The Ongoing Battle With My Authentic Hair

So here’s the story. For months now I’ve been battling with my hair. Or to be more precise battling with myself, over my hair. Trying to back off, be a little less controlling, a little less of an annoyingly anal perfectionist. Trying to let my curl go its own way. At least some of the time. And it ain’t easy.

It ain’t easy when my cut and colour are fresh. Let alone when it’s been weeks and weeks since my last cut and still two more weeks to go. So that my hair is too long and heavy on top making it smush down no matter how much I fluff and scrunch. Not to mention the frizz enhancing humidity we’ve been experiencing. Humidity that kinks and fuzzes my bangs. And makes colossal whoop-de-dos exactly where I don’t want them.

So despite my best efforts to look like one of these ladies…

various short curly cuts that I love.
I aspire to make my hair look like any one of these cuts from my Pinterest board.

I end up looking a little like Schroeder, from the Peanuts comic strip…

Shroeder has hair just like mine
… with a quiff on top that looks very much like Tin Tin. Seriously. I’m not joking.
My hair sometimes resembles Tin Tin's.

You see, my hair is neither one thing nor the other. Not straight, that’s for sure. And not nicely curly either. Parts curl, parts don’t, and the rest frizzes. This was me last week trying to wield my tools to blow out the part in front that ends up looking like Tin Tin. And scrunching, scrunching, scrunching to encourage “nice” curls in the rest. Not to mention all the squinting, sighing and swearing.

Curly hair is a pain in the neck.
Blow drying, scrunching, squinting, and swearing

Hubby was away on a canoe trip recently and I was home alone. Just me and (what seems like) fifty acres of vegetable garden which I had to water assiduously every evening. In the heat and humidity. And every night, when I came in from the garden to shower, my curly hair looked like an increasingly bizarre free-form sculpture. Free range hair. Wilder and weirder each night.

One evening I had “the girls” over for a barbeque. We sat on our deck for hours eating, drinking wine, chatting and laughing. And even though it was hot and humid, the breeze from the river kept us pretty cool. So now imagine, if you will, my already pretty wild hair, frizzing in the humidity, stirred by a breeze. So that when we were standing in the kitchen saying our good-byes, my friend Nancy who purports to never notice things like hair and clothes gazed at the top of my head and said,”You ARE letting your hair go curly aren’t you?!” I moaned about how it was such a mess and a challenge, and they all murmured not to worry, it “looked fine.” Ri-ight, I thought. And when they had driven off, and I went into the bathroom to take my make-up off, I couldn’t help but gasp audibly, and then guffaw, at the wild woman who looked back at me from the mirror! The next day I e-mailed them to say, “Thanks for coming. I had a great time.” And that I only noticed when they had gone my hilarious case of “humid hair.” And Nancy replied, “Humid hair is authentic hair, and who doesn’t want to be authentic with their friends?” Ha. Good one, Nancy. Authentic hair.

The next day, I was off to shop the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Authentic hair and all. And when I was sitting in her chair watching in the mirror as my buddy Katie, who manages the Laura Mercier cosmetic line, showed me how to apply a new product, I moaned some more about my hair. She stepped back, surveyed me, and said briskly. “You know, Sue. I swear, I think you have hair dysmorphia.” And we both laughed.  Another good one. Hair dysmorphia.

And you know when I look at the shots below taken for the blog over the last few weeks… I like my authentic hair… when it’s short enough to control. And even the wild whoop-de-doos when it’s longer aren’t terrible. Exactly. I mean I’m no Audrey Tatou. But my hair ain’t that bad.

Four views of my authentic hair in various stages of growth
Some of these looks I like. And the others aren’t terrible. Exactly.

So maybe Katie has a point. Maybe I can’t control my negative thoughts about my hair. Maybe I don’t see my hair for what it really is. Maybe I do have hair dysmorphia.

But I must say these past few weeks, when humidity has been high. And I’m languishing in between hair appointments. Trying to last a couple of extra weeks until just before we head down east on our vacation. And my hair is too long on top. And too frizzy everywhere else. And I’ve got grey roots like there’s no tomorrow. Well… it’s enough to try the patience of even the most well adjusted person. Let alone a recovering perfectionist who suffers from hair dysmorphic disorder.

How about you folks? Are you able to just let your authentic hair be whatever it wants to be? Curly, straight, or in between?

Note: I don’t mean to make light of the very real body dysmorphic disorder. You can read about that disorder here. I taught too many teenagers over the years to think that BDD is in any way a joke.


