“You can become an unremarkable part of my day or act in a way that makes me remember you.”
When I was a kid, I wanted to be unremarkable. I wanted to move through the world mostly unnoticed because to be noticed was to be bullied. To be noticed was to be punished. Being noticed brought problems and I didn’t want any more problems. So, I tried to be unmemorable and in no place was this more apparent than at the hairdresser.
I wasn’t a fan of getting my hair done. It was an all-day event that was at best boring, and at most incredibly painful. From the burned ears to the scarred scalp, getting my hair done was torturous. All because the texture of my hair as it grew out of my head was somehow a problem for everyone else except me. I didn’t really have an opinion on how my hair should look, I just knew that it took pain for it to meet everyone else’s expectations. I endured because that was the “normal” thing to do.
Every time I sat in the chair, my mom would say “remember she’s tenderheaded so you have to watch her” with derision. It was true — I’d hunch my shoulders and try to escape the pain of having my hair pulled so tight that the skin of my scalp would turn red. I’d move my head away from the scalding heat of the hot comb, having my complaints of being burned passed off as “just steam” as though steam doesn’t burn. I would beg my stylist to rinse my head before the timer would ring, only to be told “It’s not straight yet” as the scorching pain from the chemicals scalded my scalp. But somehow, the word “tenderheaded” bothered me more than any torture I experienced in that chair because tenderheaded meant I was remarkable because of my weakness.
Growing up as a Black MaGe, I’d learned that my weakness was a liability. Being weak, needing care or help were access points for predators. These were areas that could be exploited and used to harm me. They also made me inconvenient and therefore useless in the eyes of many. Expressing discomfort made me remarkable which also made me a target, so it became my goal to rid myself of that shameful descriptor and learn to endure the pain of styled hair. At least, until I was old enough to decide for myself whether I wanted to go to the hairdresser or not. And as soon as I had that level of autonomy, I stopped — at…