Her hair is curlier than ever, except on the nape of her neck and just in front of her ears, where it remains stubbornly straight and soft. She has learned to embrace the curl, drying her hair with a microfiber towel, washing it less and less often, piling it on top of her head when she goes to sleep. The curls have tightened even in the past months, some as narrow as a pencil, others the size of a magic marker. Sometimes she stands in front of the mirror and pulls a curl or two away from the rest, marveling at what is happening on her head without her knowledge.
These curls sometimes feel like a dowsing rod. At the beginning of this year, she had an essay accepted for publication, and just weeks later, she notices in a photo that her hair is curlier than she has realized. She decides to keep her flatiron and blow dryer in the drawer. She asks her hairstylist to cut and style her hair naturally. No straightening, please. She has been making changes in her life, sharing essays and staying open on first dates and doing work that feels meaningful. Her hair acknowledges this progress, constricting itself into lovely loops and spirals as she expands.
This morning, she pauses for a moment, looking out at the dripping trees and the damp pavement as she stands in her bathrobe. Her life is about to look very different. She has accepted a new job in a new city and she won’t be looking out this window at the same quiet neighborhood for much longer. Something about this feels right. She can feel the weight of it nestled into the hollow below the center of her rib cage. She drinks her lukewarm coffee, lipstick marking the rim, then blurs the color with her thumb.
Before her job interview, another woman told her that she always straightened her hair for interviews and meetings. Curls just aren’t professional, the woman said, matter-of-fact. And sometimes she feels this way too. Sometimes her hair makes her feel uncool. But her hair didn’t get her this job, nor did she tame it to increase her chances. Turns out they wanted her, and they were getting all of her.
She could brush through her curls. Go back to that blowdry bar downtown. Maybe then she’d be able to convince herself that she can pull off wearing a beanie in public. But she’s not choosing those options. Last month, she scrolled down a website to see the smirking face of a blonde comedian who had been everywhere lately. This photo stood out, though: the comedian was wearing her hair naturally, curls cascading and kinking where they were normally blown out and re-curled into that Hollywood real-but-not-really-real look seen at every press junket. It felt like a betrayal. She doesn’t have a team of stylists to tame her hair, but if she did, she wouldn’t let them near it with a wide-toothed comb.
Her hair is parted on the opposite side today. She has her tricks. She smiles in the mirror, looking at a coil framing her face. She’s only started to notice this piece lately, like it’s someone she might like to befriend. She crosses the room to sit down at her desk, diving into another day of new work.