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Go Curly or Go Home

Usually I do not give the whole New Year’s resolution thing any attention. As a kid, it was always filled with empty promises of being nicer to my family or working harder in school. Within a few days, the seemingly heartfelt promises made during the sugar rush and excitement of being able to stay up way past my bed time were completely forgotten, as I settled back in to being the person I was the year before. Eventually I tired of the pattern and took pride in my defiance to follow the foolish trend of making empty promises that never were fulfilled. The last few years celebrating New Year’s Eve all together had lost its sparkle. After a week of traveling family to family, in a sleepless caffeinated haze, by the time December 31st comes, I’m too settled into my pj’s under a heavy comforter to even acknowledge the year coming to an end.

Last year, I decided to finally admit that there is something fun and exciting about setting a year-long goal. I really did like the challenge, and if it was something I actually wanted to do, my success rate would be higher. Because honestly my resistance to make New Year’s resolutions was more me hating the guilt that followed with not upholding my resolution, than defiance against our culture. It was not hard to decide what my New Year’s resolution would be. I think my desire to tackle this seemingly impossible task led to me using the safe confines of a New Year’s resolution to take on the challenge. If you give up on a New Year’s resolution, no one is really disappointed in you because they have a list of resolutions long forgotten by March. It was perfect.

My 2013 New Year’s Resolution: Learn to embrace and care for my naturally curly hair.

This may not seem like much unless you, dear reader, also have been blessed with the force that is curly hair. Despite having curly hair for all 26 years of my life, I had no idea how to tame my curls just enough to let them be free in all their curly glory. Growing up, my mom was always teasing, ironing, spraying, brushing, yanking, snipping, and forcing her hair into submission with baskets of products to achieve the latest trendy hairstyle. On TV in the ’90s, hair was long straight locks attached to the pretty popular girls named Kelly. Rarely did the trends involve curly hair, except that glorious time in 1990 when Julia Roberts removed a hideous blond wig to reveal a cascade of curls she would toss carelessly throughout Pretty Woman and leading to a single flicker of hope that curly hair is not just for heavy metal lead singers or Bob Ross. She gave me hope that you could be curly and gorgeous. A hope that faded as I grew older.

My own hair was often wrestled into a french braid or a pony tail surrounded by a halo of frizz. I hated my hair and because I was going through those overly dramatic teenage years, hating my hair meant I hated my life because my hair ruined it.

Going to the salon only made things worse. Time after time I would sit down in the chair to hear gasps or astonished remarks at how much hair I had. (Because I was unaware of its magnitude every morning when I was faced with the epic battle of fighting it into some sort of style worthy enough to avoid a “You couldn’t brush your hair this morning?” from my dad as I got into the car to go to school.) Then they would ensure me they would straighten my hair like it had never been straightened before. Usually this resulted in me leaving with a weird white girl afro looking more like Bob Ross than Julia Roberts. Except one time when I let my hair be curly while playing an angel in the Christmas pageant, I never received encouragement to continue to wear it curly. I also was never able to recreate what I later decided had to be a divine miracle of those pretty curls I was graced with, during the pageant. All I could ever get was a tangled mess of frizzy knots that looked to be hiding small animals.

Eventually I sort of figured it out. With enough patience and the advances made in straight iron technology, I could achieve what appeared to be straight locks. As long as the wind did not blow, nothing touched my hair, it did not rain, become too humid, or if the amount of moisture did not rise above 0% while the moons of Saturn were perfectly aligned with the stars in Orion’s belt, my hair looked presentable. The slightest shift in the atmosphere and my hair was a disaster. I tried cutting it all off and that just made the curls worse and my locks were not long enough to tame with bobby pins and hair ties. Long hair often forced into a french braid now made famous by Katniss Everdeen became my go to style.

It was time for a change, I was tired of the battle. My husband and I are starting to seriously think about having kids, kids that may inherit my curls. The last thing I would ever want is for my girls to go through the same hopeless journey of resenting their unmanageable hair while I re-enforced their curly helplessness with my own. I also was tired of waking up every day to battle my hair, there had to be a way for us to all get along.

The first thing I did was read Curly Girl: The Handbook, by the fabulous and curly Lorraine Massey. If you have curly hair YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. It has, and rightfully so, been called the curly manifesto. It changed my life and how I looked at my curls. After a year of fighting the urge to straighten my locks or cut them all off when I thought I’d never figure it out, I finally have a handle on my curls. I get them, I know how to sweetly bribe them into doing what I want them to do. My life is no longer ruined because of my curls.

Here are my cliff notes and points, I believe, are not stressed enough to those wanting to embrace their curls:

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