Majoring in Curls  
 
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Being home from college for the summer can be slightly tedious, especially when you have a job that doesn’t require you to be an early riser. Unfortunately. I’m one of those crazy people who gets up at the crack of dawn and doesn’t have to be at work until the afternoon. So what do I do with all my time? I cook. Most of the time I bake, but when I decide to cook a vegetable casserole or stew, I need my herbs. And don’t even get me started on the dried ones that come from the store. Yes, they’ll do in a pinch but things taste (and smell) so much better with fresh herbs.

That got me thinking about how much herbs benefit us. We use them in cooking, of course, but they also have huge medicinal potential as well as aromatherapy benefits. They can be taken internally as teas, or externally as rubs or rinses.

I started looking at the ingredient lists on my hair products. More often that not, I found one -- and sometimes a handful of different herbs were listed. I decided to do a little research to figure out the hair benefits of some of these herbs. There are way too many to go into detail (probably a book’s worth), so I chose three of my all-around favorites: basil, rosemary, and lavender.

I was surprised to find out that they’re all part of the mint family, despite their very unique scents. Because of this, they all tend to be refreshing and invigorating for the skin and hair. Historically, all three were considered aphrodisiacs. Married women would wear sprigs of basil in their hair to entice and arouse their husbands. Upper-class women once combined lavender and basil in a pomade and combed it through their hair. Forget the Chanel No. 5.

Basil is one of my favorite herbs of all time. The scent alone does wonders for me. I can’t resist sticking my nose in bunches of it whenever I go to the grocery store. Basil adds shine to the hair when it's used as a rinse. When combined with rosemary, it can be used as a color treatment for brunettes, or with chamomile for blondes.

When I was younger, I visited the library at least once a week. I was that slightly geeky little girl with the glasses who checked out 10 or 15 books at a time. It really didn’t matter what I was reading, how old it was, or whether or not I even liked it. I just blazed through books with a freakish speed.

Now that I’m in college, there’s not as much time for speed reading. Most of my reading is for class. But the assigned books aren’t usually so bad. I love reading Victorian literature and romantic poetry, especially Charles Dickens, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Bronte.

I don’t know about you curlies, but if I had a nickel for every time somebody quoted the poem “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead,” I’d be rich. This is probably the most well-known literary reference to curls just because it’s easy to remember. But I got to thinking about where else curls pop up in books and rhymes, and came up with several.
One of my favorites is the chapter in Louisa May Alcott’s "Little Women" where Meg and Jo get ready for a ball and Meg recruits Jo to curl her hair, with disastrous results.

"Simple as the toilets were, there was a great deal of running up and down, laughing and talking, and at one time a strong smell of burned hair pervaded the house. Meg wanted a few curls about her face, and Jo undertook to pinch the papered locks with a pair of hot tongs.

" 'Ought they to smoke like that?' asked Beth from her perch on the bed.
"It's the dampness drying," replied Jo.

" 'What a queer smell! It's like burned feathers,' observed Amy, smoothing her own pretty curls with a superior air.

" 'There, now I'll take off the papers and you'll see a cloud of little ringlets,' said Jo, putting down the tongs.

"She did take off the papers, but no cloud of ringlets appeared, for the hair came with the papers, and the horrified hairdresser laid a row of little scorched bundles on the bureau before her victim.

'Oh, oh, oh! What have you done? I'm spoiled! I can't go! My hair, oh, my hair!' wailed Meg, looking with despair at the uneven frizzle on her forehead."

I think any of us modern-day curlies can relate to hairdos gone completely wrong, but things always turn out better in the end. I won’t spoil the whole book, but thankfully Meg’s look was successfully achieved.

One of my all-time favorite books is "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte. Jane is a plain girl who doesn’t think much of her appearance and ends up marrying a man not particularly handsome himself. This excerpt comes from the beginning of the book when Jane is a young school girl. The man talking is the proprietor of Lowood, the school, and you can guess how these people felt about vanity.

" 'Miss Temple, Miss Temple, what is that girl with curled hair? Red hair, ma'am, curled -- curled all over?' And extending his cane, he pointed to the awful object, his hand shaking as he did so.

" ' It is Julia Severn,' replied Miss Temple, very quietly.

" 'Julia Severn, ma'am! And why has she, or any other, curled hair? Why, in defiance of every precept and principle of this house, does she conform to the world so openly -- here in an evangelical, charitable establishment -- as to wear her hair one mass of curls?'

" 'Julia's hair curls naturally'" returned Miss Temple, still more quietly.

" 'Naturally! Yes, but we are not to conform to nature; I wish these girls to be the children of Grace: and why that abundance? I have again and again intimated that I desire the hair to be arranged closely, modestly, plainly. Miss Temple, that girl's hair must be cut off entirely; I will send a barber tomorrow, and I see others who have far too much of the excrescence -- that tall girl, tell her to turn round.' "

Later in the book, Jane revisits the subject of curls when she paints a portrait of Rosamund Oliver, a beautiful friend of the family.

" 'Would I sketch a portrait of her, to show to papa?' 'With pleasure,' I replied; and I felt a thrill of artist delight at the idea of copying from so perfect and radiant a model. She had then on a dark-blue silk dress; her arms and her neck were bare; her only ornament was her chestnut tresses, which waved over her shoulders with all the wild grace of natural curls. I took a sheet of fine cardboard, and drew a careful outline. I promised myself the pleasure of colouring it; and, as it was getting late then, I told her she must come and sit another day."

Even Will Shakespeare had something to say on the subject of curls. Curls have always been seen as romantic, and are often associated with love and beauty. This reference is from Sonnet 12.

"When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves."

Even though they made seem a little boring and old-fashioned, give the classics a chance. You'll get a chance to see how much curls were valued throughout history.