This is part of Thank You Notes, a series of letters offering gratitude to the people and things that inspire us most. Like many others, ishonest has spent this summer looking inward — the place from where, as the saying goes, beauty springs. What we found was pain, love, humor, and powerful gratitude, for the people we know and the world we live in. Then we wrote.
To John Frieda,
I used Frizz Ease serum, boldly, for the first time before a 9th grade mixer at a religious all-boys school where we’d dance to radio edits of early 2000s hip- hop under basketball hoops and the judgment of the Episcopalian diocese, trying to be cool enough to kiss each other.
Until then, my hair had been in protest for years. While I’d had a loose scoop of cherub curls as a little kid, they’d straightened out into a lanky swish when I was about seven. Then, at the flattering turn of puberty upon the human body, my hair crumpled under the general humiliation of existing. It was a confusing, frizzy, rebellious time. I brushed my curls constantly, not knowing they were curls, trying to coax them into being straight. This was a task akin to trying to sandpaper a willow tree into a drumstick. On special occasions, i.e. any social event, a Chi straightener coerced my hair into a silky Gossip Girl sheet.
At this time, my family lived a leafy block away from a CVS — a church of nail polish and Snapple. CVS was the site of lots of disproportionate excitement. Buying a new scent of deodorant had all the possibility of starting a new season.
It somehow took me too long to wander into the hair aisle, my distraught curls scraped into a sad field hockey pony. I thought, What if I believe one of the suggestions on the bottle? I was skeptical by nature and affect but also I was desperate. What if something could actually... ease my frizz? John Frieda’s Frizz Ease hair serum was the most direct about its intention. It was also the center of an ad campaign in mesmerizing electric lavender, which seemed like the color scheme love child of a laboratory and a London nightclub.
I was in. I bought the small bottle, squeezed some like a slick promise onto the heel of my palm after a shower. It was the texture of bacon grease, smelled like a department store, and looked like a swole dewdrop. And then — crucially — I waited. Some combination of the serum’s gathering power and not combing allowed my hair to twist the way it wanted to. And for the first time since childhood, my hair bounced.
I loved it instantly. There were so many curls where previously there had been none! All super-pliable corkscrews, all hiding until the dose of serum. I walked into the religious gym of teens, like an Edith Wharton villainess in a halter top, curled and triumphant. From that day, I globbed on Frizz Ease liberally, then began to introduce more acts to the repertoire. A gel. A creme. A leave- in conditioner. I had aimed for tightly coiled but super-pliable corkscrew curls that unfortunately now remind me of a Madame Alexander doll. But from time to time, I see her in the mirror. And she is so beautiful.
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