Tag Archives: Hair

Braids and Bicycles

“Things I learned from Covid” was the title of a meme I saw online recently and, making light of the situation, it made me smile. It led me to consider what I learned during Covid, things that are well and truly part of my current life and times. There were a variety of things that I learned, as did we all, and I’ve written about my thoughts on online learning, interpersonal interaction, and how to move countries during a pandemic. I learned big things, we all did, but in keeping with the meme that I saw, I’ll keep this upbeat and practical.

French Braids

Part of the before-school routine when I was young was that my mum would do hair. One of us ate while the other brought my mum a comb, brush, and elastics, and then we switched. I remember asking for pigtails (which, having heard wrong as a little girl, I called “pink tails” until she took pity on me in my teens and corrected me) and braids, and sometimes “two pieces tied back”, which is exactly what it sounds like. A low ponytail I could manage myself, but I needed help with a high pony.

Throughout my childhood, French braids remained elusive. My mum couldn’t do them as swiftly as she could everything else, despite buying a nifty tool that was supposed to help you separate the strands and count them (or something). And of course, I loved French braids. My aunt did them for me when I visited and I’d sleep in them, enjoying the texture against my scalp. When I got older, friends did them at sleepovers or at the pool. Much later, I was always a little envious of people with beautiful braids, envious and impressed. French braids seemed impossible, and yet everyone had them. So they couldn’t be impossible.

During the pandemic, I spent a lot of time biking around Singapore, sometimes alone but also with friends when the regulations permitted it. And it was during this time, frustrated at the ponytail coming apart under my helmet, that I learned how to French braid my own hair. I learned just by trying what I had seen other people do countless times. Trying over and over – after all, I had the time.

For a while, I could only manage one braid, but I’ve since done as many as four. Two is usually my look of choice, though I admit that the ends look a little funny with my most recent short haircut. I’m fully aware that these braids aren’t beautiful – I have neither the hair nor the patience for that – but every time, I’m also fully aware of the circumstances under which I finally cracked this mystery. And it makes me smile, every day.

Bike Tricks

In keeping with the theme of spending a lot of time on my bike during the pandemic, it was then that I finally mastered the art of riding a bike with no hands. Having seen enough people (mostly kids and teenage boys) riding along casually hands free, some even texting while occasionally looking up (which I haven’t tried and won’t try), I decided it couldn’t be as hard as I thought it was. After all, I could French braid!

And like most mechanical things, I really just had to try. And try. And balance my weight properly. And ride a little faster. And keep my spine straight and abs engaged. And just ride. Without hands. And then one day I could do it and that was that. Sometimes, a little perseverance goes a long way.

Now I know that riding without hands is less of a trick and more of a means of stretching out the wrists and fingers on a longer ride, or to give the back a break. It is also much easier now that I have bike bags and never ride with a backpack. However, during my time in Singapore, it used to make the security guards at the gate laugh when they saw me. At a school where not many people rode to school, I cycled in wearing dresses and pencil skirts, enjoying the tiny decline after the tiny incline, hands in the air to wave hello. We needed something to laugh at then, too.

It’s easy to make light of what I learned during the pandemic, as easy now to laugh as it was necessary then. These are little things, and I find that it’s the little things that we can grasp and point to. I can’t tell you when I made my peace with the time I “lost” during the pandemic, but I can tell you that I learned to French braid my hair and ride my bike with no hands during this time. I can’t articulate when I accepted solitude rather than being frightened by it, but I can tell you that I find that centre again when putting my hair in braids or removing my hands from the handlebars to stretch. There was an era, a time, and then there is what remains from it.

So what did I learn from the pandemic? Plenty.

Singapore – May 2020

Hey, curly girls! This one’s for you.

I got my hair cut today. This is a big deal because I think the last time I got my hair cut was three years ago. And it’s an even bigger deal because I asked the stylist to straighten it.


I normally wear my hair down and just let it do whatever it’s going to do. This is a coping mechanism – equal parts resignation, exasperation, and experience. Sometimes it looks great and I love it, like in the picture above. It really is that curly and I really do have natural red highlights, which sometimes show up.

Since I’m asked this a lot, these are my current hair products:

Most people have never seen me with straight hair. I’ve rarely seen me with straight hair, actually. Once upon a time, about three years ago, I wrote about having curly hair and I straightened my hair to make a point. I don’t think I’ve had straight hair since.

And yet, here we are again!

On a recommendation from my mum’s stylist at Tru Salon in Rochester, NY, I went to the Aveda Institute here in New York City to have my hair trimmed by a student stylist. I’ve had enough bad haircuts as a curly-haired person to avoid a) getting my hair cut entirely and b) paying a lot of money for a haircut. Rachel, my mum’s stylist, assured me that the Aveda Institute sees a lot of curly patrons because getting a good curly haircut can be such a challenge and a huge expense.

It’s only hair, right? It’ll grow back, right?


Normally I’d say yes, but that’s precisely the problem.

I haven’t cut my hair in three years because it doesn’t grow. I’ve dreamt of long, flowing curly locks for enough years to know I’ll never have them, even though I follow all of these tips.

