I remember the picture clearly, if not the year - 5th or 6th grade probably.
I was wearing a white shirt with thin maroon pinstripes and over it a gray, wool sweater. My guess is I was also begrudgingly wearing the maroon corduroy skirt that matched the shirt.
I remember them handing out our packets of pictures to us and my instant reaction at seeing my shoulder-length, wavy hair was like a punch in the gut. My brutal Jr. High assessment of myself? I looked like a dog!
My hair, parted way too close or maybe actually in dead-center middle had created the effect of dog ears. I made durn sure that my next appointment at the hair salon known as (I kid you not) 'Men's Hair by Women' included cutting all of that hair off into a very short cut.
I carried that cut through college and out the other side into my early years in Youth Ministry until the inability to afford hair cuts began my hair's return into a long something or a shaggy something... depending on the year. My hair was never anything except a bane to my existence and I did all I could to keep it straight. No waves please, no dog ears. I spent a lot of time and money and energy on keeping the curl that wanted to come out from making an appearance.
Every once in awhile someone would remark on the wave they could see in my hair. Or they would comment with envy on its thickness. It is thick. And if I bent down I could show them the curl that lay underneath, but I told them it was underneath. The top level won't do that. The times when it was mentioned by a stylist at a cheap hair salon as an 'old perm' I knew
to get up from the chair and walk away. I learned the hard way the first time, I walked away the second time.
I'm low maintenance and the irony is I had made my hair high maintenance. But all of that changed on a boat. After our group picture at BE 4.0, I was lamenting to my roommate my frustration at my 'Gilda Radner' (think Roseanne Roseannadanna) hair-do. I had spent a good hour straightening and waxing only to have the humidity take affect and the hair begin to rise like a pimped out sunrise.
One of the young women with beautiful hair heard my lament and said (approximately), "We need to talk! You have GORGEOUS curly hair, I can tell - why aren't you wearing it that way?"
I was stunned. I came back with my normal response that the top layer wouldn't curl. She wouldn't hear of it.
"No! I'm sure it does, but you have been straightening it into submission. It's so EASY! Come to my room with wet hair in the morning and I'll show you how easy it is!"
On the outside I cast my doubtful look, but on the inside I was pretty excited.
It wasn't just about the hair. It was that another woman (and at my age younger is the equivalent of popular) had seen past my ugly dog ears and past my gruff, tomboy exterior and saw the girl within.
Last Sunday I unveiled the look to the congregation and I type this right now with curls all over my head. It really is simpler than straightening EVER was. It means a new AM shower routine - I can handle that. Wet the hair, towel-dry the hair, put mousse in it, towel it again, dry it with a diffuser. Go.
Seriously, that's it.
It's simple. It's feminine. It's different. And I love it.
Those women who helped me are so adament about their curls, it's practically a ministry in itself. Because to them it's not just about the hair. It's about being who you are and not suppressing the natural beauty that God has given you because society demands something different. The women on the cruise taught me that and for them and the opportunity to learn from them, I am grateful.