I Chemically Straightened My Hair Because My Family Was Ashamed

Parenting and the illusion of reprieve.

man with beard pointing Roquillo Tebar/ Shutterstock

"Scientifically handsome" is what most anthropologists might call me.

I'm not vain because there is no need to be vain when you are, well, as scientists put it (and not me, of course), handsome.

So it's easy for me to know I won’t use Rogaine to regrow balding spots if I lose some of my hair, which I doubt I will because I was blessed with a beautiful mane — curly, out of control, and unwieldy but beautiful.


My hair is going white faster than the mountains in Bozeman, Montana, at the beginning of winter. And still, I’m not worried about that, and I won’t be using Just for Men to hide my gray hairs.

RELATED: 20 Very Important Habits Of People Who Age Extremely Well

If my past is any evidence of my future, then I will be an even more handsome silver fox version of my current self.


I saw my grandfather in his early sixties dye his hair for his second wedding, and as much as I love him, I can’t lie. He looked ridiculous. He looked like a 6'2 scoop of ice cream with a radioactive hazelnut wig.

Colombia, like many other South American countries where plastic surgery is cheap, culturally condones and approves cosmetic enhancements.

I saw women in my family getting face tucks, neck tucks, and tummy tucks. There were boob jobs, nose jobs, and butt jobs. There were hair implants, Botox, and fillers.

It confused me because I didn’t see the point in any of that. The women in my family were all beautiful to me as is. I loved them, and I wished they would’ve accepted themselves for who they were and how they looked.


I decided early on in my life that I’d accept my aging, whether gracefully or ungracefully, without resorting to any artifices to hold on to my youth or hide the devastation of aging.

Now, I didn’t come to this realization as early as I’d like you to believe.

In my teenage years, I was still very gullible and insecure, and I let my mom convince me that my thick, unruly hair, which became frizzy in the humidity of Colombian’s Caribbean Coast, was not the "right" hair, and that I should do anything in my power to have the beautiful luscious straight hair my sister had.

My hair brought shame upon my family. It reflected poorly on them and the possibility that there might be some African blood in our lineage.


Our African lineage, to my mom’s dismay on my last check of the Ancestry app, is now as high as seven percent, which is much higher than my wandering Jew roots which she is proud of because of her haggling skills.

Once I subjected myself and my hair to an afternoon of chemical straightening — a fact I hid from all of my friends at my all-boy high school — I knew I would have to lie when they asked about my new Fabio-style mane.

"Oh, this old thing? My hair has always been like this."

As it turned out, I didn’t have to lie because my attempt had very unsuccessful results. My hair protested by slinking back to its natural state after only two "good hair" days, and it was back to its unruly self by the time I had to go back to school on Monday.


I knew then I wouldn’t subject myself to more treatments like that.

Since then I have limited my self-care goop-style madness, like starving myself without breakfast, 30 supplement tablets a day, and cold showers in the morning (spitting on my ancestor’s memory and the advancement of the heated water tank.)

But I’m not here to talk about my self-care routine or my ancestors, I’m here to talk about my Herculean and manly appeal. Why am I talking about my Herculean and manly appeal?

(Oh, come on, guys. You know I’m only joking. I’m not conceited. I am, however, handsome, smart, a great conversationalist … and an amazing cook. But it is all coming from a humble place, so I’m not conceited at all.)


I’m talking about my looks because I am once more having to come to terms with my aging and how it wants to play out.

I should be so lucky to age to be an old man when many men and women get struck down by randomness and fate early on in their lives. However I age, I welcome it because aging means that at least I’m still alive — and that’s always a good thing.

RELATED: 11-Year-Old Boy Encourages Black Kids To Embrace Their Natural Hair In His New Book 'Me And My Afro'

It does feel, however, that aging is happening twice as fast now that I’m a parent.

For example, the other day I was waiting to board a plane, so I was just standing there when I felt a ligament snap in two. Whatever part it was, it immediately felt like someone was holding a cigar torch lighter on this part of my body I had never felt before.


There is no name for it, I don’t think. It was a muscle or a ligament that started adjacent to my balls (or ball-adjacent in science lingo), circumvented my butt, then went starting north to end parallel to my a** dimple. If you don’t know know what an a** dimple is, you are in for the only biology lesson that is worth talking about.

