The Curl Conundrum

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I was born with very curly hair, very curly hair. As a kid it was cute. My mom had a blast combing my hair into pigtails and twirling my hair so that I ended up with two giant curls on each side of my head (think a Mexican version of Cindy Brady). I always hated my curls. I thought it was unfair that my mom had to put lemon (yes, lemon) in my hair to control the frizz and that I always had to wear my hair up.

It wasn’t until I started high school that I began to take a good look at my hair. The feeling was stronger than ever, I hated my hair. At the time, “The Rachel” was really in and I was walking around looking like Dee Snider caught in a windstorm. So I did what any impulsive fourteen-year-old would do, I decided cut it all off. I wanted to go from having my hair a few inches above my waist to chin length hair. Convinced it would be easier to manage, I sucked it up and cut it all off, went home and cried in the privacy of my own room. I assured myself this was the biggest mistake I had ever made in my life (little did I know that I would make much larger and idiotic mistakes later on) and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I went from looking like Dee Snider to Kramer from Seinfeld.

After much experimenting, I began to blow dry my hair (this was before the flat iron revolution) and I managed to style my hair into a puffy bob, much like a 1980’s news anchor. My new hair had been out of style for ten years before it ever made it to my head. I resigned myself to having mediocre hair for the rest of my life. When I got a flat iron years later, things looked up but with all of the hair I have and intensity of my curls, it was a lot of work. I ended up wearing my hair up once again, and that’s just the way it was going to be forever.

About a year ago, I stepped on my very reliable and fancy flat iron and broke it in two. I was broke at the time so I couldn’t just go out and get another one and the cheaper flat irons sold in drug stores just made my hair look like straw.  After my initial panic, I realized it wasn’t a problem…until I wanted to go out. I don’t like wearing my hair up when going out because I feel like I didn’t make an effort to look nice so I wracked my brain for days thinking of what I could possibly do with my hair when I needed to go out for an evening. I finally just told myself: Myrna, stop being a jackass. Stop working against your curls and give them a chance. What’s the worse that could happen?

 So began the endless immersion into product testing. I bought everything I could think of for curly hair: gels, leave-in conditioners, pomades, mousse, curl activators and serums. It took about four months to find a combination of products that worked with my hair and to learn how to comb my hair. At the age of 28,  I was learning to comb my own hair all over again.

One fateful afternoon, I was walking through the mall with my sister. We both had our hair down, mine in full curl form and hers with a slight wave. We walked by a booth and a salesgirl called over to us. I looked at the display, and thought to myself, I don’t want to buy a flat iron so I was ready to walk away. The salesgirl approached me and asked, “How often do you flat iron your hair?” I replied simply, “ I don’t.” In my mind, the scenario I expected was one where she would understand from my reply that I’m not interested in a flat iron. Instead, there was a look of horror that washed over her face. She exclaimed, “WHY?!” and I was instantly offended and a little hurt.

Was I not supposed to like my hair? Did it not look good enough? Is there something wrong with curls? I was also surprised at my own reaction. I put on an angry face and proclaimed in an annoyed tone, “BECAUSE I LIKE MY CURLS!” At that very moment, I realized I meant it and it was such a relief. Years of torturing myself (and you know it is torture to have to flat iron your own hair, I have the scars to prove it) and my hair were about to end and it felt great. From that moment on, I made it a point to wear my curls as often as possible until I was comfortable enough to make it “my look.”

I know it seems a little shallow to talk about hair, but when hair is a constant reminder of how different I am, I naturally became a little self-conscious. It’s been over a year since I last flat ironed my hair and started to wear it in its natural state. I’ve received a lot of compliments (I’ve been told my hair looks healthier and that I look younger) and a lot of criticism. One of my closest friends said, “I just don’t like curly hair.” Although comments like these still sting a little, I’ve learned that the standards of beauty are different for everyone and there is no criteria I need to meet to feel beautiful. I can’t control how people react to my hair so there is no point in stressing myself out over it. What I can control is how I view myself. It took almost 30 years to learn to appreciate and to love my hair and I’m especially glad that I have finally gained the confidence to wear my curls even if the majority of people tend to find straight hair far more appealing.

Featured image provided by thedailynewsonline.com

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