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52 thoughts on “The Ongoing Battle With My Authentic Hair”

  1. I do agree but those Pinterest ladies would have had lots of professional attention & you always look good in the pics we see . With effort my hair appears straight but , left to its own devices , there's lots of swirls & flicks . I have a double crown too which is a pain . If it was balanced , like a head of proper curls , that would be nice but it isn't . Bits stick out unevenly here & there & I sometimes look like I'm wearing a mad wig at an odd angle . On the plus side it gives body & some friends complain of thin hair lying flat to their head as they get older . So I guess we just have to work at it , especially in damp weather . A pic of your ' humid hair ' would have been nice 🙂
    Wendy in York

    1. Oh, Wendy…there are no words to describe my "humid hair"… and no pictures either:) Those professionally styled photos are good as inspiration… but you're right… mustn't get too caught up in trying to look like that. Not without a whole team of stylists!

  2. Hi there from a woman with short, curly hair. Three comments:
    1. Do not try to go so long between cuts, that's making you miserable. I would say from your cut, four weeks. When I wore mine even shorter, I was there every three. (For colour, too, till I went grey.)
    2. Stop comparing yourself to movie stars' shots; Wendy is right, plus any stray wisps are photoshopped away
    3. A really good stylist can make that mixed amount of wave and curl look nonchalantly perfect; are you 100% happy with yours?

    As for the frizz, either try different products (I like Fructis Pure and Simple gel, and for max control Tigi Curls Rock, to which materfamilias introduced me, or tie a pretty scarf on as a head wrap.

    1. Thanks, for the suggestions Duchesse. I usually go four weeks but in planning several months in advance to work around two fall trips… I thus elected to go two weeks longer this month since I have nothing planned where I really need to worry about my hair. Still I may need to just wear my hat 24/7 for the last week:)

  3. I love the "hair dysmorphia" line, and I have to agree with your friend: make peace with that hair (it's lovely, btw). It took me to age 50 to love my crazy hair (you're getting close to 50, yes?) – but don't wait! Start loving that hair today, let it fly free one day, gel it down the next, wear a hat if you love them. Just make peace, it's the path to happiness. xox


    1. Isn't that the best line? Katie is so cute..I get lots of great make-up suggestions and I'm entertained at the same time. About being close to fifty. Ha. Good one. That's why I'm trying to let my hair go its own way a bit. I woke up on my sixtieth birthday and said…"You're sixty. This is your hair. Live with it."

  4. Hair! It's an on going battle for me too. I have thick, layered, shoulder length hair which had a wave and then in my 50's a definite curl. But the curl is underneath the top layer. The top layer can go from straight to frizz…I just can't figure it out. I'm holding on to 61 and have let my locks turn to their natural colour…..but there is a fine line one can go with grey frizz. I pull it back into a pony tail most summer days and have invested in stylish earrings. ? This past winter I went to a hair stylist who cut my hair with a razor…big mistake!! At the same time I'm grateful to have this "glorious" mane of thick hair as my 3 younger brothers have no hair!!
    I'll be reading the comments to learn of new hair products & tips!
    I enjoyed your fun article! Robin

    1. Oh dear..I just read that razors are a no-no for curly hair. Still, as you say, unruly hair is better than no hair… guess we just need to keep that in mind:)

  5. So that period right before a regularly scheduled haircut, when suddenly everyone in the world is giving you compliments on your hair and you wonder if you should just leave it for a few more weeks while it's apparently looking better than it ever has before. . . . except you can't be sure the whole style would collapse completely into Style Hell within the week? Now you know for sure, sounds like, and the rest of us thank you for doing the experiment on our behalf.
    Seriously, though, I already know this because I've stretched the time between cuts strategically a few times in the last year or so, working around travel and growing-out-the-grey plans. I understand Duchesse's point, above, but for me, sometimes it's been worth some crazy shagginess for a few weeks in order to achieve a longer-term goal. I sense that although you mock yourself here as a perfectionist, you're also grounded enough to know that overall the hair's good enough, some days even authentically awesome! You're not turbanning up and donning huge sunglasses to hide away your shame over unruly hair, but going about your normal activities with the occasional tongue-in-cheek moaning about The State of the Coif. . .
    As for my coif, let's just say that my g'daughter began calling it Nana's Crazy Hair when she was about three. . . and I kinda love that! 😉

    1. Yep. Thanks for that Frances. That's what I'm doing… strategic scheduling so that I can have a fresh cut when I go down east in September for an "event" and also for my New York trip in October. So July is the month of bad hair. Maybe even have to resort to "turbanning up" by next week. Crazy haired Nanas know their stuff:)

  6. I would trade my authentic hair for yours in a heartbeat. Mine is very fine, very thin, and very flat. Whatever effort I may expend in styling it, it reverts to fine/thin/flat within short order. I have always been envious of the personality and panache of unruly hair.

