I Love My Curly Hair, Deal With It

When my friend Bryce announced she was going to appear on the season premiere of Patti Stanger’s Millionaire Matchmaker last October – as one of the millionaires – my sole thought was, “Christ.” Bryce is that “Only you…” friend, and I love it. I’d never watched Millionaire Matchmaker before, and I didn’t know jack about Patti Stanger, but I knew I was in for an entertaining hour of television.

What I didn’t know was that Patti Stanger would royally piss me off almost immediately after I’d begun watching. If you’re not familiar with the crass wannabe Cupid, a common habit of hers is pressuring women into straightening their hair for myriad shallow reasons. Wealthy men like it better. Men want to run their fingers through a woman’s hair. Curly hair is a “pubic-looking bird’s nest.”

Stanger’s irreversible opinion on the subject matter is offensive, but she’s not the only one who holds it. A 2008 New York Observer article observed the curl-hate imminent in Hollywood flicks – curly-haired heroine is a loveable scatterbrain until someone takes 350 degrees of heat to her head. (NYO calls this The Princess Diaries effect.) Presto-chango! A high-maintenance hairdo solves all of the hot mess’s problems and she’s now able to conquer the world. Simple, right?

Maybe when you’re on a film set and have several styling professionals anxiously awaiting for one goddamn strand of hair to fall out of place, at which point they can rush to the rescue with multiple elixirs and heating tools to once again assure that you’re the picture of composed perfection.

But if you’re a real woman with real curls and not a film character, straightening your hair is not a fix-all for the world’s problems. I was getting dressed one morning for a meeting with a corporate client of mine earlier this summer. There was something about me that felt off – aside from the fact that I was wearing Spanx, for christ’s sake – my hair was curly. I felt like I wasn’t “corporate enough” because I chose to work with the natural texture of my hair rather than steam it into something more “office appropriate.”

So then I thought of the alternative. Spending an hour in a bathroom applying hundreds of degrees of heat to my recently-rehabilitated hair, in a house with no air conditioning, only to step outside and watch said hair explode from humidity. My scalp began to sweat just thinking about it.

I didn’t always embrace my curly hair. For three years, I worked for a company that specialized in temporarily removing curl and frizz from hair. First, I was a salon receptionist, then I began selling the straightening solution to other salons, and finally, I became the marketing director of the company. I was responsible not just for the chemical straightening of my own hair, but also for the hair of thousands of women during that stretch of time.

The first time I had the process done myself, I was in awe. I could air-dry my hair without losing much curl, and it straightened within minutes when I ran a blow dryer over it. I didn’t even need to use a flat iron. My hair was frizz-free and required little work. It seemed like a miracle product.

But after a few treatments, my curl was good as gone.  Did my hair look good? Yes. But I wasn’t me anymore. In fact, I couldn’t be “me” if I tried – the only thing I could do was wait for the treatment to completely wash out of my hair. It took six months and several haircuts.

Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary Good Hair explores the lengths women will go to – namely, Black women – for manageable hair. I think what a woman chooses to do with her hair is her business. My mother has worn her hair a number of ways that I’ve never had to consider in the name of manageability: braided extensions; keratin treatments; natural; blow-dried and flat-ironed; relaxed; permed; you name it. I’m not knocking it, and I know I’m lucky to have the option of wearing my hair natural with very minimal effort.

There is nothing wrong with wearing your hair the way you like it. I don’t care if you spend eight hours in a salon, I don’t care if you roll out of bed and throw it into a two-minute top-knot, I don’t care if you spend hundreds of dollars chemically erasing what nature gave you. What I do care about is someone like Patti Stanger telling women (repeatedly) that natural hair is wrong. That I need to spend money and time (both of which I do not have) to be attractive. I’m tired of being seen as unprofessional because I care about the quality of my work more than forcibly altering the chemical bonds in my hair.

Straight hair and the pursuit of it isn’t wrong. But depicting women who choose to abstain from a superfluous grooming ritual as manic, sloppy, unattractive second fiddles, is. Shove off and kindly remove the flat iron from your ass. TC mark

image – Martin de Witte

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  • http://www.facebook.com/TomSmizzle Tom Smith

    I have been searching all week for an excuse to not get a haircut. Thanks!

  • http://www.facebook.com/TomSmizzle Tom Smith

    I have been searching all week for an excuse to not get a haircut. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    This is amazing. Not to totally nerd out, but you should check out Alex Kingston — the love interest on Doctor Who. She has the most kick-ass curly hair and she’s portrayed as extremely confident and sexy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612928768 Samie Rose

      River’s hair roooooooolz.

      • Anonymous

        “This is my friend River. Nice hair, clever, knows how to use a gun.” ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarah.n.knutson Sarah N. Knutson

    After fighting DC humidity and trying to force my naturally-wavy hair into submission, I finally made peace with it and am in love with my curls. Thanks for this, it’s totally awesome!!

  • Anonymous

    THANK YOU.

    I’m Italian and Jewish. My hair is naturally thick, crazy, and curly. As seen in my li’l avatar pic here, I straighten it, because I think people treat me better when it looks like that. It’s strange, but I get better service at stores, at coffee shops; people are more welcoming, people don’t look at me like I’m some kooky, immature creature who doesn’t understand how to use a flatiron.

    • Anonymous

      BUT i LIKE curly hair. That’s me! It’s mine!