Oh yeah. Except for the one about regular trims. Oops.

So off the the Aveda Institute I went!

At the Aveda Institute, student stylists have to get the procedure and each stage of the process approved by an instructor. While this might make some patrons nervous, I understand the need to practice on real humans to learn your trade (I’m a teacher, after all). I truly encourage everyone to look into the Aveda Institute if you’re looking for a top-quality, inexpensive service. After all, students are very careful and deliberate because they’re still learning and you have the benefit of an expert stylist watching each step of the way.

My student stylist, Mary, told me everything I already knew about my hair – it’s surprisingly healthy and hydrated, surprisingly soft, and surprisingly fine. She was surprised that I haven’t cut it in so long. People usually are. What made me happy is that she understood exactly what I wanted and clearly explained how she was going to make my hair look even healthier (and hopefully grow). Even better, the instructors agreed with her! I dread the oft-heard question, “How do they usually cut your hair?” from a stylist, indicating that curly hair like mine is unfamiliar. Mary’s confidence made me feel at ease and since she had the scissors, that was probably a good thing.

Reasons to Visit the Aveda Institute

  1. They provide a wide range of salon services (I’ll probably be back soon for a facial)
  2. They serve tea
  3. It’s fun to watch the students style and color mannequins’ hair
  4. The students are very conscientious
  5. Instructors check every step of the process and make some adjustments along the way
  6. It’s very, very affordable and reasonably priced

One thing to note: If you want to tip, they only accept cash and don’t have an ATM.

When Mary was done, I asked her to take some pictures:

Hey, everybody! I have long, flowing locks! Amazing. Darn all that curl shrinkage.

Unfortunately, my hair won’t look like this tomorrow. I don’t own a comb, brush, blow dryer, or straightening iron (or blush, eyeshadow, or lipstick) so it’ll either be back to curls or up in a ponytail. But it’s super fun to feel it swish against my back and the sides of my face! It’s always the little things, right?

So after three years, about a 1/2-inch of split ends have been cut off and my layers are relayered. I’m looking forward to seeing what my hair looks like curly!

If you have tips, tricks, or hints to share, I’d love to hear them! I’m pretty low-maintenance (could you tell?) but surprisingly vain when it comes to my hair. Happy to hear anything you’ve got! Comment below or through the contact page. Cheers, curly girls!

Being Curly

Me! A happy, curly-haired person.
Me! A happy, curly-haired person.

I am a naturally curly-haired person, which means I constantly field the question, “Do you ever straighten your hair? It would look so pretty!” What exactly are you insinuating with said question, new acquaintance?

The honest answer is, “No. I actually really love my curly hair.” And that’s the truth. Granted, I don’t love it all the time; I don’t love it in the rain, I don’t love it in humidity, I don’t love it when it doesn’t cooperate, but I’d always rather be curly than straight. (And let’s be honest, who has good hair in humidity?) My hair was curly when I was a baby, got straighter as I grew up, and curled again when I was about 12. Gotta love raging pre-teen hormones.

I’m moving to a very humid climate on Thursday, and I haven’t straightened my hair in nearly 3 years. I have only gone to work once with straight hair; it was during my first year teaching and a brutally honest coworker and friend later told me to never, ever do that again. “You look young enough,” she said. “We like curly-haired Becca better.” (A guy I was quasi-interested in at the time LOVED my hair straight, though.) Anyway, I figured now was a good time to demonstrate, once and for all, that I do in fact look better with curly hair. And my coworker is right – I already look young for my age, and straight hair only exacerbates that insecurity.

What my curls looked like after a VERY hot day at around 6pm
What my curls looked like after a VERY hot day at around 6pm
What I actually look like
What I actually look like












The above photos are from a pretty average curly day in the summer. It was about 80° Fahrenheit and I’d spent a lot of time outside. I don’t love my hair in these photos, but I’ve got to be honest, it probably looks like that more often than I’d like to think. I really don’t mind that it’s uneven at the bottom. My hair grows painfully slowly (I haven’t cut it in at least 2 years) so any unraveling, unruly curl that makes it look longer is fine with me.

This is what I look like 5 minutes after straightening my hair
This is what I look like 5 minutes after straightening my hair
Apparently it curves to the right. And needs a trim. Who knew?
Apparently it curves to the right. And needs a trim. Who knew?












I think I look like I’m 12 with straight hair. And I think I look like I’m 14 regularly, so 12 is a bit of a blow. I am astonished, though, at how long my hair is. I had no idea! As my former roommate used to say, my hair grows “out, not down.” Looks like she was right. If I straightened it regularly, I’d definitely need a trim because the bottom looks a little sad.

My students have always bugged me about why I don’t straighten my hair. Last year I told my 76 freshmen that if they all earned an A on their next essay, I’d come to work with straight hair. We all knew that wasn’t going to happen. They told me I’d be their favorite teacher forever if I straightened my hair for the last day of school. My response to that was, “This hair? In June’s humidity? Are you out of your mind?” (So now I’ve straightened it in August and that’s clearly a much better idea.)

The moral of the story is, I don’t straighten my hair. I happen to like my curls. The end.