Written by Carolyn Kuimelis
I’ve always been the curly-haired exception in my family. When I was younger, my relatives oohed and ahhed at my curls, and my grandma would tell me how jealous she was of my hair. I, however, found my unruly locks to be more of a curse than a blessing. My mom had pin-straight hair all of her life, so she took care of my hair the only way she knew how to. Every morning before school it was a battle between my hair and that evil bristle-toothed brush. My mother would force the brush through my “rat’s nest,” as she used to call the collection of frizz and knots in my hair, despite my pleas against the torture.
Growing up, I envied my classmates with silky, smooth hair. All of my favorite movie stars had straight, beautiful hair, and there were few people I knew who shared my hair type. My hair was frizzy and messy most of the time, and I gave up on trying to find an alternative method of hair care. I resorted to crossing my fingers and hoping that one day, if I used enough conditioner (a weird theory of mine) my hair would turn straight.
In middle school, I was introduced to a magical tool: the flat iron. It amazed me that straightening my hair could transform the way I looked, and having straight hair made me feel confident. For over a year, I wore my hair straight every day. It became weird to look in the mirror and see my hair when it wasn’t straightened, and despite my friends’ reassurance that my curls looked great, I felt insecure when my hair wasn’t straight.
The illusion was shattered in freshman year, however, when the swim unit rolled around. Now, it seems ridiculous that I cared so much about my hair, but I was incredibly nervous for people to see what my hair looked like in all of its frizzy glory. Thankfully, walking out of P.E. on that first day of the swim unit with my natural hair gave me a much-needed reality check: I cared far more about how my hair looked than anyone else did. In fact, for the first time ever, I kind of liked the way my curls looked when they had time to dry without being fried to a crisp with my straightener.
This new-found realization motivated me to figure out how to properly take care of my hair—something I’d never given much thought to before. I spent hours scouring curly hair care websites and watching Youtube videos on hair techniques. Finally, I stuffed my flat iron in the back of my closet and learned to embrace my crazy curls. It was empowering to discover a community of people who shared my hair care woes and trials and tribulations, and what I had before seen as a frizzy nuisance soon became my favorite feature. Learning how to love and take care of my hair felt amazing, and I finally started to believe my grandma when she reminded me how lucky I am to have curly hair.