When I decided to grow a man bun after being influenced by countless Instagram feeds of beautiful creatures sporting topknots and beards, I expected a fight with my hair. I did not expect that letting my unruly Jewfro run wild atop my head would lead me down a path that culminated in a deep self love and acceptance.
My entire life, save for several tragic months imitating Rihanna’s 2009-era bowl cut, I have kept my hair cropped short. It is naturally coarse and frizzy, which drastically limits its styling possibilities. Unattended, it has a tendency to grow vertically. It doesn’t take long for it to look like the byproduct of a Marge Simpson and Beetlejuice lovechild.
This was a source of frustration for me growing up, as I equated straight hair with beauty. I already had ethnic features and my Brillo pad hair made me feel deficient. I felt there must be something wrong with me that everyone else’s hair grows nicely and mine is like a wild nest.
So letting my hair grow when I knew its potential for chaos was a risk. But now on the other side of 25, I felt the time was now or never. My hair is already greying; it might only be a matter of time before it’s gone all together.
Predictably, after three months I had sprouted a mushroom of hair. It was the worst I had looked since puberty, when hormones turned my face into a greasy game of connect the dots. It was difficult to look at myself in the mirror as I didn’t recognize the reflection. I was tempted every morning to shave it all off.
But as my hair continued its skyward growth, a feeling of acceptance settled over me. This was my hair, it was going to look bad for a while, I had better get used to it. And I found that once I had realized this, I stopped caring. I stopped caring about how I looked in general. Once held captive by the fear of judgment, the prison doors had swung open. I felt free.
I knew I looked crazy and it didn’t bother me – in fact it amused me. I went to dinner with a friend one evening and she stared in bemusement at the shapeless froth on my head. She said I looked like Tom Hanks in Castaway.
Once I stopped fighting with my hair, I began to love it. A friend suggested deep conditioning with coconut oil to improve its health as it grew. I now wonder why no one in 25 years told me this as it could have potentially changed my life. The coconut oil breathed moisture into my locks, taking what was a tangled mess and transforming it into soft, manageable curls. It took me 25 years to realize I have curly hair, which requires its own special routine.
My whole life instead of fighting against my nature what I needed was to nourish what was already there. It is a lesson I wish I had learned years earlier, and not just for the sake of my hair.
I grew up hating myself for being different. I had no role models to look up to and diversity was not celebrated in the time and place I was a child. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be liked. And that the only way that was possible was chopping off the parts of me that did not conform. I had plastic surgery to change my face. I tried chemical straightening procedures for my hair. I joined a gym to change my body. Everything I did was in opposition to my nature, and I submitted to it with vehemence.
I didn’t realize then that the whole of society is pressuring you towards conformism. It works in subtle ways but the bombardment is constant – in media, the representations we are fed become engrained in our psyche. We want to look like everybody else because we fear being different, being singled out, being strange.
Our culture is always expressing that you are not good enough as you are. Instead of celebrating our differences, they are a cause for anxiety. But this is not natural. A tree doesn’t think about how a tree should look. A dandelion doesn’t despair over not being a rose.
I have embraced my individuality and rejoice at my uniqueness. I love myself completely, without reservation. My curly hair is a trivial representation, a trial that’s lasted twenty-five years.
When you love yourself, you treat yourself with respect and appreciation. You do not fight against your body or do anything to harm it. It is a source of joy and love; there isn’t even a question of doing anything to go against it.
Before you can love yourself, you must first know yourself. It is the very first step in the process. Otherwise, how can you love someone you don’t even know? Most people are not fully aware of their own being – they have been handed an identity from their parents, their society, their religion – but none of these speak to their individuality.
Getting to know yourself is akin to any other romance. You must spend time with yourself. You must listen to yourself and trust the inner voice. As you are good to yourself, you open up like a flower in blossom.
Once you love yourself, you become a source of love for others. All our outward actions are manifestations of our interior world. If you love yourself, you will be loving towards other people. You understand that we share the same fundamental humanity, any differences are just aesthetic.