    So no, I guess I am not happy with my authentic hair. (And I don't think I suffer from hair dysmorphia.)

    Denise L.

    1. My sister has very straight fine hair and she hates it too. My mum used to try to put her hair in braids or pigtails and it would stick straight out ala Pippy Longstocking. Or so I'm told.

  7. I always prefer "second day hair" due to the extreme amount of frizz in mine. I LONG to be the person whose hair just falls beautifully straight after they blow dry it. Instead, mine looks like a dry, frizzy, hideous mess. My shoulder length hair never leaves the house with just a blow dry. I either use an electric round brush/ hot air kind of thing, or a straightening iron, or sometimes even a curling iron, plus some smoothing product. I've even been known to reach for a purse size container of hand cream to run a little through my hair in an attempt to calm it down. I have an older cousin with the same hair, and she calls is "Scottish hair". -Jenn

    1. I must say that when we were in Scotland the mist did NOT do a thing for my hair. That and the fact that none of the B&Bs we stayed at had a mirror that was close to a plug-in for my blow dryer. I remember remarking to Hubby that maybe it was because Scottish women had just given up trying to battle the frizz caused by mist and fog.

  8. Hi Sue …having seen it in real life! 🙂 I can testify you have great hair! Also I do get what you're saying,completely …especially regarding curls and frizz appearing just when and where you don't want them. Years ago I was caught in a rain shower whilst out shopping …then had no choice but to go with the flow and let my hair do its own thing. An hour or so later I bumped into my best friend and the sight of her chin dropping will stay with me forever!! We still laugh about it years later.
    The only tips I can suggest are never try to go longer than your 4 week cut and I've found Moroccan Oil followed by Bumble and Bumble "Don't Blow it" works wonders fighting the frizz. The B&B product is formulated to let your hair air dry but I use it when I'm styling my hair as well and it works well. both ways.
    Mind you, I've still had some bad hair days with this hot and humid weather, wet fringe, stuck to forehead etc! …role on winter and wooly hats! 🙂
    Hope you're having a good week.

    1. I may try that B&B product, Rosie. I have some stuff from Aveda that the stylist who set me off on this course recommended. But not sure it's working. I got caught in one of those freak rain showers one night on my way to meet a date for dinner. And with all the product in my hair, I stupidly tried to brush it. Akkk. I was in the bathroom at the restaurant so long trying to get the brush out of the sticky mass that was my hair that he thought I had abandoned him:)

  9. Isn't it fun when you write a blog about something like this and you immediately get a chorus of "Me, too"! How happy am I to live in a wonderfully global world where a gal from SoCal and a gal from Canada can share woe is me stories. Thank you for the always fun to read blog. Oh, and by the way, Me, too!

  10. I love your hair, but then I've always wanted curls of any sort, having very fine, very straight hair. I do have lots of it, and I keep it short, so when I reach the four week mark, it starts to form a large mushroom cloud. I found a new hairdresser this month who used a tool that reminded me of the Furminator we use on our doggie, and it's much easier to manage with some "texturizing". Well, except for that gawdawful cowlick that has appeared on the back of my head. It curls out of control regardless of length…I've tried shorter and longer and it just sticks out. So I feel your pain. And wanted to chime in and say, "Me, too!"

    Love your blog.

    1. Yep… I have "gawdawful cowlicks" too. In the back. And curly hair just makes them worse. I always have to blow dry that part making the hair go against the grain because otherwise it clumps up in the way it wants and makes me look as if I have a bald spot. Not sure what a furminator is but I'm going to look it up.

  11. When I lived in the Lower Mainland, I walked to work with a babuska on my head to try to protect my bob from turning into a huge head of frizz. Entering my fourth year of post work, now living in a cold dry climate, I've noticed the change in my hair. No longer sporting my lady helmet bob, my shoulder length hair only frizzes up on a misty morning after walking the dog. I can go three days without washing it too! However, in a moment of stupidity, I adopted new bangs. What a mistake and am now growing them out. Oh how I wish that I could forget about my hair.

    1. I had a bob for a few years. Just so that I could say I had one for once in my life. It was super labour intensive. Especially when we were in PEI for a few weeks with the fog and the constant wind. I had the biggest hair of my life that summer

  12. Sue I don't color my hair, I stopped 5 years ago because it looked like straw. And yet I still get humid hair and a mind of its own hair. Some days we just need to be authentic. I think your hair is beauiful I love the cut and the color.

