There’s a wonderful article over at The Healthy Beauty Project about embracing the natural texture of your ethnic hair. It got me thinking about my own hair and the path its taken.
I used to treat my hair like the nasty auntie on your mother’s side of the family: I would abuse it, mold it to my will, make it sit up and beg, wash, rinse, repeat. I had no idea of the damage I was doing to my hair, and I really didn’t care, as long as it was straight and cute nothing else mattered. I would get a box of straighter from the drugstore twice a month, make sure my Pink Condition and Ultra Sheen jars were stocked up, set my curling iron on Inferno setting and go to work trying to get my thick hair straight. I generally kept my hair short because there was so much of it.
Straightening my hair was a relief, really. It was easier to deal with and the feel of water on my scalp in the shower was delicious. I washed my hair all the time, which was the reason why I relaxed so much, and I did nothing to protect it: I didn’t wrap it every night, I didn’t moisturize as much as I should, I washed it nearly every day, and I fried it with heat just as much. My hair kept up with me (unlike that nasty old auntie on my mother’s side) and didn’t let me down the entire time. Sure, sometimes the ends got gross and every so often I would leave the relaxer on too long and my hair would over process (which isn’t a good thing) but for the most part, my hair did what I wanted it to.
Then I stopped. My last relaxer I simply let grow out. I cut off the ends and let it go. That was several years ago, and I haven’t straightened my hair since with any method. I realized my hair isn’t really kinky, I have corkscrew curls. The hair around the nape of my neck and around my ears is bone straight. I wash and condition daily, I use Coconut Oil as a styling product/moisturiser, I comb it, throw in an elastic headband and that’s it.
Now. I didn’t go back to the natural texture of my hair due to outside influences, such as going back to my roots, sticking it to the man, going green, going healthy, going to the store, nothing like that. Me leaving my hair alone stemmed mainly from one revelation: my hands.
I have been abusing my hands since I was 10, when I got my first typewriter. Maybe even before than, because I have been writing for as long as I can remember. Moving on to my first job, where I was scooping ice cream. Then I was a barista for YEARS, and I mean old school, not this push button madness we have going on now. I type constantly, at home and at work. The result of all this abuse as well as the gene pool I swim in? Reduced strength and mobility. I went to Occupational Therapy and took their squeezy test thing where they measure the pounds of pressure your hands can squeeze. For a female my age, 75# for the dominant hand and something like 60# for the non-dominant hand (don’t quote me on this) so that was the expectation when the therapist put the squeezy thingie in my right hand. I took the test three times for my right hand, and five times for my left. The therapist blinked at the results and said I definitely have a problem. My right hand topped out at 25# and my left hand reached 16# and I was sweating just to get that far.
Well, now I knew why I had a hard, painful time brushing my hair because it hurt to hold onto the handle of a hairbrush. I had to go to a battery powered toothbrush because I couldn’t hold onto a manual toothbrush. My wrists will suddenly give out, especially at inopportune times when I am holding a cup of coffee. I’ve had many a moment when I am holding a cup, and the next thing I know the cup is on the floor because my hand and wrist gave out, my left side is well known for doing this. I can’t use a knife to cut anything, like meat, my friend has to do it for me. The last time I brushed my hair, and switched from my right hand to my left to get my entire head, my left hand was in a brace for two weeks. The pain was incredible. So I keep my hair short and manageable. I gave up squeezing a curling iron open long ago, I just can’t do it anymore.
Typing hurts, but I still do it. I have to do it for my job and I do it at home because I am a writer, dammit, and I will grit my teeth and deal with it. When its really bad I’ll use salves and balms, when its unbearable I go to my prescription of Motrin, but life goes on. If I can’t write, then we start the quality of life discussion with my nurse practitioner.
So that’s the reason for the hair. I haven’t been diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel (my mom had surgery on both hands for that) but I do have tendonitis, arthritis and Overuse Syndrome. I can manage with that. If I have to type with a pencil in my teeth, I can go there too.