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Hair 'Em, Scare 'Em: ''I'm Afraid To Remember What My Natural Hair Looks Like'

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When it comes to a gal and her crowning glory, there may be some truth to the antiquated adage, "We always want what we don't have."

Clearly, whoever penned that idiom was no idiot. I've found few things to ring truer, because as long as I've been aware of drawing breath, I've longed for straight, shiny, thick hair to hang down my back like silken cords woven by the gods.

Instead, I swam out of my gene pool with some crazy-curly, violently unruly, ratty-ass hair that requires great skill, serious funds, Japanese embalming fluid, hot irons in at least three different sizes and a mastery of these materials to create a look that's what I call... normal.

Why do I put my sorry skull through all this? Because I'm afraid to remember what I look like naturally.

And when I say afraid, I mean deeply afraid. Mine isn't your everyday, average curl that can be tamed into Debra Messing-esque shiny red ringlets. Being of Armenian descent, I have what I call an "Armo-fro," which can only be rivaled by the most aggressive of Jew-fros. My hair grows out -- not down. Ever since Curl Free hair relaxer's been on the market, I've made it my mission to tame the beast up top.

When I was of single-digit age, this could only be achieved by yanking my hair taut around mid-sized rollers and baking it under a bonnet dryer, which would drown any audible distraction from the heat and pain offered by "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

Once the double digits hit, I experimented with a hot comb, which, instead of loosening the curls, frayed the ends to add a halo of extra fuzz. As I inched toward my teens, I discovered solutions, which were more like problems. Until now, I'd blocked out traumatic memories of my mother bending me over the tub, pouring neutralizer over my head to cool my chemically scorched scalp -- an awful lot of effort for a kid who preferred punk to pageantry.

When Curl Free left me more curl full, I decided it was time to kick things up a notch and buy some Dark and Lovely. I'll never forget how the cashier at Osco Drug looked at the box, looked up at my awkward, teenaged Caucasian head, then down again with an affirmative "UmmmnHM," as if to reassure me that I was taking the appropriate measures.

Finally, my best friend Jenny had had enough of this nonsense: She took me to her salon and gave stern orders for her stylist to apply some professional-grade Dark and Lovely, STAT. That worked out well for a while.

Later, during my post-college stint as an office grunt, my friend Gale told me I'd handed my Armo-fro over to the wrong ethnic group.

"Girl, that shit will kill your hair," she said of the relaxer I was using. "You need to go to the Dominicans. They can handle that mess."

For the next ten years, I spent three hours every three months surrendering my scalp to "Mahrrreee" (roll the tongue) while watching Mexican soaps on Telemundo.

Then, in a turn of irony, the typically straight-haired Japanese invented a relaxer that works on the kinkiest of hairs -- even mine! -- and it never washes out. So my girl Yuko is now lord and saviour of my head. In another turn of irony, all this hair-crack is making my hair look more like strung-out straight straw than silken cords.

I imagine it would be so freeing and cathartic to shed myself of artifice and get over my fear of how I'd look with what I was given -- not what I'd wanted. But this brand of chemical dependence is deeply addictive for, over the years, I've become a junkie and, as junkies do, have managed to convince myself that I am, in fact, a straight-haired person.

Why not just grow it out? That would be more than my vanity could bear. My natural kinky roots and stick-straight ends would make me look like one of those Phish-fan barefoot twirlers trying to grow white-people dreadlocks.

Of course, the painless way to conquer my hair fears would be to chop it all off and get pricey extensions like a Hollywood starlet until my natural Armo-fro gains more bounce to the ounce. But as extensions cost thousands a pop, it's fear over frizz for the win.

But when I hit the Lotto, I'm taking my hair to rehab.

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