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Lessons From My Brief Affair With Hair Extensions

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My daughter has the kind of curls that bounce with her when she runs, jumps or dances. Strangers come up to us multiple times a day to comment on how beautiful her curls are. Then they look at me and remark on how she must have gotten her curls from her mommy. This always fills me with pride, because she definitely gets her curls from me.

Her curls are unruly. They need to be detangled every night and can take hours to brush out completely. I don't mind this extra work, even when it comes after a long day of parenting, because it makes me feel a special connection to her, like we are both members of a cool curly club.

When I am brushing her hair, I think of many things. Mostly about how proud I am of her. She sings about mermaids, superheroes and puppies. It amazes me how even on difficult days, she is filled with joy. I hope she never looses that. I hope she always finds time to sing a song. I hope she is always happy with herself, especially her curls.

I spent my childhood hating my curls. In middle school, I discovered giant curling irons and would wake up at 5 a.m. to straighten my hair. I often burned my forehead. If it rained or became humid, all my hard work was destroyed when my hair went back to being frizzy. I would cry. Why couldn't I get my hair to just stay straight?

The worst part was, I couldn't stay awake in class because my hair routine required me to wake up so early. Then one day, I decided I was over it and vowed to never straighten my hair again. I remember the first day I walked into school with curly hair and how freeing it was. I felt like I had escaped from some hair prison. I thought everyone would treat me differently or tease me but no one really cared about my hair either way. I had put myself in that hair prison.

As a teenager and an adult, I loved my hair. I felt like it was the perfect hair for my personality and I rarely straightened it. I was finally comfortable with the curly hair I had since birth, but then I gave birth to my daughter and my hair changed.

It was still curly, but I lost a lot of it -- the curls became looser and sometimes even straight, but it was still frizzy. This really annoyed me. How unfair is it to have just frizzy hair? If you have curly frizzy hair, you at least have the cute curls. I tried more layers and eventually found an A-line asymmetrical bob style that I loved. My hair was short, so it didn't take long to dry and I didn't have to worry about my toddler trying to put my long hair into electrical sockets. I loved my short, curly bob and rocked it.

Then I worked an event where I was given hair extensions and something happened to me. I finally had the Disney princess hair I coveted as a child and wanted to keep it. I wanted long, lustrous hair and I didn't want it to be curly, I wanted it to be straight. I kept the extensions in as long as possible and after having my short bob again, I decided to get extensions again.

I was going to a Hollywood wedding and wanted to look glamorous. I was convinced my curly hair wouldn't do, because in my head, everyone treated me differently now that I had long, straight hair. I was positive my husband thought I was prettier. When people opened the door for me it wasn't because I was pushing a stroller and walking a dog, it was because I had beautiful, long hair. Strangers on the street were secretly wishing they had my hair. I was sure of it. If I went back to my natural hair, I would loose all this special treatment.

Then, on the plane ride to my friend's wedding, the flight attendant came up to me and said, "Your daughter's hair is so beautiful. Where does she get those gorgeous curls from?" I told her there were from me and she gave me a look of confusion and kindly nodded.

That's when I realized what I had done. I had chosen to put someone else's hair on my own head. I hadn't gotten extensions to add volume or length; I had done it to completely change how I looked and as a result, hidden the most obvious physical characteristic that connects me to my daughter.

My mind started to race and I wondered what if, despite billions of strangers telling her she has beautiful hair, my daughter grows into a teenager who hates her hair? What if she came to me crying and wishing she was born with straight hair. How would I be able to look her in the eye and tell her she is beautiful the way she is while wearing someone else's hair?

Over the next couple of days, I weighed the pros and cons of keeping my hair extensions in. I still wasn't ready to give up on my dream of long, straight hair. Then I went to that Hollywood wedding, danced the night away with my husband and daughter, and fell asleep holding my curly-haired baby. I felt so content holding her that I didn't want to get out of bed to brush and braid my extensions. I figured one night wouldn't make a difference. I couldn't have been more wrong. I woke up and my long princess hair was now one giant dreadlock.

That night, my husband and I spent hours trying to salvage the hair. I don't really know why I wanted to untangle those locks because I already knew I was done with extensions. Long, straight hair is nice, but not if it means you have to stop cuddling your sleeping daughter to go do your hair.

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So, my husband and I bought tons of baby oil and took my extensions out. I felt nervous about what everyone would think of me now that I had my old hair back. I felt like I was a different person when I had those extensions in, and I was. Having straight hair gave me tons of confidence. Luckily, my brief affair with hair extensions helped me discover something to be confident about: my hair. Yes, it may not be as thick or curly as it used to be. It's frizzy, unruly, and with every month I seem to find more gray hairs. But every day I agree with people when they compliment my daughter's curls. Those strangers are right. Her curls are gorgeous. And you know where she got those curls? From ME, so I should be just as confident with my curls as I am with hers. Besides, If I love her curls so much, then I need to love my curls as well so that if she ever feels insecure about them she can look to me as an example on how to rock curly hair!