If I had a penny for every time a person asked me how I got my hair “to be so curly,” I’d have enough money for Organix products to last me a lifetime and a half. Yes, my luscious coils are very moisturized. No, I did not always have a good relationship with them. But this is how my estranged locks and I progressively became as close as the Gilmore Girls’ Lorelai and Rory.
As a young child, I had to suffer through endless nights of my very straight-haired mother pulling and tugging on my fragile head, whilst simultaneously cursing a little too much for a young girl’s heart. My precious curls were always brushed out and kept in a less than savvy bun, for “safe keeping,” as my mother called it. But I wanted nothing to do with it. At least once in every curly-haired queen’s life, she has looked in the mirror and thought about how ugly her hair makes her. This was me, every single part of me, in every single way. Of course, growing up and going to school in a predominately white and Asian neighborhood didn’t help. They didn’t understand what I was going through. They had never seen the tears falling down my face because of how much my head hurt. And they never would. They’d ask why my hair “was like that” or why my hair was always tied up.
My all time favorite question was why I had “Black girl hair” when I wasn’t Black. I’m of Egyptian and Persian descent, so that placed me in a bit of a grey area in regards to my own identity. So there I was, unable to relate to my straight haired Persian sisters or to my kinky haired African sisters. I didn’t know who to turn to, so I kept to myself. I straightened my hair, night after night, in order to look like the other girls with their flawless straw hair. But it never did come out looking like theirs. It was quite obvious that my hair was being forced to do something that it was not created to do. The burning smells and sensations on my head more than told me this, but I was persistent. I had to push through the tears and the ear burns, because only then would I be deemed “pretty.”
It wasn’t until my hair started falling out from all the straighteners and relaxers did I really realize just how ugly I had become, not because of my disheveled and rough strands, but because I had tried so hard to mold the most precious part of me into something it could not and would not do. And thus begun my journey of self-love. Unfortunately, I didn’t have some kind of magical epiphany, where Naomi Campbell talked to me in my dream and told me to go natural, even though that would have been superb. Rather, I simply figured that it was time to do something for myself. Oh, if only I could have taken a picture of my mother’s face when she saw me take my father’s electric shaver to my head. She said, “You have no more hair! What have you done?”
I was starting over, starting fresh, starting better. In that moment, I realized that I didn’t need anyone’s support, validation, or approval, not even my own mother’s. I was doing this for me and for all the women of color whose heads hurt. I quickly realized that WOC were more understanding and helpful than I had previously known, as they enthusiastically shared what moisturizers they were currently using and how co-washing had been a godsend. So I came to several conclusions. One, I was African and nobody could deny that. Two, I had African hair and it was beautiful. Three, it didn’t matter if I didn’t “look the part” or fit in with all the other darker skinned women. Curly hair comes in every different shape, size, color, texture, and they are all equal parts beautiful and powerful.
I realize now more than ever, that nobody should be subjected to false standards of beauty, which are so brutally and forcefully perpetuated by media nowadays. Not only does this apply for hair, but for every body part loved or unloved, remembered or forgotten. This notion has helped me grow into a big-haired girl with a big girl personality. Sometimes it still irks me to think how badly I craved society’s approval as a young woman, while readily getting so many compliments nowadays. People still seem to be so intrigued and curious as to how I get my hair to do what it does, and it always brings me great pleasure to simply say, “I was born this way and it’s not changing anytime soon.” I’ve finally found peace in this lion’s den. I’ve found security and struggle. I’ve found courage and spontaneity. But most importantly, I’ve found beauty. I’ve found myself. And I hope that all the other women struggling out there can find their own solace as well.
It’s time for us to showcase every single “uncanny” characteristic we own. Only then will we truly find peace in our own being and overcome this struggle. We all deserve that much.