A woman’s hair is part of her identity. It’s a form of expression, not just a physical characteristic.
Hair is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Growing up, my friends had gorgeous, straight hair, and jealous was an understatement. They rocked the blunt, nineties bangs that I didn’t DARE attempt. I, on the other hand, was blessed with awkward curls and finger waves.
No one in my family knew how to help me properly care for or style my hair because I was the only one with hair like mine.
Once I hit puberty, my hair took on a life of its own, and I was on my own. There were no how-to YouTube videos, no flat irons, no trendy “beachy” waves. It was long past my childhood before I ever figured out that you’re not supposed to actually “brush” hair like mine. I had resorted to throwing it back in a scrunchie for the better part of my childhood and adolescence.
When I was sixteen, I finally had enough. I went through a terrible breakup (yes, as sixteen-year-olds go, this was as bad as it gets), and I was ready for a drastic change. I booked an appointment at an upscale salon thinking they would know how to help transform me. I told the hairstylist I was ready for a big change and to chop it all off to my chin. He took one look at me and said, “Sweetie, if I do that, you’re just going to throw it back in this nasty old scrunchie again … right?” I nodded, accepting defeat.
He said, “Let’s do something even bolder. Let’s go … Winona.” (As in “Girl Interrupted” Winona Ryder.) My sixteen-year-old, angsty self said, “Screw it. Let’s do it!”
I was freed from the curls.
I absolutely adored it … my strict father, not so much. I was a pixie; a Pat Benetar look-alike and felt more like myself than I ever had with absolutely no hair. I loved this low-maintenance, spunky look as a teen.
As I grew into adulthood, though, I was yearning for a softer, more mature look but terrified of starting to grow my hair out. Every time it grew an inch or two, I would chicken out thinking, “There’s no way I can stomach a Little Orphan Annie stage at twenty years old!” Then, the most magical, glorious thing happened. Flat irons hit the market! I fell head over heels for my Helen of Troy flat iron. As my hair grew out, I was able to straighten it the way I had always fantasized about. For years, I kept my hair like this; painstakingly straightening layer by layer. If I ever wore it curly, it was usually an act of laziness, and I certainly didn’t know how to properly style it.
Years later, when my husband and I pictured our future children, we imagined we would have a girl first. We thought she would look exactly like me and have my wild curls. We even nicknamed this child who hadn’t been conceived yet by calling her “Lil’ Curly.” We had a girl all right but because Mother Nature likes to play cruel jokes on us, she was the spitting image of my husband … bone-straight hair and all. She got the exact hair I envied all those years ago. I would run my fingers through her silky blonde hair and constantly tell her how I always wished I had hair like hers. Then, I had an epiphany. While I thought I was complimenting my daughter, I was slowly planting the seed of her own self-worth.
How is she supposed to accept her appearance the way she was born, if I’m always wishing I looked like someone else?
I slowly started to change the way I spoke to her about her physical appearance. As her mother, I’ll always be in awe of her beauty. Now, I try to do it in a way that emphasizes all the other traits that I love about her, too. She’s a kind friend, compassionate, thoughtful, and that’s the stuff that really matters.
I also made it my mission to work on myself, too.
I was determined to figure out a way to appreciate and roll with my curls. I combed through Pinterest and YouTube tutorials on how to properly care for curly hair. I finally landed on a bold and feminine style I thought would flatter me. My flat-iron now collects dust in the bottom of my bathroom drawer, and I am more confident in my appearance.
Ironically, our son is the one that inherited my curls. I think they suit him just right, and he’s perfect the way he is. We got our Lil’ Curly after all…