Or: When the Patron Saint of Fat Women Stops Smiling Down At You
Just when I started seriously gaining weight in middle school the Patron Saint of Fat Women* must have petitioned God on my behalf to send me a compensatory blessing: curly hair. The same year I exceeded 175 and kept gaining, my stick straight brown hair began to transform into beautiful ringlets. Okay…It wasn’t a beautiful sight at first.
Since I would never let my mom do my hair nor do anything with it myself, we had compromised on short hair. So, when it first began to curl (meaning it is also got incredibly frizzy) I looked like Einstein in his most unkempt portraits. I had to put up with my classmates’ teasing until my hair grew out and I learned how to manage it.
Luckily, we had a hairdresser at our small church who taught me what products to use and not to ever brush or comb it once it had dried. With the right hair products, a little scrunching and longer hair, I soon had a physical feature that nearly every woman around me seemed to envy. I loved my new hair as much as they did. I could run out the door with sopping wet, unstyled hair and it would look great by the time it dried at school as long as I’d put enough hair gel in it. Even at that age, I was all about looking good with little effort.
I could never understand those curly haired girls who straightened their locks every day. Besides being mystified by the sheer amount of time they decided to devote to it, I couldn’t comprehend why they didn’t realize how undeniably gorgeous curly hair is. I was also a little bit of a snob about curly hair. I had friends with wavy hair who would say their hair was curly. While I was polite enough not to disagree with them to their face, I always thought, “Sorry, dear, but your hair is not curly. It is wavy. Unlike us curly haired women, you have to coax your hair to curl while our struggle is taming our curls.” Along with internally refusing to admit wavy haired women into my exclusive little club, I never under stood their complaints. This has all changed.
It seems that the Patron Saint of Fat Women isn’t in my corner now that I’ve been out of plus sizes for a few years. My hair has been gradually losing its curl. Some days it teases me by being intermittently curly, but I am not fooled! I’m an officially wavy haired woman now. I image that old patron saint came before God with some pious sounding reason, like an argument that they now have a need to keep me humble or brought His attention to my elitist attitude. Whatever it was that she said worked. He agreed to rescind the gift.
Let me tell you, this is one of the hardest prices I’ve paid for leaving the fat girl club. It has given me a deep respect and sympathy for all women who have had wavy hair their whole lives. I find it almost impossible not to complain about my hair every single day. I’ll walk out the door with nice waves and by the end of the day most of them will have fallen out unless I use a serious amount of hair products. Even then, there are days when my hair just looks over gelled and stringy. It is awful!
One of my teachers in middle school, who caught me checking out my hair in a reflective window I passed by in the hallway, told me that I’d lose my beautiful hair if I was too vain about it. He pointed to his own thinning head of hair as proof. It seems that he was right. I’m holding out hope that eventually my old patron saint will favor me again. No matter what my pant size is, in my heart, I’ll always be a fat girl.
* Though I’m a Protestant, I love the idea of Patron Saints. While the Papacy might not recognize the Patron Saint of Fat Women, I believe in her.
Feature image by Alessio Lin.