not 17 again

i have a tendency to psychoanalyse things a little too much. for example, my insistence on never getting my hair straightened ever again is not just a matter of not liking it the first and only time i’ve gotten it done. it’s also got to do with my identity, self-esteem and the way others view me.

it was the first prom-like event i signed myself up for. i didn’t have a date and most of my closest friends ditched me but i felt it was important that i go. after all, you only go through secondary school once and as traumatic an experience as it was at times, i wanted to end it with a bang.

so i bought an awful dress, purchased a pair of what was then the most expensive shoes i’ve ever spent money on and fretted about what to do with my just-growing-out hair.

i had a terrible short boyish haircut all through secondary school. it was only towards the end that i realised there was no way it was going to follow me to singapore for college and i decided to grow it out. it was still too short for anything dramatic to be done, so i consulted my aunts for what to do for prom.

they directed me to a salon they frequented, and it was there that i first encountered the question that i was to encounter many, many times later: “why don’t you rebond your hair?

i am convinced that every aspiring hairstylist must go through a module in hairstyling school called “how to badger your customers into getting the most expensive service available“. i am also convinced that there is a specific chapter dedicated to pushing rebonding services to those with curly, unruly hair. actually, to anybody. indiscriminately.

to cut a long story short, i had my shoulder-length hair rebonded. my mother hated it, my sister hated it…and i felt like a sell-out. it wasn’t me, and i spent most of my prom night feeling like crap. i was 17, at what should have been the end of my awkward years, and i had never felt more awkward.

a couple of days ago, i headed out in between classes to get a haircut. funnily enough, i am in the process of letting my hair grow out, just as i was those many years ago. i went to a salon at the recommendation of a friend, and the moment i sat down and finished explaining to the hairstylist – a thin guy decked out in full geek chic gear – that all i wanted was to get my hair thinned out and fringe trimmed, he delivered that familiar old question: “why don’t you rebond your hair?

for some reason, i felt the same old insecurities i experienced that prom night. i was back in that horrible dress, in those unforgiving shoes (i still have them, and i still can’t walk properly in them), sitting opposite my pseudo-date who was checking other girls out, feeling less than a person, a traitor for giving up an important part of myself – the curly, unruly hair that has been a bane of my life, but still something that makes me, me.

i politely refused and when he was done cutting, he picked up a straightening iron and ironed my hair flat. it was a clever strategy, one aimed at making me see how good i would look with straightened hair, in the hopes that i may come back, fork out 300 bucks and earn him a signature in his logbook or something.

when i looked in the mirror this time, though, i didn’t see a sell-out. i saw the same old me, only with straightened hair.

surely that counts for something? i guess i’m just not 17 anymore.


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