“NO! Don’t touch my hair!” screamed Maya, my fourteen-year-old daughter.
“Uff!” I said teeth clenched, in the tone of an exasperated mom, waving the hair brush threateningly in the air, “You NEED to brush your hair, beta, to get rid of the tangles. Let me do it for you.” Her frizzy mane looked a bit unruly and needed some motherly love I opined.
“Brushing does not help mom! It makes my hair frizzier,” she retorted, tilting her head away from me.
I rolled my eyes at her. “Says who?”
An answer I should have known.
Maya typed on her iPad with fervor. She was fast and furious as she turned the screen towards me.
“SEE… this is what I mean.”
I saw the words ‘Why does my hair get so frizzy when I brush it?’ typed in the search box and tons of information that scientifically reasoned how brushing disrupted the hair’s cuticle and caused breakage.
Frizzy hair had to be towel dried and finger combed or combed with a wide mouth comb while still wet.
‘Ah, Google. I am no match for thy wisdom.’ I resigned to my fate.
“Does that mean you will comb your hair only when you wash it. Just twice a week?” I was aghast with the new-found information.
“Don’t worry, mom. I can comb with wet fingers too whenever necessary.” She turned the screen towards herself and surfed for a few more seconds. With her dainty fingers she zoomed in on a couple of sentences. Not sure if that was out of sympathy for my weakening forties’ vision or it was her way of drilling the information into my foggy pre- menopausal brain. Whatever the reason, I had no trouble reading and understanding the lines that read ‘If you have curly hair, keeping your hand off your mane is particularly important, as you may lose curl definition and cause more frizz the more you play with it.’
She cocked her pretty head at me. “I will take good care of my hair mom. You stay away from it.”
How times had changed! Scenes from my childhood flashed clearly in my mind’s eye. My earliest memories revealed Patti (my grandmother) lovingly boiling red hibiscus flowers in oil and gently massaging the oil on my scalp a couple of times a week. I would leave the oil on for a while before washing it off. And Amma (my mom), lovingly braiding my hair twice a day. These rituals of love in turn taught me to honor my own body and I intended to pass them along to my daughter. I did not know of any other way to take care of my tresses and hers. When I was young, I did not dare defy Patti and Amma. They made it clear that this was something that had to be done and I simply followed along.
Hailing from this Indian culture where raising a girl child was synonymous with regularly oiling her hair and braiding it, I had trouble assimilating the above information that google furnished, even though it had a scientific basis to it. Not one to give up easily, I gently took the iPad back from Maya and typed in
‘Does coconut oil help with frizz?’
Coconut oil was making the headlines in many beneficial ways these days, maybe just maybe it would hold the solution to our problem.
Voila! Chest puffed, a grin on my face I showed Maya what came up. Coconut oil works great to pacify the frizzy hair. Frizzy hair is the result of uneven absorption of water in the hair’s outer layer. Coconut oil creates a humidity and moisture barrier and protects the hair fibers from uneven swelling. This helps to keep frizz away and leaves your hair feeling smooth and manageable. “See, all you have to do is oil your hair regularly and it will not be as frizzy. Then you could brush it too.” The ancient formula that was applied to every girl growing up in my time could not be wrong.
“Mom, you do know I have a problem with dandruff right? Did you know if your scalp is oily then using coconut oil aggravates the flaking of the scalp?”
“Says…” I stopped short. No points for guessing that one. I snatched the iPad back from my child and typed in ‘Does coconut oil make dandruff worse?’
Sadly, she was right. The stats baffled me though. Could someone have an oily scalp and frizzy hair at the same time. I googled it in and it turns out they could. I was fighting a losing battle. My rudimentary knowledge of grandma’s ways and Ayurveda was inadequate to Maya’s google armory.
I did not want to give up. On further investigation I came across an article in the Times of India which cited that oils with fatty acids like coconut oil exacerbate dandruff but a petroleum -based oils like a tea tree oil was a marvelous remedy for dandruff. I showed my findings to Maya. “Hmmm…I think I know just what to do” she quipped with a gleam in her eye.
Just then my son walked in with a creature that should have looked like a fluffy white Shih-tzu with a luscious coat of fur but instead now resembled a pink, hairless runt. Tears welled in his eyes as he spoke. “The groomer at PetSmart had to shave him down, ma. Leo had too many matts close to his skin. Why didn’t you brush his fur regularly? They said if you had, it wouldn’t have formed the knots.”
“I tried.. he…he bites you know” I fumbled and pointed accusingly at the puppy. “And hey, he belongs to all of us. You guys could have done it too,”
At this point, Maya thrust the aforementioned gadget in my hands, “It’s ok mom. We’ve both been busy with school and homework. But here, watch this YouTube video that shows you how to brush Leo’s hair without agitating him. He needs the brushing more than I do mom, trust me. And yes, the article I showed about managing frizzy hair also suggests the shampoo that is good for an oily scalp and curly hair. It has tea tree oil as one of the ingredients and is not tested on animals. Perfect! Can I order it on Amazon?”
I could not say no. The wise know when to surrender. The teenager was dangerous especially when she was armed with Google. The only thought that raced through my mind, ‘Was Rapunzel ever a teenager? With no Google, no Amazon, no access to the outside world and a witch of a step-mom, how did she manage her crowning glory?’
Born and raised in Mumbai, Vidya Murlidhar now resides in Charlotte, NC with her family. Her essays have appeared in Chicken Soup for The Soul, Life Positive, Perfection Pending and Mothers Always Write. She is currently working on a series of children’s illustrated books. Her musings can be found on mommyhooddiary.wordpress.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest as Vidya Murlidhar.