When I was growing up, I did not have curly hair. It was always thick and wavy, and the stylists who cut my hair would ooh and ahh over how thick it was. I remember being about six years old, and getting it “thinned” in the back, meaning they just cut some of the hair at my nape very short, sort of like an early undercut. But my hair was not curly, for sure. It had smooth, loose waves in a light brown color that I always wished was red, or would become dark brown, like my father’s. It never did, even though my eyebrows are very dark, as are the annoyingly thick hairs that grow on my legs. I can never wax my legs.
When I was about 12 years old, going through puberty, I would notice long twists of curls forming in the lower layers of my hair. I didn’t know where they came from, or why they were there, but I thought they were fun, and I kind of wished I knew what to do with them. I’ve since learned that hormone changes can alter the shape of your hair follicle and therefore affect your curl pattern, i.e. how straight or curly your hair is.
My hair still was not what I would call “curly,” at that time. I would have called it “annoying,” or “frizzy,” or “bushy.” Granted, I was brushing my hair, because that’s what I was taught to do. My mom has thin, very not-curly hair. She doesn’t even require conditioner, whereas I cannot live (happily) without it. I still would have called my hair wavy, but not curly. To me, my hair just could not “make up its mind” whether it wanted to be curly or not.
Fast forward almost 20 years, dozens of short hair cuts, daily blow-drying and flatirons later, and in my early thirties my hair finally “made up its mind.”
One day, I cut my bangs. I decided not to straighten my hair, and let it be wavy. And lo and behold, over the course of a few months of experimenting, and sometimes encouraging curl, under the belief that my hair was not “really” curly, one day I realized that my hair was curling naturally on its own, all by itself. I ditched my hair brush. I don’t even own one, at this point. And I’ve never looked back. I straightened my hair once — ONCE — since then, just to see what it looked like, and how long it was. And I hated how it looked.
But here’s the thing. My hair isn’t just one type of curl. No one’s hair is. But mine has so many different curl patterns, so many different colors. I have some hair in the back of my head with long, loose waves, like I had when I was seven years old. I have other hairs with tight spirals. I have red hair, brown, hair, blonde hair, almost-black hair growing out of my head. One day, I found a spiral so tight, springing up near my side part that I had to pluck it out and save it, so I would not lose it or forget it. Some of these black-ish hairs have a texture that is rough and the curl is not smooth, like the rest of my hair.
I wonder what all of these different hair types on my head mean. I wonder what story they tell about who I am, where I came from. I wonder what information they carry about my family history that I don’t even know.
So this year, for my birthday, I got myself a DNA test. I ordered a kit and spat into a tube, and sent it to the lab. Waiting for the results, I don’t know what I will find. I am excited to know some things that I don’t already know. I am wondering if I will only learn what I’ve already been told, or if there is more to the story. There has to be. We know a lot about my mother’s side of the family — they are German. They keep meticulous records. By my father’s side is a nearly complete mystery. We know fragments of information, only a few names, going back only a few generations. And then there are rumors, shrouded in hushed whispers. Was there a Native American woman in Canada somewhere that became part of my gene pool? What other elements are there that have not even entered the level of rumor?
I have been told by some that I look to be of mixed race, even though I am completely and most definitely white-skinned. But as a kid, I was sometimes teased for my thick lips (which thank goodness are more of a bonus now). I’ve always been aware of my generous booty that never goes away, no matter how much weight I lose. To me, its just me. It’s the body I have.
But then there is my name. My surname comes from my father’s side, the side we don’t know much about, other than that it comes from France. Maybe the South of France? We are not sure. But I did some research and found out that the name means “someone having dark hair or skin.” So I guess, somewhere along the way, maybe someone had darker skin. My father certainly has darker hair. I get a lot of my looks from him.
So this test could tell me something. Something about myself. Something about my family. Something about my hair. Something about me that my hair is trying to tell me.
I think my test results just arrived. In part #2, I’ll tell you what they say….