WARNING: The following contains graphic details of what may be the worst hair-disaster in recorded human history. It is not for the faint of heart, those who spend their days pouring over hair magazines (are those a thing?), or flinch at the slightest misplaced bobby pin or fly-away bang.
Actually, take that back. If this describes you, then you should REALLY read this story.
In fact, if you have hair on your head at all, then you should read this story.
I have ALOT of hair. Probably more than you. I was once quoted in my school newspaper as saying, “My hair could feed five bald mens’ heads.” (I stand by this claim)
Occasionally, I think I should have a separate drivers license or ID for my hair since it takes up so much time and space.
Sometimes, having so much hair is fun, like on “Crazy Hair” day at school when I could win first prize by simply letting it fly free. Walking to classes would be accompanied by parting crowds and audible gasps. Stunned students would comment, “That is NOT your real hair!!” And timidly inquire, “Can I…touch it?”
Other times, having so much hair is not so fun…like when you become a teenager and realize it is no longer acceptable to run a brush through it a couple of times and let it bounce around like a tumbleweed on steroids.
As a child, I could not have cared less about my appearance. I refused to brush my own hair or pick out my own clothes until I entered middle school. I simply could not fathom why anyone would want to waste their time in front of a mirror when there were lightning bugs to be caught, and soccer balls to be chased.
All this changed upon entering highschool, however, when I became acutely aware of the existence of a stunning creature called the “Male” and conscious of a not-so-stunning creature called, “The Social Ladder.”
I was suddenly not ok with tightly gelled, barely controlled, ponytails everyday. I looked on with envy at the other girls who chatted easily with boys while flipping their shiny, straight locks over their shoulders. I wanted to partake of the foreign phenomenon known as, “running ones fingers through ones hair.” I had never been able to do this before and thought it looked like it would be a satisfying experience. Most of all, I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be beautiful.
As a result, I developed an unhealthy obsession with my weight, and began spending countless, wasted hours in front of the mirror, examining and re-examining my already petite figure. Thoughts which had been previously occupied with discovering ways to stand out, became fixated on counting calories and finding ways to look more like everyone else. (If this is you, STOP. This is no way to live.) I was utterly, completely, miserable.
With my sixteenth birthday on the horizon, I suddenly discovered the answer to all of my problems in a miracle procedure which I lovingly called the “Anti-Perm.” Basically, the beautician would apply the same solution used for a normal perm on my hair, but instead of tightly curling it, the solution would be set to wrench the curl out of my hair…leaving me with the shiny, smooth, locks of my dreams.
Or so I hoped.
I remember my anticipation as I entered the salon and pondered the new life now ahead of me. I would be able to woo the finest gentleman with a single swoosh of my newly-freed neck. Heck, with all that extra weight gone from around my head I might even lose a few pounds…Maybe it would help me run faster!!!
I held stock still as the hairdresser meticulously applied enough tinfoil to my head to enable me to pick up several local radio stations. I was so excited that I even tried to ignore the horrible smell that began radiating from my head...at first.
A scent that can best be described as a combination of sulphur and battery acid began wafting from my hair. Initially, it was bearable, but as it grew in intensity I started to gag. My eyes and my throat burned.
To this day, I have never experienced anything like this and shudder to think about it. Whatever they had brewing on my head could be affectively swapped with tear gas in chemical warfare. I thought I might throw up or pass out or both.
Sure perms smelled bad, but were they supposed to smell THIS bad!? I began having trouble breathing. In desperation, I looked around for help and asked if this was normal, but the beautician merely shrugged off my question.
How did people STAND this?! Did they ask to be sedated every time they got a perm?
I was on the brink of throwing in the towel and pleading for the awful stuff to be removed when the thought of my long, straight hair stopped me. I was SO CLOSE to having the hair of my dreams! …How could I stop now?!
I gritted my teeth and determined that if little old ladies could do this every week, so could I! I squeezed my eyes shut and took turns alternating between holding my breath for long periods of time and taking small gasps of air through my mouth. To distract myself from the discomfort, I fantasized about the awed reactions I would most certainly receive from my friends when they saw my new doo!
Perhaps small, woodland creatures would begin to sing as I walked by, like on Snow White.
By a sheer act of mercy (and oxygen deprivation), I made it through the allotted time for the solution to set. I have never been so happy to have my hair washed in my entire life! I gulped large, sweet, lungfuls of fresh air and swung my feet impatiently as she poked and prodded my head, preparing me for the final reveal.
Unfortunately, I did not have much time to examine myself in the mirror before we had to rush away to make it to my soccer game. On the drive over, I ran my hands repeatedly through my new lightweight hair. Before, my fingers would become hopelessly entangled about an inch in. It was indeed a delicious feeling!
I proceeded to strut into the locker room filled with the self-confidence that such a marvelous hairstyle deserved, and lamented the fact that I would have to pull it back for the game.
I can still replay the events of the next few moments in my mind as if they happened yesterday. (If you grow weak at the knees at the thought of hair disasters, now may be the time to stop reading.) As I leaned over the sink and slowly swept my hair back into it’s traditional tail, enjoying the extraordinary smoothness under my fingers, I was struck with an unusual sensation.
