I Have a Long and Complex Relationship

I have a long & complex relationship with my curly hair

As a kid, I was okay with it. Mainly because many people would complete how beautiful my hair was and how they all wanted to get their hands on it and play with style it. All the lovely comments about how much hair it was, and how dark and pretty it was, etcetera made me believe my hair was indeed beautiful. So, I would sit there patiently as my aunts would brush and braid the hair. It was relaxing and my patience and not squirming as others must have done also made way for more compliments. “Mira que dejada. No se mueve.” 

But came the years when I had to brush my own hair and it was hard. There was so much of it everywhere that there wasn’t a day an elastic band didn’t burst open or when the frizz wouldn’t be tamed and I looked as if I hadn’t even brushed it. It was so hard. Soon, I would find myself wishing I didn’t have such a huge mane and creeping into my brothers’ room to borrow their gel without their permission to try and tame the frizz.

How I wish I could go back and sit in the chair and have my aunts style my hair everyday before school. But I was no longer that little girl. Ya estaba grandecita como para que todavia me estubieran peinando. Because as years go by, we know that there are greater responsibilities. Brushing my hair was one of them. And that led me to slowly, but surely start wishing I didn’t have much hair and that it wasn’t so hard to brush and that the frizz was non-existent. It was my first time thinking they had all lied to me when they would say, I was lucky to have curly hair. It took such a great toll on me that I began to think the curls were a curse and dreamed of one day having straight hair.

As a pre-teen, I had to do my best to hide the curls. I would no longer wear my hair down, because nobody else seemed to have frizz in their hair. It was just me. And the more I would brush the hair, the more frizz it would create. So I struggled with the elastic bands on the daily to style a ponytail that would hide the frizz as best as it could. This time, I would beg my mom to buy me gel like the brothers. She hesitated, but I managed to convince her by saying I did some sort of research, which I’m pretty sure I didn’t do, but she finally caved in. YES! My very own bottle of gel. Goodbye frizz.

As a teenager, I grew to hate it even more. But lucky for me, I heard of how my cousins turned their curls into straight hair. They used to blow it out straight. So, I quickly had to try it out for myself. HAHAHAHA. The mane poufed out even more. Like if I had gotten electrocuted. I tried my very best to change it. I spent hours trying to blow it out straight, but it didn’t go well. I had to stick to the ponytail.

Until at approximately age 14, when I heard about this miracle worker for the hair, a flat iron. But of course, I wouldn’t be getting one of those if I had asked. So, what did I do? I decided to go the DIY-route. I had an iron. It produced heat. I grabbed a towel, placed my hair on the ironing board, placed the towel over the hair, and ironed my hair out. And that somewhat did a better and faster job than the blow-dryer, but I didn’t nail the straight hair. Instead, it allowed me to have awkward half-curly hair. So, I decided to try it without the towel and girl, how dumb!

I fried the living out of my hair, but it worked so much better. I felt the smoothness. The frizz was gone, except for the weird looking waves at the crown of the head because I didn’t dare go too close. Which was smart, but just oddly looking. But during those times the iron was enough to allow myself to wear my hair down. I finally started receiving compliments once more. I was learning to love my hair; now that it was straighter.

Came the years when I was finally gifted my hair flat-iron. A real one. Yay! I finally achieved the straight hair look but that wasn’t all.  I also got split-ends and burns to the forehead and fingers. And even though I achieved the straight hair, I still hated my hair because it would take what felt like an eternity to get it “perfect.” Plus, no matter how much I tried to flat iron my hair into submission, it just never wanted to stay that way for long. But that didn’t stop me from continuing to damage my hair and lose a lot of it along the way due to breakage caused by the highest setting on the flat iron.

And I still received compliments, but they became dull and boring because I was paying an extremely high price to achieve that coveted straight hair.

Until the day it dawned on me. Maybe my hair was not the problem. Maybe my attitude about it was. Maybe this lifelong struggle was never about hair at all. Maybe it was about accepting myself as I am. And about working with what I have instead of fighting against it.

So, I finally decided in my mid 20’s that I was done fighting and needed to embrace my hair how it grows out of my head. The damage was done, but I didn’t want to do any further damage. So, maybe just maybe, I could learn to love my curls like I did as a little girl.

And maybe if I did, I could learn to love the rest of me, too.

Now, I’m left wishing that I could go back to my younger self and convince her that she didn’t need straigh hair to be happy. She just needed self-acceptance.

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