My Quest To Control My Curly Hair

On school nights when my parents were the only ones to bear witness, my hair was on its best behavior. I’d coil my Shirley Temple ringlets around my index finger as I studied Latin verb conjugations. Sometimes, my dad even took out the video camera and coaxed me into singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” for him. But by the next morning, the beast returned, wilder than ever, with a three-inch-thick afro of inconsolable brown fuzz.

I grew to predict its mood swings. A rough night’s sleep or a day of bobby pins left it sorely bent out of shape. I prepared my bottle of Bed Head Control Freak Serum that left a thick, goopy film on my fingers.

The older I grew, the more I longed for straight locks. In art class, I drew pictures of myself with blonde, pin-straight hair. If only life were that easy, I thought. Sitting next to me, Caroline — with beautiful golden butt-length locks — drew herself with dark curls. “I’ve always wanted curly hair,” she whispered. I scoffed.

Caroline and I became fast friends. At her birthday party in the fifth grade, she handed out pink plastic Hello Kitty hairbrushes as favors. We were attached at the hip — the hairbrush and me, that is. It worked wonders on my knotted, bushy frizz, and I refused to use anything else. The paint chipped so that the white Hello Kitty logo became indiscernible. I gave up on plucking out the strands of hair from between the bristles. Then the bristles broke off. “Please, let me buy you a new one,” my mom would beg on our bimonthly trips to the beauty supply store where we’d stock up on serums, sprays, glosses, creams, pomades, and glazes. She dropped at least $50 during each excursion. “That brush won’t last past middle school, trust me,” she said.

But it did.

Once, I showed up at my regular salon to find that my favorite hairdresser had quit. In the midst of a split-ends crisis, I settled for a young woman in her early 20s with the type of hair I loathed — soft, silky, and impeccably stick-straight. As she pried the extra-strength elastic from my tightly wound ponytail, she stood back and gasped.

“I’ve never seen this much hair before!” she shrieked. “Donna, Santo, c’mere! You gotta see this!” Donna and Santo, the salon owners, understood how to speak rationally to a hypersensitive 12-year-old who knew very well just how much hair she had. “It’s beeee-autiful, darlin’, and don’t you forget it,” Santo cooed, attempting to run his fingers through a strand. He got about an eighth of an inch deep.

During my freshman year at college, I hid the decaying pink Hello Kitty brush in a plastic Stop & Shop bag. After showering, I awkwardly lingered in my dorm room, buying time until my roommate stepped out. Then I rushed to my bedside drawer and unwrapped the package. I had the whole science down to 50 seconds flat.

Then, over winter break, my mom drove me to a new salon that specialized in curly hair. A balding man in his 50s scooped on a relaxing crème that he used on his black clients. “You have African American hair,” he said matter-of-factly. “You shouldn’t be brushing it at all.”

“After all that?” my mom gritted her teeth. I looked in the mirror and sighed. TC mark

image – Shutterstock


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  • Anonymous

    Ugh curly hair has been my curse for years.

  • Anonymous

    This is all me. 

  • Haley

    Kinky Curly Curling Custard. FTW.

    Was it the Curl Ambassadors that you went to?

    • Anonymous

      That stuff CHANGED my life. *scrunch out the crunch*

  • AnnamariaPhilippeaux

    Very few white women completely grasp how much of a nightmare it can be to have hair that is naturally that thick and coarse, like black women normally have, but you sound like you do. Your perspective is really interesting. Welcome to the club!

  • Stefanie Seifer

    I resisted and resented my curls for 31 years.The day I decided to stop trying to make them something they weren’t was the day they decided to look good.  The curls have a mind of their own…hahha True Story

  • chelsie

    My hair problems sound exactly like yours! What styling creme are you now using? 

  • DCDenise

    I have lived your life. It’s much easier now that I am
    older, but growing up in the 70’s when everyone had Marcia Brady hair and I had
    an afro (guess I have black hair too). It was truly devastating. I was made fun
    of, pointed at and given countless nick names. I feel so shallow writing this,
    but when your 15-16, this stuff is a big deal. I am happy for the girls now, we
    have come a long way in hair care and I hope no one ever has to go through what
    I did as a kid. Now I embrace it, let it grow long and wild and am very proud
    of my “black hair”

  • Megan

    I just printed this out at work so I can laminate it and tape it above my mirror. Curls curls curls curls curls everywhere.

