Sunayna Pal rediscovers her identity as a woman with beautiful hair after losing her beloved waves during pregnancy.
“You were just born, and the OB told me, ‘She has a head full of gorgeous black hair.’ You had your first-ever compliment for your beautiful hair at two minutes old. And do you remember how your friends crooned over your hair?” My mother recapped the admiration for me over the phone, 8,000 miles away from India.
“Yes, but what now?” I whined, looking at the ends of my disappointing hair.
“Now you see where you can find the powder, and everything will be fine,” She declared and disconnected our FaceTime.
I ran my fingers through my hair and thought of what my mom said: ‘head full of gorgeous black hair.’ What was left now — head full of broom-like hair? I smirked.
It wasn’t always like this. I was born with thick and luscious hair. My mother oiled my hair regularly and loved styling it when I was young. I still remember the wonderful compliments we got, and it made me feel and look good. I can’t recall any haircut without the stylist giving me compliments on my hair. Puberty can be a complex and confusing time in a girl’s life, but my hair made me confident. I would leave my hair open, and it made me feel pretty, despite the breakouts on my skin or the uncomfortable bra. My friends teased me that I needed to keep my hair covered to be certain that a man loved me for me and not for my hair.
My hubby met me for the first time on New Year’s Eve. I remember my hair was tied up that night when we spoke to each other. Years later, he confessed he had seen a picture of me on Facebook with my hair down but assured me that he loved me for more reasons than my hair. Who knew I would get to test that statement?
Pregnancy changes a lot of things, but I had no idea it would change this. With sleepless nights and busy days, I let myself go a little and didn’t take care of my upkeep as well as I had before the pregnancy. This, combined with hormonal changes, left my thick, gorgeous hair half as stunning as it had been. There was so much hair-fall that I wondered if I were going bald. I thought of collecting the hair and making a wig for myself. My hubby who loved my hair and always urged me to keep it down didn’t have the heart to tell me that anymore. He was grateful that it stayed out of food, but that’s for another story. I was upset at this change with my hair. It would have been easier to tolerate my bulgy stomach and puffy eyes if I could stop my beautiful hair from falling out.
It would have been fine if things stopped there, but my hair also changed in texture. My once-wavy-but-smooth hair became unruly and rough. Whenever I touched it, I couldn’t believe it was mine. If you believe that hair reflects your personality, mine finally caught up, and it irked me further that my wild hair clearly reflected my untamable nature.
As my son turned 15 months and weaned, I put my strength and effort into getting my hair back. I started oiling it regularly and hoped that was enough. One month later, I realized that it wasn’t, as absolutely nothing had changed. This is when I cried on the phone and told my mom about my predicament. She suggested trying Ayurvedic powders, which smelled indescribably bad. Surprisingly, I found something on Amazon and ordered it right away. The powders worked little, and the hair-fall reduced but nowhere close to what I wanted. My hair seemed to have taken on a life of its own, and it started curling as it became smooth, much to my surprise and horror. I have always had wavy hair, but curls? Never!
Giving up on Ayurveda, I tried serums and leave-in conditioners. Anything that promised smooth hair had me sold. My son would nap, and I would go into the bathroom to work on my hair rather than to write. The chemicals, which I despised using, went on my hair regularly, but at least it smelled nicer. The days I washed my hair were special, as I had to lock in the moisture. I would spend time trying to straighten my hair, but the serums did nothing to suppress the natural curls. I used more serum than recommended, thinking it would help. Alas, it didn’t. I ended up feeling lost and desperate.
One day, I met a lady in the park that I frequented with my kiddo. She had beautiful hair, and I couldn’t help myself from telling her about my plight with mine. She told me that she was a hair specialist and advised me to change my hairstyle. Thinking that she were the answer to my prayers, I cut my hair into layers, but to my horror, it just made things worse. Now I had bouncy and curly hair.
After seven hopeless months, I gave up on everything and just tied my hair in a bun. I gave up on trying to make it straighter and accepted the situation as it was. I let it be curly. As the bottle of serum finished, I didn’t buy a new one. Regular oil was enough, and I left my hair alone. The only time my hair was down was whenever I was washing it. My hubby expressed his delight. Parenting didn’t give us many opportunities to dress up and go out, but he liked the simple joys of returning from work and seeing me with open hair and a melodious hum. Seeing his joy, I let my hair and myself breathe. He said he loved every bit of my curls. He prodded me that even the fiercest winds could get lost in my hair, and that my hair was actually reflecting my personality now. I could face all storms and remain still inside.
One day, a lady in the metro said that my hair looked like an Indian princess. Thank you. I am one. (At least in my mind.) I started leaving my hair down often and, slowly, started loving my silly curls.
I realized that this change wasn’t in my control—only my reaction was. Also, what I’d thought as something negative wasn’t really. It was different than what I was used to, but not necessarily worth changing. The most important lesson is there are so many aspects I may not like about myself — but maybe if I let my hair be and let go of this thought and start liking it, maybe one by one I can love and accept all of my flaws.
And honestly, the more I think about it, I feel blessed to have experienced both types of hair.