Cleopatra and the Mailman – a story on beauty, deception and embracing curly hair

Age 3 by loopylocks
Here I am prior to my haircut, with my curls, eating a sweetie, not a care in the world


It all started with a simple question.“Rachel, do you want a haircut?” my sister asked in an excited voice, to which I answered as any 3 year old would. Was I thinking that maybe my sister was not qualified to hold a pair of our Mum’s sewing scissors and act as hairdresser? Or that this was going to be the beginning of a 30 year battle with my hair? I love my sister dearly and have always looked up to her. Despite a few minor transgressions which I will discuss here now, she has always been honest and loving.

Somehow, our babysitter managed to vanish just long enough for my sister to successfully cut every, single, last, curl, off my head. The results were extraordinary. By the time she was done I looked like a sick puppy suffering with mange. When my parents returned home, the only thing my mother could naturally do was laugh while my Dad hit the roof. I then had to wear a little pink sun hat everywhere for the next 3 months.

Just three years later, my sister would be at it again. I hold no grudge about her innocent joke even though I remember it so well that I am compelled to write about it now. At the  time, we lived on the south coast in a house called Cleopatra. I see the irony in the name today because Cleopatra was known for her beauty and this too is a story about beauty. You see, my sister, three years older than I, had beautiful silky straight dark hair with just a slight wave, like the beautiful Barbados sea in front of our home at low tide. Perfect in my mind. Still does. As for my hair, well, you saw the picture above.

One of my vivid memories of living at Cleopatra was regarding our mailman. He would deliver our mail weekly on a small red Yamaha motorcycle. The nicest man with a beaming smile. If we were outside playing or heard his bike, we would rush to greet him because he would give us a ride as he would head back up to the road. Wish I could remember his name but when you are six somehow that does not seem as important as riding on a motorcycle. Our mailman had impressive dread locks. They would peak out at the back of his helmet and hang down his back in a massive pony tail. Bob Marley style. This was the 70’s.

One evening, as we lay in bed chit chatting as sisters do during our nightly ritual which consisted of taking turns tickling each other’s back, my sister announced:

“Rachel, did you know that Mummy had an affair with the mailman and he is your real father? That’s why you have such curly hair!”

Even at the tender age of six, I knew she must be kidding. But I stopped and considered it for a split second. First of all, what’s an affair? And second of all, I don’t believe you. Not true. I objected vehemently. I probably cried but maybe I laughed like how my Mum did when she saw my haircut. Can’t remember now.

Fast forward to me at the age of 14 and introduce hormonal, irrational teenager with self esteem and confidence issues. A dear friend of my Mum who was a flight attendant would leave us stacks of fashion, beauty and gossip magazines whenever she was in town. Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, People, National Enquirer, Globe, Self, Redbook. All culpable. Little did I understand that the images in these magazines were going to send me on a quest to change what was inherently Me. So I begged my Mum to let me straighten my hair. Chemically.

After some convincing, my Mum did the best she could and conceded to a belligerent teenage daughter. So off I went to the hairdresser to get a new, straight look, at great expense. When all was done, I was pretty impressed with the results until I was told that I would have to blow dry my hair every time I washed it to get my hair to look straight. Tell that to a 14 year old who had never blow dried her own hair and see how that goes over. The first time I washed my hair after the salon I think I cried. Prior to 33, the same thing would happen every time I was foolish enough to let a hairdresser flat iron my hair. My hair would look “great” for 3 days tops until I hit the shower and poof, like magic, the curls would return.

I could go on an on. I mean, I have not even discussed what summer heat does to anyone with curly hair. Just think about that famous TV episode of Friends when Monica visits, wait for it…. Barbados! So it is no wonder that it took me approximately 33 years be OK with my hair, frizz and all.

I am so confident now that I am pretty certain I could work for any hair company as a product tester. Serums, elixirs, mousse, oils from exotic locations. Yes you, Morocco. I’ve tried so many it is hard to remember. Off the top of my head, let’s see if I can think of some of the ones I have personally used and you tell me if you see a pattern forming: Frizz Ease, Flat Out, Straight, Anti-Frizz Control, Tousle Me Softly. Actually, the last one I am using now and have been happy for about 2 years. Love the name, so rock on, Herbal Essences! Someone is doing it right. Even the tagline makes me happy: Let loose for touchable, all-day waves.

The beauty industry does not generally make you feel like rocking curly hair, do they? Yet the same holds true if you have straight hair. Then the tables turn and it is all about achieving the very thing I took so many years to embrace. People, get your act together. I know I studied marketing and it’s all about market penetration, but please, ride the wave. Even our current Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, rightly proclaimed after he elected half his cabinet as women, “Why? Because it’s 2015”. Even Trudeau rocks his own set of curls.

Gradually for me, the path of least resistance set in and I started embracing my curls. I learned that curls are like water. You can try to fight it, but it will always find its lowest point. So why bother? I love my curls now. Whenever I get my hair done at the salon, which is about once a year cause curly hair never seems to like to grow, I let them blow it out curly. I have even traded in the flat iron for a curling iron to add definition. Take that beauty industry.

I have two daughters that are not unlike my sister and I, in more ways than one. One has curly hair, the other, straight. I try my best to encourage my curly daughter to Love-It-Now when I hear her fussing about her unruly locks. I remind her that embracing her curls will save her many years of unnecessary angst. As for my younger daughter, the 14 year old, well, she hasn’t asked me for a perm yet so in my mind, I call that progress.

Here I am at 33 feeling happy, embracing my curls (again)

[Author’s side note – I was going to give this story the title, “the night my sister sister told me our mother had an affair with the mailman” but my 14 year old daughter informed me that in social media, that is known as “click bait”! I’ll take that as a compliment because I do like to keep current.] 


5 Replies to “Cleopatra and the Mailman – a story on beauty, deception and embracing curly hair”

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