2 min read

Healing can be hairy

How a simple hairstyle became a time machine and medicine for my child self

My hair, and my sister’s, was my mom's pride and joy. I have abundant childhood memories of mom soaking amla and areetha to condition it. Oil massages were a religious routine before our weekly hair wash on Sundays. She would comb my hair in different emotional states. In anger, she would yank the comb through my tangled hair and I would yelp. She was upset that I wouldn't comb it. When she was in a good mood, she would hum as she parted my hair in the middle and made two thick, greasy plaits.

I cut my hair for the first time in grade 9. I wonder if it was only to rebel against my dad who forbade us from cutting our hair, or was it perhaps an understanding that childhood was over and mom would not be able to do the same things for me. It could have been me asserting my independence. Over the years, I have grown my hair and cut it all off time and again. The last time I did a significant chop was in 2016. My hair touched my low back/hips and I cut it to my ears in a single chop. Since then, I have kept it short, until 2022. For some reason, I began growing it.

My hair is now longer than my shoulders. For the first time in many years, I can manage an updo. I have to attend a wedding this weekend, and I was researching hairstyles. My friend suggested I try twisting my hair in the front and doing a chignon at the back.

I was encouraged. To assess if this was a possibility for me, I parted my hair down the middle. Combed out the front, and then twisted the two sides and pinned them on the back. I looked in the mirror and I stopped in my tracks. I had not seen myself with a middle parting for several decades, and definitely not with my hair up. I immediately picked up my phone and took a selfie. I adored how I looked.

I continued to wear my hair up for a few days, and each time I would tell Sid how much I liked my aesthetic. He looked on amused and happy. My mom used to always part my hair in the middle. Seeing myself in a more updated version of the hairstyles she did on me makes me feel an insurmountable love for my younger self. I feel cared for, as if my mother was close. As if she did the hair on me.

In taking an interest in my hair, I am paying my respects to my mom. I am healing that inner child. This is a new era in my self-respect and self-love.