Near the crown of my head, the hair felt…strange. Still soft, but somewhat prickly, like freshly cut grass, or peach fuzz. Almost like I had a buzz cut. The words lingered ominously in my mind as I leaned in closer to the mirror and let my eyes fully absorb the horrible truth.
There, right down the center of my head, starting with where my bangs should have been, was a 2 to 3 inch wide strip of hair that had been shaved close to the scalp. It looked like someone had taken a man’s razor, set it to buzz cut settings and let her rip right down the middle.
Yes sir. I had a mohawk…an INVERTED MOHAWK.
How had this happened!?
I definitely would have noticed if she had taken a razor to my head!!! Wouldn’t I!?
Maybe I was imagining this!!!
With a trembling voice I straightened and began walking around the room, enquiring, “Um guys, does it look/feel like I have a buzz cut to you?”
After much inspection, and awkward rubbing of my head, it was determined that I was indeed the recipient of some strange sort of mutilated buzz cut.
I had never even heard of such a thing occurring!
How does someone go to get their hair straightened and come out with an inverted mohawk!!!?!
It was preposterous! Ridiculous!!
In that moment of locker-room madness, as I offered my teammates the chance to feel my freshly shaven noggin, I realized that I had a choice to make–fall into despair or embrace the situation.
…I burst out laughing.
I had been trying SO hard to achieve a certain standard of beauty that I’d starved and nearly suffocated myself…..and this is what I got.
The world’s first (and hopefully last,) inverted mohawk.
This was most likely the worst possible outcome of my hair situation.
I marveled at God’s wonderful sense of humor.
Sometimes our “worst” is God’s best.
He couldn’t have me wasting His time on things of no value, so He stepped in and mercifully sabotaged my fruitless pursuit. Though I don’t think I completely understood or appreciated what He was trying to teach me at the time, that summer was the last I spent in dangerous obsession over my physical appearance.
Slowly but surely, He began melting away my false preconceptions of beauty, and replacing them with an accurate perception of what true loveliness looks like.
Becoming truly beautiful is less about conforming to the cultural archetype of a beautiful woman and more about conforming the whole of our lives into the image of one Man, the God Man.
It’s more about the incarnation of a Divine Personality than it is about the embodiment of a certain hair style, posture, or makeup technique.
If you have ever met a truly beautiful person, you remember, because you walk away from the encounter thinking less about the way the person appeared and more about the way Christ made an appearance through them.
As Spurgeon once said,”If a soul has any beauty, it is because Christ has endowed that soul with His own, for in ourselves we are deformed and defiled! There is no beauty in any of us but what our Lord has worked in us.” (3)
I knew a girl who received the highest compliment of her life from a stranger on an airplane. The stranger, named James, had the unfortunate luck of being trapped next to her for several hours on a long flight. James was not a Christian, and had never really given much thought to the matter. She sought to change that quickly. He listened intently as she went on for hours about the identity and deity of Christ and how this all important Truth changes everything. During a pause in the conversation, he shocked her with the following admission, “You’re beautiful when you talk about Jesus.” Her mouth dropped open. “The way your eyes and your whole face lights up, I can really tell how much He means to you.” She could never forget the sincerity in his voice and the impact his statement made on her perception of beauty.
We are the most beautiful when we are the most consumed with Christ.
We are the most attractive when we learn, as Leslie Ludy puts it, “The art of rising above any form of self-consideration and attain the unshakable radiance that comes that from delighting in our Prince every moment of every day.” (1)
Now I am not suggesting that we burn our hairbrushes on the altar of self-sacrifice. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think frumpiness does the Kingdom of God any favors.
What I am suggesting, is that before we evaluate what our hair or our waistlines look like, we evaluate whether or not we are going out looking like Jesus.
We cannot begin to look like Christ, until we know what Christ looks like.
Wanna be beautiful? Study the Christ, get to know the ins and outs of His extravagantly Divine personality. Learn the ways of His love and ask Him to fill you up to overflowing with His Presence.
Then and only then can we be truly beautiful, because we will shine with a Radiance that comes from beyond ourselves.
Oh, and just for the record, my mom and I went back to the hair salon to get an explanation for my mysterious mohawk. The staff did not seem phased and explained that customer’s hair is frequently burnt off when the chemical solution is too strong or stays on the hair too long.
So that terrible smell I endured?…It was literally my hair being incinerated inside of a make-shift, tinfoil pressure cooker on my head. Burnt hair smell is the worst!!!
They didn’t even offer me a refund,…and I didn’t really care.
I ROCKED that inverted mohawk. Most of the time, I was forced to do some version of the bald man “comb over” doo. Sometimes, just for fun, I would spike it up.
It took until I went off to college for my hair to return to normal length, and by then I had learned my lesson.
Though I do sincerely hope you never have to learn the same lesson in this particular fashion.
RESOURCES FOR LEARNING MORE ABOUT TRUE BEAUTY…
1) Ludy, Leslie. Authentic Beauty. Colorado Springs:Multnomah, 2007. Print.
2) “Beauty Defined” by setapartgirl.com
3) “Where True Beauty Comes From” by setapartgirl.com