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*In relationships, we sometimes get to the point that we feel we know everything there is to know about someone, or that they know everything there is to know about us. It gets more and more difficult to remember some of those little things that make us who we are. Things Mr. P. Doesn’t Know About Me is a recurring feature in which I share some of the little (and not so little) things that have simply never come up in conversation or seemed important enough to tell. They can be few and far between, as I am by nature a “talker” and share quite a bit, but when I do have one, rest assured, it’s a good one.

No, not the killer legs (but a girl can dream, can’t she?). I’m not a rock singer. I’ve never been in a physically or mentally abusive relationship. I’m not buddhist. I’m not a Private Dancer. I Don’t Wanna Fight No More, but that’s not what Tina and I have in common, either.

The thing that Tina and I have in common, according to the movie version of her life, anyway, is that we both had our hair fall out because someone didn’t know what they were doing. Now, my hair didn’t fall out because I got a perm or relaxer (as you may be aware, my hair has never been chemically treated), but there was definitely someone involved who did not know what they were doing.

It all started in with an overnight stay in a hotel room before a cheerleading competition (yes, I was a cheerleader. That’s for another TMPDKAM). I was about nine or ten years old. All of the girls were going to wear their hair the same way, in a ponytail geled into place with black gel, dried under a hair dryer. No one had done my hair up to this point except my mom and maybe an aunt I was visiting, and I didn’t really want this cheerleading coach to do my hair. She knew nothing about the texture or how to treat it. But she insisted, and as I wanted to fit in, I went along with it.

She washed my hair (completely unnecessarily), then plied it with black hair gel without blowdrying it out. I was stuck under an excessively hot hair dryer for an inordinate amount of time, until the hair was thick and packed to my head. It felt like a brick wall. My mother was going to kill me.

In order for you to understand the ramifications of this, a word about my hair. At the time, my hair was past where my training bra snapped together. I’d always had fair hair, not really “good”, but a wash and blow dry would leave it nearly as straight as a straightening comb or relaxer. It would puff in humidity, of course, but the humidity in Michigan was never that bad.

I loved that long glossy black hair. I swung it around my head like a shampoo commercial. People always wanted to touch it. They wondered if it were real or what my mother did to it. It was hair to envy, if you were going to envy hair.

The thing is, it’s thirsty hair, hair that needs constant moisture. My mother greased my scalp everyday and used moisture rich shampoos and plenty of conditioner. With the application of some hotel shampoo and water, my hair drew up and dried out. When my hair dries out, it’s a tangled up, strawlike, frail mess. Gel dries my hair out (counterintuitive, but true). The combination of subpar shampoo, not blow drying with a comb, not greasing my scalp, putting gel in my hair, and applying too much heat spelled disaster. The tangles clumped together with the aid of the gel, and what wasn’t a tangled mess dried to the consistency of straw. By the time my mother washed out what she could, the rest of the matted mess had to be combed out. By the time all the clumps of dried gel filled with my hair had been removed, and the severely split ends had fallen out, my hair was now just below my ears.

One of the worse moments of my young life was realizing so much of my hair was gone (that goes to show you how blessed my childhood was). My hair had been my glory, the one feature I had that I’d always loved. I had hid behind my hair, made myself exotic with my hair, been admired for my hair. Now I had limp, weak, barely holding on hair. What was I to do?

After intensive years of braiding my hair, shampooing and deep conditioning, slowly cutting split ends, and greasing my scalp, the hair grew back enough for me to feel comfortable wearing it down. But it took me a long time to trust anyone else to do my hair. I still rarely wear it down, and when I do, I’ve usually spent hours doing it myself. I don’t put chemicals in my hair. I read up on and keep up with my own hair. It’s hard for me to trust people to do it without messing it up or making it fall out. I need hairapy, y’all.

My hair is almost as long as it used to be. Luckily, I have the sort of genes where I can grow long, healthy hair and I learned how to care for it myself. Except for a hairdresser I met in Indiana, no one else has done my hair for me more than a few times. That stylist, at Onyx in Lafayette, Indiana, was the only one besides my mother that I let clip my ends (hence why they need to be clipped now). I get paranoid with people having scissors or clippers by my head (hence why my kitchen is out of order back there).

So if you’ve ever wondered about why my hair is rarely down, why it’s almost never professionally done, why I seem so protective of it, now you know.