Most of my life I wondered what was wrong with me. I remember being a little girl and questioning what was different about me. When I was five years old, my mom told me that I was adopted and that I was “special.” Oddly though, I never felt special. In fact, I felt anything but special.
My mom did not look like any of my friend’s moms and my brother and I were sometimes embarrassed how she stuck out in a crowd. What always caught peoples’ attention was her hair. She went to the beauty shop every week for what is now going on almost 60 years; to the same hair dresser! My mom would not ride a bike, go for walks, or swim in our pool, because of her hair. Her hair was wrapped every night with toilet paper and adorned with some sort of supportive device, whether it be a scarf or hairnet. Friday nights at our house were spent washing and setting her hair pieces. Saturday was her big day. Her life, our life, revolved around her hair.
Until lately, at 55 years old, I look back and remember how I hated my hair set the night before school picture day and then teased and sprayed before I left for school in the morning. I was the only girl in my entire elementary school that had a bouffant hairdo. I did not want anyone to see me. I did not raise my hand to participate in classroom discussion. I clung to the walls so that I did not attract any more attention to myself. I was provided with the finest of clothing for picture day too. Matching skirts and blouses with fancy collars, while my classmates wore pants, jeans, shorts; whatever they were comfortable and their hair was their every day hair.
For my hair to be picture ready, I endured endless screaming matches and hair pulling. I was hoisted up on to the washing machine and my head dangled over the laundry tub; my mom’s hand the only support for my neck. My mom scrubbed and scrubbed my hair and I squirmed because it hurt. She told me to “be still”, “be quiet” and called me horrible names because I was resisting to process. After I was upright, I had to sit in a chair while she put two bobby pins in each and every pin curl that covered my scalp. I then had a hair net placed on my head and was put to bed. I dreaded going to school the next morning. To this day, I hate my head touched or washed by my hairdresser. I can imagine how it feels when a doll gets her hair pulled, combed and brushed by a toddler!
Every person in my life who I now suspect was a malignant narcissist has had something to say about my hair. One partner said how much he loved short hair, so I went and had it cut short. He said he liked it even shorter, and I had it cut again. When the relationship ended he told me that he hated short hair and he was just seeing how much control he had over me. It was tough being a people-pleaser. I became one because I was raised to be what other’s wanted so that they looked good. I hated dresses, I hated purses and anklets, I hated hats and gloves. I hated panty hose! I was forced wear them at the expense of my self-esteem. Something must have been wrong with me because what I liked was never good enough for my mother or certain friends, both who are now removed from me emotionally.
As I look back to a recent, long-term relationship that just ended, I can recall being manipulated again. This person also told me how I should wear my hair. I assumed she was trying to make me fashionable, because she was the epitome of fashion (in her mind), so I took her advice. I knew that the look wasn’t me, but obviously, by her standards, my personal style wasn’t good enough. Since this relationship has ended, I have returned my hair to “my style” and have more confidence and feel better about myself. I no longer have to be her mirror.
What does all of this mean? Well, what is more personal to somebody than their hair style? We all have “bad hair” days and when this happens, we don’t feel 100% confident, do we? It seems that narcissists focus on hair which is the crux of our individuality. If they can get us to look like them, we make better mirrors.
My mom and dad would tell me that I was loved more than my friends were loved by their parents and that is why I was so special. In my mom’s eyes I was special because I was her little doll. She could dress me up and fix my hair to her liking and I couldn’t say or do a thing until I became a teenager.