    1. Thanks, Mary. But some days it's just easier to blow it dry than to let it have its own way. I'm working on my perfectionism though.

  13. Ah hair! I have finally made peace with my fine hair, though I've always liked my color.
    And as I age the color gets more interesting – bits of blonde and silver now. Took me a
    long time to stop coloring as well! Have you thought of letting your hair go a wee bit
    longer, which may help? I sort of like the Tin Tin look though 🙂 Sorry, had to throw
    that in! xoxo

    1. Longer is even worse. Then it goes totally round in tight frizz…like an old fashioned home permanent. Tin Tin is a great resource here for languages teachers in middle and high school. My buddy the French teacher will love my Tin Tin quiff when he sees it:)

  14. Wavy, curly, grey hair! It certainly has a mind of its own. I'm contemplating going short before my trip to Ireland this fall. Hair grows and I don't want to travel with tools or much product. I've got what my mum calls a "double crown" so sometimes the back part is tricky. On days of humidity, there are always hats.

  15. Humidity and frizz….the story of my life! We have 95 % humidity most days AND I am in the garden every day. So, of course, I have tried anything out there. I just MAY have found a solution last week!!!! Bumble & Bumble "Straight Blow Dry" applied to wet hair before a thorough blow dry with a good brush. But be sure to useLOTS of it. Then Living Proof Humidity Shield spray. And maybe a large curling iron to straighten the stragglers. Yes, sounds like a lot but really, it's not! and it's working better than any system I've tried in years. Let me know if anyone else has used these products!

    1. Curly hair in the humidity is definitely labour intensive. I have a great blow dry product from Aveda for when I want my hair to be straight. I will look for that humidity shield though. Thanks for the recommendation, Libby.

  16. I like my hair short because I don't like to spend a lot of time on it. I have some natural curl so it does what it wants to do when it is humid. I also get my hair cut and colored every 4 to 5 weeks. This seems to help a lot and as I get older I don't care as much what other people think. I just go with the flow. 🙂

    1. It seems that no matter if my hair is short or a bit longer, curly, or if I want to straighten it… it's always going to be labour intensive. Except maybe if I've been swimming when we're camping and then I just stick a hat on and let the hat do the work. Maybe I should try that at home:) Thanks for stopping by, Sue.

  17. I enjoyed reading all about your hair woes, as I can identify. I swing between straightening my hair to letting the natural curls have their way. With all the humidity we have been experiencing it is certainly easier to let the curls win these days. I enjoyed seeing your final photos showcasing your authentic hair and think it suits you quite nicely.

    1. Thanks very much. I guess we all have our hair woes. Well..those of us who don't have a wardrobe of wigs or a personal hair stylist on 24 hour call.

  18. Hilarious! I can so identify and sympathise with the trials and tribulations of hair that kinks and the added stress of humidity. Clearly you are not alone. Once again I'm binge reading. Really enjoyed your look back at childhood summers. Much to identify with there and brought back memories of my mother's response on the very rare occasions we dared to mention the b word "I wish I had time to be bored". I'm still hoping for some sign of summer so not ready to consider Autumn but I did like the styles you selected. Good luck with your hair. Persevere. Iris

    1. I will persevere…thanks, Iris. Mostly because the other option (shaving my head?) does not appeal. I remember my Mum using that answer as well…. about having no time to be bored. Hope you finally get summer…at some point.

  19. I think your hair looks great, but I totally understand. I'm never satisfied with my hair. Mine always looks like I didn't brush it – not good for a substitute teacher whose students tell the truth! I'm here from the 250th linky party.

  20. Oh my goodness—are you sure I didn't write this post! Because there are some people that just have good hair handed down to them….and then there's me.
    As much as I used to groan & moan over it —I'm really trying to embrace it and realize that my better characteristics are elsewhere! And as long as everything else looks "nice", I don't think people will point and laugh (at least out loud!!)

    1. Embracing is the answer…because moaning doesn't do any good. Even if it feels good sometimes…especially if there are fellow moaners:)

  21. I'm telling you. I could have written this post. Same problems. And I am wearing authentic hair as much as possible even though I enjoy blowing it out on the low humidity days. My hairdresser finally got the right cut going for me. Enjoyed this post.

    1. Thanks, Nonnie. I have resorted to blowing out too these last few days. But I'm finally off to get a cut this week. Phew. That will feel wonderful!

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