When you are a fetus and are being worked on by the mother’s body, something strange happens when the construction workers get to the butt. The construction workers are not great at reading blueprints, but this hole is critical so they proceed because they are on a tight nine-month completion timeline.

They have started digging in the wrong place. Finally, a project manager catches a mistake and informs the crew that this septic manhole needs to be moved further down the road.

"What should we do with this hole we started on?"


"Leave it! It will be the next owner’s problem. Maybe he can put a clothing tarp over it, and nobody will have to see it."

So the journeymen move on, leaving an indentation high up between your butt cheeks that serves no purpose other than to talk about it in a personal essay.

Yeah, that’s the muscle that went out. In forty years of existence, I was blissfully unaware of the existence of this muscle.

When I told my wife this, she said, "I didn’t know you had a muscle there," which I took to mean that I hadn’t worked out in a while and that what I sprained was just flab.

There is a popular clip going around the internet of Gabor Maté, a physician specializing in trauma, stress, and addiction, explaining how "stay-at-home parent" is one of the most stressful professions in the world outside of first responders and law enforcement.


I can’t help to think here of Bill Burr’s standup special, where he mocks mothers and says how any job that you can do in your pajamas is not the hardest job in the world.

Every parent that has been actively engaging in child-rearing knows that raising kids is an all-consuming task that has to take priority above everything else.

Still, everything else needs to get done because we are functioning adults in a world that expects a lot from us. So we do all that, but because we are raising kids we have to constantly stop and start and respond to the immediate demands of children, which can be very exhausting for focus, concentration, and energy.

Bill Burr’s bit is funny, but what he doesn’t get (as people without kids often miss) is not that parents can do their job in their PJs, but that parents don’t get an option.


It can be all-consuming — especially in the toddler years — so changing into adult clothes, taking a shower, and sometimes even brushing your teeth come second to keeping your kid alive.

RELATED: Sorry, But Being A Stay-At-Home Mom Is Not A Job

Then there's the illusion of reprieve.

Parents are always hoping for that moment when things will level up, when there are not that many events to go to, when there are not that many viruses to deal with, and when there is a resemblance of a sleep schedule. 

Sadly, they come to realize that the challenges never go away, they just transform with the stages because the truth is that once our kids are born, the drive to keep them safe (and the anxiety over their safety) is forever imprinted into us.


If we come to appreciate parenting as an act of growth and development, we can also see that parenting is a microcosm for business, education, and life in general.

The illusion of reprieve permeates every aspect of our lives. We are always hoping for a time when things will slow down, when all of our family is safe and healthy at the same time, when we enjoy the bequest of good fortune and business savviness.

But it takes a while. Fortune and fate are fickle and that it’s okay. It’s better to accept it for what it is and enjoy it as such instead of hoping for a break.


You might sneer that a lot of the things I complain about are self-inflicted, and you would be right. We choose to be actively engaged in our kid’s upbringing without spanking them and with a host of approaches that have come to be known as "kind parenting," which is kind to everyone but the parents.

So yes, I choose that, and I could choose something different, like the many parents that don’t have a choice because they need to have two jobs, and that means leaving their kids at seven in the morning at daycare and picking them up again at seven at night.

Yes, we are fortunate and privileged that my wife can stay home and that I work from home, but that doesn’t make it any easier in the short term.

Just like it's not easier to choose the kale salad with the burlap, I mean quinoa, instead of the deep-fried Krispy Kreme burger or do burpees over burping on your couch.


It is not only beneficial in the long term, we hope, but it can have its benefits right here right now because parenting is soul-crushing and ego-grinding but in a good humbling way.

Because when the task of parenting comes crashing against your established identity as the person who golfs, drinks, or eats out, you will have to make hard choices as to what is important. Likely your identity will shrink to the person who stays home to take care of your kids and spouse.

So it is not that a parent loses themselves but that a parent becomes more selfless and that selflessness is an act of service to our kids.

There is no doubt about it: parenting makes you age faster, which is not a problem for me because. At this rate, I will be the most handsome mummy ever recorded in the history of humanity, or so all anthropologists will say.


RELATED: Being A Work-From-Home Mom Is The Hardest Job In The World

Carlos Garbiras is an award-winning essayist and solo performer sorting out the deeply ingrained neurosis of a topsy-turvy upbringing in Colombia and emigrating to the San Francisco Bay Area. Laugh out quietly while we explore the difficulties, indignities, and absurdities of our modern life.