I have a little secret, one I managed to keep from my sorority sisters for nearly four years. I have curly hair. And I’m not talking beachy waves or or Victoria’s Secret model curls – this is the real deal. The type of curls that go boing. Keri Russell during her “Felicity” days.
When I was a kid, I was made fun of for a lot of things…the clothes my mother dressed me in, the fact that I was a klutz, but I was never teased about my hair. Yes, sometimes my friends would throw things to see if they would get stuck (spoiler alert…they would) but I honestly don’t remember being teased about my hair. In fact, one year I got a rather drastic hair cut in the middle of the school year and when I went in the next day, a girl from my class didn’t even recognize me. I started crying because I missed my hair. Yes it was large and usually frizzy from running around, but when I was a kid it was what made me ME.
As I got older, I started hating my hair. It was an absolute nightmare to deal with. No ten or eleven year old knows what to do with her hair, much less if her hair has a mind of its own. Any time I would look in Seventeen or YM (throwback!), I would never see cute hairstyles that would work with my hair. In fact, when they had a special on new haircuts, the “curly” section would show wavy hair that was probably made using a curling iron. It made me so frustrated!!
The day before I started middle school, my hair dresser asked my mom if she could blow dry my hair straight. WHAT? THAT’S A POSSIBILITY??? My mom has stick straight hair, so she had no clue about it either. I left the salon feeling like a completely different person. For the first time in my life, I looked like the girls in the magazine articles! I remember stopping and looking at my reflection in car windows as we walked through the parking lot and literally petting my new soft hair. I couldn’t believe it! After that, every time I got my hair cut I had it blow dried straight. I would even save my allowance so I could go to the salon before school dances and have it blown out. All the tugging hurt like hell, but I loved the end results so much that I would sit in the chair repeating “pain is beauty” in my head the entire time.
In high school, the salon I went to called my house. They had started selling styling tools from a new company and asked my mom if she could bring me down to test out the straightening iron. Now, my mom had tried to buy me straightening irons before, but barely made a dent in my curls. My mom was hesitant, but I begged and pleaded and eventually she said yes. While the hair dresser straightened my hair, she gave me tips and tricks and even let me do a section so I could get the hang of it. My mom was so pleased with the results that she bought it for me as an early birthday present. I was so excited that I could finally straighten my hair at home even though it took HOURS.
From then on, I started planning my schedule around my hair. If I knew I was going to be doing something that might ruin my hair or get it wet, I would try to plan time to re-do my hair that evening. Likewise, I didn’t want to spent hours doing my hair only to go swimming. I definitely didn’t have enough time to straighten it every day for high school, but I still did it often enough to get pissed about a surprise rainstorm. In college, I had much more “free” time and I used that to straighten my hair. I developed a system that cut the time down and eventually bought an even nicer straightener that once my hair was dry brought the whole process down to only about thirty minutes.
After that, my curly hair was a secret. Yes, my friends knew I straightened my hair, but they were not aware of just how curly it was. Whenever anybody would see old pictures of me, they would say things along the lines of “Omigosh, that’s you?” “I didn’t even recognize you!” and “What happened to your hair?”. I could tell that people liked my hair straight, but it wasn’t until I applied for a summer job at a certain clothing store that you probably have in your local mall that anybody came out and said it. When I submitted my application and went for my interview, I had straight hair. The day I went to pick up my schedule, I wore my hair curly. My future manager told me to make sure that I straightened my hair for work so it didn’t look messy.
Unfortunately that wasn’t the only time that I had somebody tell me to straighten my hair. I dated a guy for quite a while who told me that he didn’t like my hair curly and that he thought it was “gross”. I’ve also heard my male friends express their dislike for curly hair and how they’d never date a girl that wore her hair curly. Even though I still wear my hair straight most of the time, I hate when people say that. To me it feels like they’re saying they hate the real me…that I can never be the real me around them.
I wasn’t just getting this message from people I knew…if it was a select few individuals I would probably just say screw it and go find my hair gel. Remember those magazine articles from middle school? How am I supposed to feel when there’s nobody who looks like me? Even going farther back, remember those American Girl dolls that you could order to look like you? My parents had to order me one with straight hair (GT9 in the link if you’re curious) because they didn’t HAVE dolls with curly hair. And in middle school, I learned that in order to go from ugly duckling to beautiful swan, all I would have to do is take off my glasses and straighten my hair. So I didn’t only have the media telling me I couldn’t be fat…nope, I had to figure out what to do with my lion’s mane as well.
Another legitimate issue for me is how to wear my hair to work if I want to wear my hair curly. I have yet to master the art of blow drying my hair into pretty Keri Russell curls…if I go anywhere near a blow dryer with wet hair, I wind up resembling a poodle. My routine in high school was to shower in the morning, throw some gel in it, and run out the door. I can’t go to work with wet hair. And if I shower the night before and lay on those curls, they’ll be crushed and frizzy. The only option I see is showering on Sunday afternoon so my hair has ample time to dry before I go to bed or showering the minute I get home from work…and I continue to be a slave to my hair.
This is what it’s come down to. While I’m still probably way too insecure to wear my hair in it’s natural state, I’d at least like to know how to wear it that way and still look presentable/professional. My hair is fried from being dyed and dried and tugged in every direction. Curly girls of the world, how do you wear your hair? Please, tell me in the comments, even if it’s only to say that you abuse your hair with a hair straightener too.