  • Hannahm

    I admittedly lose respect for women when I find out they spend hours frying their curls straight. 

    But I used to do it too. 

    Not, I recognize the jew-fro as an asset. People remember me when I leave a room. They may not take me seriously if they’re brainwashed by the corporate = straight idea you mention. But no one ever doubts whether I’m for real. And that’s an asset, a different kind of assertion of power. It’s a statement whether it wants to be or not: I’m not changing who I am for you. Sometimes when people make THAT stereotype — that I’m confident enough to be walking around with hair that sometimes doesn’t fit through doorframes — I actually consider it a blessing. 

    Thanks for the curl love. 

  • porter

    ive worked tirelessly trying to get my not-quite-curly-enough hair to look like shakira’s. curly hair is just so much sexier.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessi.smith1 Jessi Smith

    Preach on, sister.  I have been fighting with my curly hair for 24 years, but only recently learned to start embracing it. It’s a beast, but i love it.

  • http://teixmat.tumblr.com/ Mateus

    No hair makes me want to stuff my face into it more than Grace Coddington’s or Annie Clark’s. Hence, point well agreed with!

  • pam

    i love this! i learned to embrace my hear and atl east mangage it so i dont look too crazy. the worst thing is when someone (ie: a  guy) tells you “oh i like you better with straight hair” or “you look prettier with straight hair”. Really? i makes me want to punch them

  • zharpie

    Real talk, I love curly or frizzy hair. I like getting my hands tangled in it. Hataaaz (via Bon Iver)

    • cecile

      this is not hipster runoff, bro..

  • Guest

    loooove it. however you wear it, wear it with confidence.

  • Catt

    I’ve found that having short hair makes everyone else’s hair problems look inane. Hell, I don’t even have to wash my hair if I’m really short on time.

  • Ivy

    I got into the habit of telling my friends, “curly hair don’t care.” 
    It’s even my favorite hashtag on twitter! 

    Therefore I adore this article half as much as I adore my hair. 

  • Beauty Reductionista

    PREACH IT.

  • http://miriammogilevsky.wordpress.com Miriam Mogilevsky

    Ever since I was a kid, people have always innocently asked me if I’ve ever tried straightening my hair. I always say, truthfully, that yes I have, and it looked ugly as fuck because that’s not how I’m meant to look.

    Interestingly, every single person who’s asked me that has been female. Almost every guy I’ve met has loved my hair as it is.

    • Guest

      Girls constantly ask me if I ever straighten my hair too.

       Today I straighten it, because I like to change it up a couple times a year. But two hours into the day it was wavy/semi curly. It looked better than it did straight, so whatever. For me personally curly>straight.

    • http://imlikecocaine.wordpress.com/ Ana

      same here! and not surprisingly, I somehow got stubborn and refused all attempts, I did it once, didn’t like it, what’s more to say. plus, curly hair usually has a special haircut, my hair never looks okay when it’s straight, flat and volume-less.

  • Em

    I love my long, wavy-curly-wild hair. 

    Yes,  I feel more…tidy, I suppose, with straightened hair, but frankly, I feel a hell of a lot sexier with my natural hair. It gets me noticed more. It gets more comments. More people run their hands through my hair when it is untamed and set free, than when it’s not, so  Patti Stanger can shove it. 

  • TuraLura

    I have mad ringlets, have never straightened and love my curls. That’s not to say they’re not high-maintenance. They are. I don’t do anything to them chemically other than dying them, but I use lots of product and it ain’t cheap. I’ve known for a long, long time that I’m not “business correct”- not my hair, not my personality, not my style. Luckily there are a lot of ways to make your way in life.

    I don’t care what other people do about their personal appearance, but I’m pretty sure if I went around with straight hair, I’d never experience the happy freakouts and awed tones my curls have been known elicit. 

  • TuraLura

    I have mad ringlets, have never straightened and love my curls. That’s not to say they’re not high-maintenance. They are. I don’t do anything to them chemically other than dying them, but I use lots of product and it ain’t cheap. I’ve known for a long, long time that I’m not “business correct”- not my hair, not my personality, not my style. Luckily there are a lot of ways to make your way in life.

    I don’t care what other people do about their personal appearance, but I’m pretty sure if I went around with straight hair, I’d never experience the happy freakouts and awed tones my curls have been known elicit. 

  • http://mrianmbelcurry.tumblr.com/ Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

    nice

  • http://mrianmbelcurry.tumblr.com/ Mr. Ian M. Belcurry

    nice

  • Paige

    curly haired chicks unite!

  • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

    I get my hair straightened regularly at a salon.  I hate it.  I do it and yet I can’t stand it.   I could save myself so much money and time if I didn’t.  It’s kind of silly, isn’t it?

  • http://somuchtocome.blogspot.com Aja

    Oh and about the Matchmaker lady arguing that men hate curly hair  . . . this is why when I go out on a date, I often make sure my hair is curly.  If you like me, you’ll like me regardless of how I style my hair, right?

  • http://twitter.com/YocastaArias Yocasta Arias

    My hair is the equivalent to Ramen Noodles. Thank you for writing this. [I only wish you’d written it 4 months ago so I wouldn’t have straightened it for my prom and had to deal with the biggest hair disaster of my life]

    • http://twitter.com/tashny Tashny Sukumaran

      KNOW HOW YOU FEEL <3 

    • http://twitter.com/tashny Tashny Sukumaran

      KNOW HOW YOU FEEL <3 

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