Some thoughts on split ends

Heat damage like WHOA.

So I’m growing out my hair.

I’ve been thinking a lot about strength lately. Where we get it and who we get it from (or who gives it to us). How we can grow it, and if we have to earn it. I’ve always considered myself a strong person and it’s one of the first words people use to describe me, alongside tiny and over-sharing. All of the men who have ever loved me credited it to my strength.

Funny, though: what makes people think of me as strong is usually my willingness to admit weakness. My strength is standing up in front of a classroom of thirty peers and talking about the stigma of living with herpes. My strength is confiding my fear at four am in sweaty sheets about having loved an abusive man and what that makes me. My strength is writing about post-graduate depression and hitting publish. My strength looks a lot like failure, much of the time.

I have a really bad habit of biting off my split ends whenever I’ve been sitting still for too long. I find myself doing it all the time at work, hands idle as I watch talks and brainstorm new headlines. A split end will catch the light and I’ll pinch the strand between my thumb and index finger, loop it around my other hand and bring it to my mouth to chomp it away. It’s satisfying and gross, a marginal step up from gnawing at my fingers the way I still do when I’m anxious. How can I resist the ugly forked tongue of a hair follicle? There’s an element of glee to it. An imperfection removed, beautiful in its break.

Over the winter I straightened my hair every few days, not wanting to walk around with wet hair and able to go longer without needing to wash it. There is something city slick about straight hair that I appreciate too, its controlled phoniness. Straightening my hair makes me feel polished despite my cheap business casual clothes and weird occasional stutter in meetings. But this unforgiving winter is just about to lift, I can feel it whenever I wake up to birdsong, and I’m excited to let my hair air-dry thick and chunky and wild. I have Hermione Granger hair. And I’m growing it out.

I want a head of hair full of broken odds and ends, damaged and natural and impossible to ignore. I want a mass of locks to sculpt and tease, to weave into a thick Elsa braid or pile up in a crazy bun unwelcome on Pinterest boards. I want to leave strands of it behind in a lover’s bed, and I want him to take it in his hands and yank. I want to shove it from side to side as I fill in spreadsheets and peer through it in bars at happy hour menus. I want powerful and beautiful and ugly hair. I want my hair to take up space, catch the light with occasional threads of gold and silver. Its ends are tattered and yet it grows. I want a mane.

I want to be a lioness.

Photo on 2-24-15 at 1.31 PM #2
Hear me roar.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

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