I grudgingly make peace treaties with. So I just leave it as it is. I distract from it. I keep it the least interesting thing about me. I push it back from my face, where it stays, I work with what I have rather than trying to force something I don’t. I try to take this position with all my insecurities, including my big nose and broad shoulders and weird little hump thing I have at the top of my back. You can’t have it all, although some people seem genetically blessed. My hair isn’t good and it probably never will be, unless I find a hairdresser who is also an actual wizard. Don’t tell me my hair is pretty, it’s not and that is ok. Pretty hair isn’t everything. Compliment something else about me, laugh at one of my terrific puns. And for the sake of all that is holy, begorrah and bejaysis, do not complain about your thick hair in front of me.Ir