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

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1104174967 Joni Heylens

    What a rude salesgirl! I think your curls look great! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/alyssa.day Alyssa Day

    I have very straight hair that is so boring and hard to style any other way than flat and down, so I am always shocked when I hear about people who have had so much trouble with their curly hair. I would kill to have curly hair! I’ll have to take your word for it that it’s a lot harder to manage, but I think curls are way more flattering and way more fun. I guess the grass is always green, right? I am so glad that you have embraced them and stopped giving into that silly “straight is better” thing. My best friend has curly hair thats she’s always complaining about or straightening. I think they are so beautiful (with or without product), and I hope that she has a revelation like you did and embraces her hair. Straight hair is just different, not better 😀

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      I’ve noticed that girls with really straight hair struggle a lot, even if it’s just to put their hair in a ponytail. I guess we all want what we can’t have!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1275845282 Catherine Lee Gooding

    Lemon removes frizz?!?!?

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      It acts like hairspray and makes your hair stiff. Don’t try it, it’s messy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1847026928 Sarah Moore

    Thank you so much for this! From one curly haired girl to another! <3

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      Curl Power! <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1847026928 Sarah Moore

    Thanks so much for this! From one curly haired girl to another <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/javacia Javacia Harris Bowser

    It is NOT shallow to talk about hair, especially for us curly girls and especially for women of color. In the past few years a movement has begun in the African American community with women embracing their natural hair and deciding to stop getting relaxers. It’s not superficial or shallow because it leads to overall self-acceptance and is a great way to build community.

    Your story is so similar to mine, which is a good reminder that the connections made through the natural hair community can cross color lines. I started wearing my hair curly about a decade ago. Nowadays, I flat iron my hair a couple times a year and when I do I have several people ask, “Well, why don’t you just wear your hair like that all the time?” Just as you did, I respond, “Because I like my curls!!” It’s amazing how rude and stupid people can be.

    Thanks for this great article!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      Yes! When I was looking at potential hair styles, I kept seeing pictures of Sophie Okonedo and her curls. I think seeing her hair pushed me into the right direction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shelleybrook Shelley Gibson

    I love your hair, and I love your confidence! Good thing you accepted your lovely locks before the chemical-filled blow-outs became an option. I personally, have wavy, frizzy, fluffy, intangible hair: neither curly or straight. Oh how I wish for either or, but I am also happy with my fluffy mess. I’m trying to bring back what Laraine Newman rocked on SNL so many many years ago!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      I didn’t mention this in the article, but the last time I got a haircut, one of the hairdressers told me very bluntly “You need a Brazilian Blowout” and I was about 80% convinced to do it…I’m glad I didn’t. Spreading the CURL POWER!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=726180493 Talia Thiesfield

    YES! I love this post! I think your recent appreciation of your curls is amazing…keep it going! From one churly chick to another, ROCK those sassy spirals! It’s what makes you unique!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      SASSY SPIRALS! I love that! Thank you <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/mnicolassanchez Mireia Nicolas

    Curls are beautiful! The girl with the best hair I have ever seen is a girl with curly, black locks that went down to her mid-back. Never have I seen a better hair. Have fun!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      That’s what I’m aiming for, long black curls…sort of like the villain in Tangled!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502082169 María Pd Gz

    Wow! You’ve just told the story of my life… seriously!! I´ve got long black hair full of ringlets and it gave me a really bad time in high school too because I did’n know what to do with it. I tried my best to straighten it (with a hair dryer and a round brush – of course all the effort was almost useless) and I always ended up wearing an ugly, frizzy ponytail. Then I met the mousse and I was happy… but I got tired in a few years because – as you say- curls are underrated here in Spain too… so I went mad, I bought a GHD and I cut my hair and got bangs. I’ve started to iron my hair almost every day for a year and when I got tired and I wanted my curls they weren’t there anymore… It’s said that you don’t know what you have till it’s gone, and that’s a huge truth… For three years I looked like a scarecrow because my hair didn’t curl and I didn’t wanted to straighten it again. Luckily that’s past history… but now I know that I want my curls exactly as they look: beautiful and, above all, HEALTHY.
    And no… friends don’t always help… A shade of jealousy maybe?

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      I also straightened my hair to death and thought that I’d ruined my curls forever. Once I stopped flat ironing, they slowly came back to life. You’ll get yours back, sending CURL POWER your way!

