By Faye Remedios Jan. 27, 2020
In our society, lustrous, supple strands still remain a source of pride for women. It even prompted the brilliant Maya Angelou to assert that “A woman’s hair is her glory.” But when what was once your crowning glory ends up getting relegated to the shadow of your husband’s, I must confess it does take some getting used to.
It was the start to a perfect day. We were out of the limits of Mumbai’s noise and pollution, not rudely subjected to the jarring tones of an alarm hauling us out of bed. Instead, we were revelling in the afterglow of Christmas in the picturesque tranquility of Daman, getting up at 6 am, cosily bundled up in warm coats, strolling hand-in-hand down the new coastal road. Walking in silence, something so rare in Mumbai where it seems we both never have enough time to talk, we were suddenly jolted out of our happy lethargy by the sound of whistling. I spun around ready to battle, only to see a guy standing behind us not even interested in throwing a glance my way, leave alone a whistle. Instead, he was looking at my husband in awe, saying “Bro, hair good, very good. Bro, which shampoo?”. Far from being affronted, the mane man in question – my husband – had a good laugh while I stood there looking on bemusedly wondering what I’ve created. Okay, obviously, I can’t take credit for the strands on his head but I certainly can claim to be the one who encouraged him to grow them out in the first place.
This “encouragement” came with a lot of extras. From coaxing me to first spill my methods, then my arsenal of products, and after that, my expertise (I’ve been a beauty editor, and come armed with handy tips, plus I too have a head of unruly waves). Oh, and how crafty he was about it. We are watching television, and I’m productively using this time to endlessly list my many woes while he patiently listens. Then resigning himself to missing the programme, he deftly hands me a bottle of oil, which leads me to work out my frustrations on his scalp. At other times, he would sneakily pass me a hairbrush saying, “I’ve heard that brushing hair is the best way to destress.” Now every curly girl knows you do not take a brush to dry strands. But on what I thought was his straight hair, why ever not.
Over time, those poker-straight-when-short strands morphed into a strangely curly mop as they grew out. In the year since, he has gone on to sprout juicy, defined curls that my online curly group would define as 2c -3a, a fact that only anyone fluent in curl speak would get. My own waves, on the other hand, did not get the same TLC, and rebelled into rampant frizz and tangled kinks.
When it was his hair that would get all the attention and not mine, I’d be disgruntled.
With his new locks, came the compliments. From a friend pinging me on Instagram to tell me how “the hubby is giving me stiff competition”, to strangers stopping us on the road asking if they’ve seen him on television. Even my mother, my most ardent fan, joked about how my reconfigured follicles looked like I had swapped styles with him. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little envious initially.
In our society, lustrous, supple strands still remain a source of pride for women — magazines expend much energy on listing tips and tricks on how to improve their quality. It even prompted the brilliant Maya Angelou to assert that “A woman’s hair is her glory,” in Good Hair, a documentary by Chris Rock on African-American women and their hair. This is reiterated in the British comedy series Fleabag, when the eponymous protagonist delves into a triumphant monologue that outlines how significant hair is for any woman. “Hair is everything. It’s the difference between a good and a bad day,” Fleabag concludes. This adage holds true for all women irrespective of their roots because our strands are so much more than simply what’s on our heads: They offer a glimpse into our character and individuality. They can do both, reveal to the world who we are as well as veil what we do not want people to see. But when what was once your crowning glory ends up getting relegated to the shadow of your husband’s I must confess it does take some getting used to. When it was his hair that would get all the attention and not mine, I’d be disgruntled.
Slowly though I started loving how his new style has brought out an even more fun, playful side to his personality that is reflected in everything, from his food choices to his dressing sense. I no longer fret about the fact that the compliments are not directed at my curls. In fact, I stand by head and hair high, and grin when he points at me, saying, “Thanks to the wife. It’s all her.”
I only hope that 20 years down the line, if he does happen to fall prey to the receding hairline and big bald pate that runs in his family, he doesn’t do the same.