  • Anonymous

    You should look into the Naturally Curly Concept.  You can find the book online and it changed my life.  I had lifeless, dull curls that over 6 months were transformed and GORGEOUS (I was jealous of my own hair for once)!  Curly hair is a science and you should learn more about. No sulfates and parabens and while it’s a work in progress, it’s worth it.  Besides, being unique is better~!

    • DCDenise

      I can’t find this book any where online. Is that the title? Do you know who wrote it?

      • Anonymous

        It’s Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey.  Check out naturallycurly . com for lots of message boards and help for beginniners.  Good luck!

  • Andrew Rowland

    Curly hair can be exotic/sexy, embrace it!

  • SaraLily

    i hear ya! i have extremely thick and curly hair. every hairdresser i’ve ever been to has always been shocked at the amount they take off and how much is still left on my head! i learned after many years to never brush it! well, before a shower i will, but when styling, i try not to even finger comb! just gotta find the right product and work WITH the curls, not against!  but i loved this! i can totally relate! 


    SAME same same same same

  • Guest

    my curly hair was so hard to manage, i started getting my hair japanese-hair-straightened in high school (not keratin, keratin hair straightening DOES NOT work on extremely curly hair).  as pricey as the japanese treatment is, it actually came out to roughly the same amount i’d spend on hair care products if you only get it done twice a year. toooootalllly worth it. 

  • Lu

    Bed Head Control Freak serum is my saviour! 

  • Cate M

    So true about your curls looking amazing when you’re home then a total nightmare when you need them to be attractive. And I used to be addicted to the Bed Head Control Freak but hated the feeling in my hands. I’ve been looking for a new curly hair product… maybe time to go back to the oldies but goodies? 

  • Anonymous

    This curly haired partner in crime thanks you for this article. Ignoring the nature of the hair I’ve had my whole life, I recently tried to do a cute, stylish pixie cut since I love them so much on other people. Bad. Idea. I looked like a brunette Carrot Top. 

  • Cassandra Baim

    I feel your pain, Megan :)

  • bep

    the curly girl method all the way.
    you never wash with shampoo, just put conditioner on your roots/scalp and wash out.  then condition like normal, detangle with your fingers or a wide toothed comb, and then you put conditioner on as a setting creme of sorts.
    never use conditioner with chemicals!  i like natures gate jojoba.
    this system saved my sanity and my hair!

  • Moon Temple

    I was the kind of girl who in elementary school was asked, “do you EVER brush your hair?”
    I did. Several times a day. Sigh

  • MeganO

    black hair

  • =)

    Embrace your curls!

  • Frida

    Had been seriously considering getting my hair japanese-straightened, because even after buying a CHI hair iron, it takes too much work to straighten it, which is the only way my hair has looked good.
    However, this inspired me to look for other options that will help me regain the nice, non-frizzy curls I had when I was younger. 
    I’m gong to try the Curly Hair method.
    Let’s hope it works.

  • Borisa

    great to read that some other woman also hates her curly hair. I have the same problem, my hair is curly like a sheep and I brush it like once a week.  sometimes it looks good, but most of the time I look like my hairdryer has exploded when drying my hair and look like angela davis… (I am white and blond and nobody in my family has this stupid hair). however, people around me like it and love to touch it (what I hate) but at least they give me a feeling that it is not so bad. being 25 I still can not get used to it.
    – favorite curly hair qoute: “how can I get control of my life, when I cant get control of my hair?” :)

  • Morrow Patsy

    Omg, this is my life.  Every time I get anything done to my hair they are always like “I’ve never seen so much hair!” Umm..yeah, i know, I live under this bush, thanks. I have taken to calling any salon I visit and, if I’m getting any highlights, warning them to give the stylist about three hours.  “THREE HOURS?!” they ask.  “Yes, three hours. For partial hightlights.”

  • tinerowan

    Well one of the downside is, you can’t let it down for too long. And it’s hard to find a salon which specializes in curly hair, well at least not here – I’ve tried :(

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