God's way of preventing Iranian women from ruling the earth
By Niki Tehranchi
June 29, 2001
Hair is the curse of the Iranian woman. From the top of her head to the
tip of her toes. Now you will probably sigh to yourself "Another woman
having a bad hair day, why should I read this?" But don't touch that
mouse! What I am about to reveal to you is much more than your run of the
mill "the grass is always greener on the other side" woman's hair
dilemma. It is a long history of an unending battle between the forces of
good and evil that has pitted the Iranian woman against her genetic curse
for agonizing centuries.
Let's start at the top: The hair on your head. Now, a lot of my non-Iranian
friends compliment me on my hair: "It is so full, it has such volume,
you are so lucky," as they run their fingers through their own silky
soft cascade of golden follicles. I just smile at them and leave them in
their delusions. If they only knew...
My own mother kept my hair short like a boy's until I was eleven. I was
mistaken for a boy so often, I finally rebelled one summer and decided enough
was enough, I wanted to look like the other girls in my class. Now I understand
my mother was only trying to shield me for as long as she could from the
horrors of Iranian hair texture.
I happily started growing my hair, thinking I was going to be the next
spokesperson for Clairol ads... and I woke up one day with what can only
be described as an unruly, tangled, unkept, vezvezee bird's nest. Like a
Medusa, I looked at myself in the mirror and turned MYSELF to stone. I tried
brushing the mess out. The more I brushed, the more it vezzed out, until
finally I had left the Medusa stage and entered the 1970s blaxploitation
Foxy Brown Humongous Afro stage.
My khaaleh tried to help me by using much gel and hairspray and mousse.
She finally succeeded in making me look like a cross between a mafia hitman
and an old black-and-white Count Dracula, with my hair all slicked back
and glistening. When I woke up in the morning, there was a puddle of toxic
goo left on my pillow, the residue of all those hair care products. I think
some new life form had begun to develop in my little Darwinian experiment,
until I decided this was not the solution for me either.
My ammeh's contribution to the hair saga was to introduce me to an ancient
Persian tradition: Henna! I thought that's right! This is the solution.
Our hair, just like our history, is rich in tradition and dates back to
thousands of years ago. Of course, modern Western products designed for
Barbie hair will not be appropriate for us. EUREKA! I screamed out as my
ammeh began to boil some water.
The age-old ritual was so magical, I really felt I was getting in touch
with my roots (pardon the pun). But all I got instead was some smelly hot
sticky substance dumped on my head, and for the next 6 weeks, my head smelled
of rotten eggs. This experiment in Iranian culture caused a major rift between
my dad and my ammeh ("Bacheye 13 saaleh ro vardaashti moohaasho rang
kardi?!") Not that any color had taken of course, since my hair is
so pitch black.
Finally one day, my mom came to the rescue. I had heard ancient legends
whispered around the homes of my relatives like a big state secret about
"oottooing your hair" though I could not imagine for the life
of me what a clothes iron and human hair could ever have in common. "What?"
I asked my mom laughingly, "Like you're gonna lay my hair on the ironing
board and go at it full steam, haha?". When my mom kept staring at
me silently, I stopped laughing.
Of course, it wasn't even going to be as simple as that. The process
had to start first with a cleansing, just like any other religious endeavor.
I was to wash and condition my hair thoroughly. Then, as soon as I jumped
out of the shower, I had to bend while my mom applied an anti-frizz spray
gel from my roots to my tips.
Once that was done, an excruciatingly painful process of combing out
the hair while still wet, dividing it up into dozens of small sections,
brushing again, applying giant red, blue, and yellow bigoudis of various
sizes and rolling the hair very tightly around it, then securing the bigoudi
to my scalp with menacing steel pins (ouch! some of them actually poked
through the skin!).
I had to wear that contraption to my head, looking like a Martian, scaring
my dad almost into a heart attack when he innocently poked his head into
my room. After the hair had dried out inside the rollers, my mom proceeded
to blowdry out every single bigoudi, and she succeeded in giving me third
degree burns on the back of my neck and ears at the same time. When all
this was done, my hair was carefully wrapped in bedsheets and I bent yet
again, while my mom started ACTUALLY ironing my hair onto the ironing board.
Torture session: Three hours
Injuries: Open wounds on scalp, barbecued ears and neck, migraine
from all the pulling of the hair, one half-dead daddy, one mom with shooting
pains through her forearms, two burnt out electrical outlets, one neighbourhood
Result: When I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt like the
luckiest, happiest human being alive! I finally had beautiful, long, luscious
hair, straight and bouncy at the same time :o)
Yeaaahhhh, I only have to do this twice a week, eight times a month,
96 times a year, for the rest of my life!
Of course I have learned since then, that this torture can be transformed
into a very pleasant experience: Spending the day at the beauty salon, gossiping
and laughing and catching up with all the Iranian ladies, my fellow Sister-Warriors!
Just the other day, as my hairdresser was pulling my hair out with a
red hot blowdryer, I had another revelation: Hair was God's way of preventing
Iranian women from ruling the earth. Think about it: All that tenacity,
stubbornness, passion, conviction, ambition, struggle and time! What would
happen if they were all put to some other use?
Coming up next: Iranian Women's Hair, Part II: The Battle of the Eyebrow...