I didn’t know what it was like to be self-conscious just yet. All I knew was that it felt too warm to always wear my hair down. The texture was thick. The curls felt heavy. The humidity was sticky. Whenever I could, I’d have my mom brush my strands back into a tight ponytail. I wore my hair that way to school on most days; sometimes she’d place a ribbon or a barrette on the sides where the hair couldn’t quite cooperate. When the butterfly hair clips came on the scene, I basked in their glitter and vibrancy.
It wasn’t until I heard comments that I ‘always wear my hair in a ponytail’ that I began to become aware of how I didn’t have the thin straight hair that the other girls did. Theirs was a fine texture. Theirs was pretty in an obvious way.
I’d wear my curly hair half up and half down, while I began to experiment with lip gloss and various colors for my braces. I donned headbands for ponytails.
There was one girl in my 7th grade homeroom who mocked me throughout the year, which only made the junior high school halls more awkward, more uncomfortable. A part of me thought it was because I was different from the girls in the popular clique; the ones with the designer tops and bold confidence; the ones who hung out in groups by the lockers, gossiping over boys and weekend plans.
Another part of me swallowed down the fact that she had long, flowing straight hair.
By the time I was 16 and 17 years-old, I learned how to tame my thick curls as needed. I was sick with a serious illness towards the beginning of high school, and when I look back now, it only makes sense that I desperately yearned for something to control in the years that followed. My mom helped straighten my hair every week with a hot iron; I could never effectively reach the back myself. Gratefully, she sat with me every Friday afternoon and separated my hair into sections. I’d scroll through my music, typically landing on Ashlee Simpson.
Fall, sometimes I fall so fast
When I hit that bottom crash, you’re all I have. — “Pieces of Me”
Sometimes, when the outside air was dry, my hair was the thinnest and straightest it had ever been.
After a big breakup from a big relationship, I chopped my hair off for the summer. My dark brown curly locks fell down to my neck. It was a pretty major cut. But I felt lighter.
With this new cut, I was saying: My heart is still hurting, and I want a physical change. This was true.
But with that first major cut, I was also saying: Maybe I can embrace my hair, even more, as is. Maybe I can confront my past, and maybe I will embrace myself, even more, in the process.
Barring an occasional visit to the salon, a seldom treat, I’m happy to maintain my thick curly hair as is; up or down; long or short; frizzy or not frizzy. Of course, I have my moments where it may seem unmanageable or not as appealing as straight locks, but I’m actually okay with that truth.
After all, my sometimes-difficult-to-deal-with hair is mine.