  • http://www.facebook.com/mayataylor Maya Alexis

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the confidence you have to have when you wear the brightest of lipsticks is the same same when you have the curliest of curls. You grow into it and eventually love it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      Now that I’ve grown to love my hair, the perfect shade of red lipstick is next!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bonnie.gail Bonnie Birdsell Williams

    THIS! I have curly red hair and have fought my whole life against looking like Little Orphan Annie. Finally in college I embraced my big hair, usually wearing it just past shoulder-length and curly and like Julia Roberts big (I was a music major–I had a bit of a diva thing going on). One day I think I had unexpected extra time in the morning and the humidity was low, so I straightened my hair just for fun. A friend of mine came up to me, hugged me, and said, “Look at yourself! You should never wear your hair ANY OTHER WAY THAN HOW IT LOOKS RIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT!”

    *confidencesmash*

    Luckily I’ve just accepted over time that my hair works best, looks healthiest, and is just plain more cooperative in its natural, crazy state. Thank you for this post!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      First of all, I LOVE RED HAIR, I bet yours is gorgeous! I spent most of my teen years bleaching my hair and dying it red so that it resembled Shirley Manson’s hair. Although straight hair looks nice, the wild look is far more interesting!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1239780230 Brit Bulens

    I had the exactly same problem!! I have curly blonde hair and I straightened or wore it up every day untiil I was 22! My roommate saw it down and told me I should totally rock my curls and I have been ever since! What a nightmare it was until that point! love this!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      You have beautiful hair!

  • http://www.facebook.com/samantha.vasquez3 Samantha Ray Vasquez

    I also went through something like this. I hated my hair. I wore it long short nothing ever looked right until I embraced my curls, and loved them for the beautiful locks God blessed me with. Now I laugh at how crazy I would get over my hair. Good to see others loving their curls!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      I cried over my hair a few times, so over that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.welsch Sarah Welsch

    Its all about the grass is greener thing. I have 4, yes 4 curling irons of different sizes to try to make my hair look beautiful curly. My hair is so straight that it doesnt hold a curl no matter what product i use.So i do what you do, i put it in a pony tail cause im tired or wearing it straight lol.

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      If it makes you feel better, girls with straight hair have the BEST bangs!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chikachocobo Atika Che Omar

    I LOVE this post. it totally relates to me, how i felt about my hair, and how i feel about it now. and heyyyy, your curls are lovely!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=530634528 Azizah Masoet

    I love your post. I also have curly hair so I can totally relate. I even got told once that my hair is untidy!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      I get told sometimes my hair is too big so I respond with, “It’s not big ENOUGH!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/meredith.larrabee Meredith Larrabee

    I too, LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. Thank you for posting it! I fought against my curls until I was probably 21 and then realized it’s too much energy. Like you said, when I started wearing it down and curly, I started getting compliments all the time! So many people would kill for beautiful curls, but they are still somehow unacceptable as a standard of beauty.

    I just recently started getting my hair cut at a salon that specializes in curly hair. They are Deva certified and use Deva products, which I’ve started using and I LOVE the way they make my curls look. I also read the Curly Girl Handbook by Lorraine Massey one time while I was at the salon and I HIGHLY recommend it. It has great info, testimonials that I really connected with (some even made me tear up a little… yikes!) and some helpful instructions and recipes.

    It sounds like I am advertising for them but I’m not! I just feel like I’ve had my own little curly hair revolution this past year! Thanks for posting this because us curly girls need to support each other as much as we can!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      A friend just turned me on to the Curly Girl Handbook and I’m ordering a copy for myself!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1058942226 Jody Reed McDonough

    Myrna, You’ve just told MY story too! When I was a little girl, I found out that there was a character named ‘Frieda,’ the girl with naturally curly hair, in the Charlie Brown movies. Ever since then, I’ve embraced my natural curls. I’ll admit some days my hair looks like a mangrove tree and frustrates me to no end (especially in this midwestern humidity)! But for the most part, it’s who I am and have been for 45 years. So glad to know there are so many of us out there! By the way, Avon has a GREAT product called Advanced Techniques-Frizz Control, Lotus Shield, for ALL hair types. It’s the first product I’ve used that actually manages to de-frizz my hair! Keep being who you are – curly hair and all!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/girleastlikely2 Myrna Valadez

      I’ll give the Avon frizz control a try, but I bought the MARK (avon brand too) and it was horrible! I won’t hold it against them thought so I’ll try it, thanks for the info!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1058942226 Jody Reed McDonough

    Myrna, You’ve just told MY story too! When I was a little girl, I found out that there was a character named ‘Frieda,’ the girl with naturally curly hair, in the Charlie Brown movies. Ever since then, I’ve embraced my natural curls. I’ll admit some days my hair looks like a mangrove tree and frustrates me to no end (especially in this midwestern humidity)! But for the most part, it’s who I am and have been for 45 years. So glad to know there are so many of us out there! By the way, Avon has a GREAT product called Advanced Techniques-Frizz Control, Lotus Shield, for ALL hair types. It’s the first product I’ve used that actually manages to de-frizz my hair!

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