Awake

Sisterhood of the Wet Hair, Stand Strong: We Will Air-Dry in Due Time!

I see you, sister.

David De Lossy/Thinkstock

If my morning routine were an animated GIF, cartoon sunglasses would slide onto my face as I sip my morning Diet Coke, and those shades would find a perch in my mop of freshly shampooed, sopping wet hair. Yeah, I don’t drink coffee, and yeah, I don’t do blow dryers: Deal with it.

You’ve seen me in your office, at brunch, back in college in seminars that didn’t even start that early: I’m that girl—er, woman—who just got out of the shower, the one who’s living so close to the bone that even five minutes of dry-time would have been too much to spare. And excuse the gender essentialism, but yes, it’s usually a woman, since this condition tends to afflict the longer-haired among us. We’re kind of a sisterhood that way: When I recognize a fellow wet-haired woman in my travels, I feel I know a little something about her state of mind and the kind of day she’s having, that she was in a rush, that she couldn’t be bothered, that she has to choose between drying her hair and some other busy-woman activity, and I think, Me too, girl, me too.

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While for other people, wet hair might be a once-in-a-while thing, a caught-in-the-rain thing, for me, wet hair is a way of life. And despite the “deal with it” ‘tude, I’m not here to praise that. To be clear, I don’t like that I show up everywhere looking this particular mix of clean and sloppy. I also don’t want to vilify it. I just want to reckon with it. What is it about wet hair that makes me feel like such a dirtbag?

I’ve been an air-dry–and–shrug type of person for as long as I’ve been in charge of my own grooming. Reading an Atlantic piece about Frizz-Ease recently, I got nostalgic for my own brushes with the great arms race of my youth, straightening iron technology, as well as its black swan, the “scrunch” method, neither of which ever stuck with me. No matter how many times I vowed to wake up early to do my hair, one fact would always re-assert itself: that I don’t do mornings and I never have. That I would always rather stay up late and let tomorrow-me deal with the consequences. That I am constitutionally incapable of getting out of bed more than a half-hour before I have to leave the house. I’m not trying to brag about how not-vain I am here; I am just as vain as the next person. But where you choose to be a grown-up and get in the shower, I choose the anti–life hack that is making every morning a make-or-break deadline that I might well miss.

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What seemed devil-may-care for a high school sophomore—I remember one wet-haired morning, waltzing into my high school’s lobby, it was so cold and I so breezily hatless that my hair actually froze into icicle strands—seemed a little less so for a college sophomore. And now? My wet hair is an embarrassment, mostly. I guess I never imagined that my lazy teenage habit would still be with me as in my life as a “working professional.” I somehow thought that by at this point in my life, I would have at least figured out hair and could move onto more complicated issues: real estate, 401(k)s. On some level, is my wet hair a stand-in for all the anxieties I have about myself and growing up? For sure. But it is also a literal mane of dripping hair that must be dealt with every other day.

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Why don’t I just shower at night? Or get myself a shower cap? Or cut my hair short? Or make any number of changes that would improve my mornings and life? To adapt a quote from Office Space, movie of my frizzy adolescence, why should I have to change? Blow drying’s the thing that sucks. How, in the year 2017, is there not a better solution for drying my hair than the torturous ritual of blow-drying? Twenty minutes, minimum, standing there with your head upside down, and you only have to do it every morning from now until the end of time.

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Anyway, since Into the Gloss probably isn’t clamoring for my Top Shelf, I’ll offer it up here, my complete hair routine: Shampoo and condition every other day. Put hair up into one of those towels that’s supposed to dry it more quickly but definitely doesn’t. Comb through it right before I leave the house. Let dry over the course of two or three hours. Hope I’m giving off the illusion that I’ve done this all on purpose.

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One virtue of wet hair, maybe the only one, is that eventually it dries. It takes forever and it ends up a little frizzier than I would like, but who doesn’t love a problem that eventually solves itself if you procrastinate long enough? I almost think there’s a weird optimism to wet hair, a belief that maybe tomorrow or while you’re waiting for your hair to dry in the far-off future, some great invention will come along and disrupt the blow dryer (ideally for less than $400) or otherwise fix what is a frankly very simple problem. What about a hair microwave? Just spitballing here. (You know, if men had long hair, this would already be solved.) Until then, I’ll muddle along, hating my wet hair but also acknowledging that I am my wet hair.

Read more from Awake, a blog about mornings.

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