From My Curls To Yours
I have curly hair. My mother is white and my father is black. My mother did not know how to deal with my biracial African curls. Though, I appreciated her attempts to tame the fro and her patience during the constant hours of picking out my knots. Year after year I’d dread the infamous afro-pic; I’d sit between my mom’s legs while she’d yank and pull at my knots. Even through my constant whimpering and jerking she never gave up.
I grew up in a predominantly white area, attended a predominantly white school, and naturally, had predominantly white friends. I was surrounded by straight hair, tameable hair, hair that didn’t need hours for it to cooperate. I envied them more than I’d admit. Not only was I surrounded by it, I was also taught by television and movies that straight hair was beautiful hair, and that my hair was ugly. I was taught that the hair I was born with was unprofessional. I was taught that my hairstyle was messy.
I learnt to hate my curls. I would spend hours looking in the mirror and hating what I saw. When I was younger I used to chop them off so short that I would be mistaken for a boy; When they grew back I would try my best to squeeze every bit of my hair into a ponytail that I would wear every day, because I didn’t know how else to style it. The day I discovered a straightener I would damage my hair to the point that half of it would be dead and lose its curl. Imagine the smell and sound of burning hair; smoke would come off my hair and it would fall off in chunks. Nonetheless, I carried on straightening. I was so sick of my curls that I even thought about using a clothing iron to compress them.
I tried for years to “fit in” to the standard of hair and failed over and over again. I felt like such an outsider. I believed that I couldn’t be truly confident if my hair was not straight. Now how fucked up is that?
Once I finally gained the confidence to wear it down and natural, I was (and still am) greeted with countless observations:
Ew, your hair is so nappy. Why are you wearing it like that? It’s such a mess. Why don’t you straighten it more? You look better with it straight. Wow, nice hair today. What’s going on there? You look like a guy.
Though through hours of lurking on social media at a surprising amount of natural and curly hair blogs, I had a change of heart. Each of these women looked so confident and stunning, and they lived the struggle of styling hair like mine. I then learned that my hair was beautiful, they were the proof. It’s taken me twenty-one years to appreciate being different. (It has also taken me twenty-one years to fully understand the extent of hair damage). But now, I love my curls. I’ve spent hours surfing the Internet trying to find the right products for my hair, which then led me to spend hundreds of dollars on trial and error attempts for the perfect hairstyle (which I failed a hundred times over — though stayed resilient). Having curly hair is part of my identity, without them I wouldn’t be me.
I would like to point out to all those (who lack knowledge about curly or natural hair), that our hair is not ugly. It also doesn’t pay to berate others’ differences. The stigma of curly and natural hair needs to stop because it pushes girls to unhealthy measures in hopes of “taming” their hair.
I applaud those who have broken combs by trying to tame their kinks, those who have spent hours braiding their hair, those who have exhausted thousands and thousands of dollars on over-expensive products that only work for their curls, and lastly those who wear their curls free; because no one should be held back by other people’s standards of beauty.