By the title of this post I’m sure many of you are thinking that this is some sort of beauty related article, or that I’m going to give some tips on how to go through a “hair recovery” but I’m actually not. Rather, this is about something I’ve realized recently. I actually made the grave mistake of having a not so awesome day today and combining that with a heavy dose of nostalgia and looking through old photographs. Just a word of advice… don’t. Just don’t. If you’re having a bad day, if things aren’t going your way, don’t turn on The Scientist by Coldplay and sift through old photos of your friends, your family, and how great you looked or didn’t look, just step away from the memorabilia and focus on something ridiculous like reality TV or Buzzfeed quizzes. You’ll thank me later.
Today however, I did just that. I ‘nostalgified’ the heck out of my day by going through memory lane via the old photos on my external hard drive (note to self: hide external hardrive, especially during certain times of the month). As I was looking through everything from baby photos to bad college pictures, I realized something… I used to love my hair and now I don’t. I was born bald, very bald… for a long time too. The hair I did have was a golden of ringlet on the top of my head, that golden ringlet was there for a while supplementing for the fact that no official “hair-mane” would come in until I was about age 5 or 6. But when I was 7, something magical happened, it’s like I became a chia pet overnight and grew about 10 pounds of long curly brown hair. As life will almost always have it, I was the only one of peers with curly hair, and kids are ruthless. Somehow though, I didn’t care a single bit, I’d like to tell you that kids bullied me into hating my curls and that I would ask my mom to straighten it… But that never happened, I was confident as fudge. I thought I looked like Rapunzel, and since my mom had bought me loads of art books from an early age, I resorted to thinking that I had those Renaissance curls that Da Vinci would always draw. I figured the other kids didn’t understand, and being it that I was always the Benjamin Button of my group, I figured they never would and moved on. I was always known as the girl with the long curly hair and the guitar. People called me things like gypsy, Shakira (for some reason), hippy, Janet Jackson, Topanga (Boy Meets World), and sometimes not so friendly things like mop and muskrat (now I must admit I don’t quite know what a muskrat looks like so I didn’t care about that one too much).
I knew that at times I was racially profiled for my long curly mane, I knew that people had comments to make about my hair, I knew that even other multiracial people would say bad things about my hair, but I didn’t care. From the years 2003-2006 I went through a heavy punk rock phase and that’s when my long hip length curls came even more in handy. I dyed them even more blonde, and I thought I looked like some sort of rock & roll mermaid. I loved my hair, and people’s opinions of it didn’t matter a single bit to me. After a bad darker dye job in 2007, my hair wasn’t as healthy and began to fall out, that’s when my mom suggested I’d chop it off, I hadn’t done that in ages, and I was very attached to my long crazy curls. Nevertheless in August of 2007 I chopped my hair off to about mid back, and honestly, it didn’t look so bad, it was curling with lots of volume and I loved it. After that, I had left my hair alone and it was growing in so lovely… I didn’t know how lovely it was until today, until I went through and looked at those photos and realized that my hair had never looked so beautiful. By 2009 I had probably the most amazing and bouncy ringlets ever, and looking back now I wish I would have appreciated them more than I did, or at least tried to preserve them more. All the damage from highlights and bad dye were gone, and my hair had blossomed beautifully. The sad thing is I never knew it enough to not forget it. Especially to not forget it when someone would come along to say it wasn’t as beautiful as I thought it was.
In late 2009 I had met a guy in Germany, he was a lawyer from Russia, and I was still a nomadic gypsy girl who had no idea what love or serious relationships were. I’m a late bloomer in so many ways, but perhaps in relationships more so than others. I was a child with a crush on an idea I had in my mind, and sometimes you don’t quite grow out of that like people say you do. When we met it was brief, but we kept friendly long distance communication for months, we became friends and I grew to care about him very much. When he asked me to be his girlfriend… I’m not going to lie, I thought that I was somehow supposed to say yes. Now, how do I explain this without sounding like a jerk? It’s not that I didn’t want to say yes, but that I didn’t know what a “yes” would actually even mean. This has nothing to do with age, but rather that I feel that society paints us so many pictures, we think we are just going to walk into our own “life shop”, pick one up, hang it on our wall, and it’s going to look exactly a certain way that we had imagined it would -this is not always so. I thought that my wishy-washy ideas of what I thought I wanted out of a relationship and out of “love” was going to somehow happen because I said yes, and agreed to be someone’s girlfriend. As this relationship proceeded, things went on pretty normally, but one day something happened that changed things. This person said something I wasn’t expecting: “I don’t like your curly hair, I honestly think it looks so much better straight” he said. He told me I looked “cute” with curly hair, but more elegant and womanly with straight hair, what he said hit the bottom of my stomach like a bad meal you know is going to leave you debilitated on a toilet somewhere in the not so distant future but you keep on eating anyways. I didn’t like what he said, but I thought…’is that so bad? it’s just his preference, he’s still a nice guy’, when I look back now, I should have said something. But naive little nomad girls with imaginary love stories don’t react so quickly. I had worn my hair straight before, but never because I liked it better, or because I was trying to “fix” something, but rather because I liked to have that option. Over the next few months however, I began shopping for different types of hair products; I subconsciously didn’t even notice the transition from ‘surf hair sprays’ and ‘curl definition creams’ to ‘smooth keratin conditioners’ and ‘sleek and shiny’. This word “sleek” became a thing all of a sudden, all of a sudden I had to be “sleek”. What the hell even is sleek anyways? Why is it a thing, why is it important? Why is polish and shine, and organized, and professional… all of these stupid words, why are they important? I was straightening my hair more often, and got it cut a bit shorter, and by the time we were in the same city spending time together, I was now some version of “sleek”. Even though the relationship was serious, it didn’t last. First I had to straighten my hair, then there was something wrong with wanting to travel and be nomadic… ultimately there was something wrong with me. Now believe me, no matter how many years I’ve traveled, how many people I’ve met, and how many things I’ve learned, I have yet to understand why people pretend to accept people they technically don’t actually like. It was over after almost a year, and honestly, after some time there were no hard feelings. It ended well somehow and I don’t look back on this person with hate. However, this person did inject something into my mind which hadn’t been there before. A newfound thought that said: “men like women with straight hair, people like me better with straight hair” and I couldn’t quite shake it off. I wore my hair straight for the rest of 2010, and then sometime into 2011, then the next guy I met (who also said he didn’t like my hair curly) also reinforced this idea just as I was beginning to bring out my curls again.
I now had a well-formed habit which dictated that anytime I was going to go out to a special event, to a dinner, a job interview, anything “important” I needed straight hair in order to look older and pretty much just better. I used to always wear my hair curly no matter what I was attending, but the new me thought it was audacious to even think about wearing her hair curly to a fancy dinner, much less on a date. The new me had the idea that anywhere important meant having straight locks, and it was now a stronghold in my psyche. By 2012 my hair was worn almost always straight, even while living in England my hair was rarely ever curly. By 2014 I didn’t feel “myself” with curly hair, and once I moved to Spain in 2015, I had become so self-conscious about wearing my hair curly that many didn’t know I would cry when I thought that in its natural state my hair would just curl and not stay straight. The one time I faced my fear and wore it curly to a church I was going to in Spain, a girl immediately made fun of it and said I had giant afro hair and said it was frizzy, another woman said I looked “cute” like a fluffy dog. I was stopped unjustly on the metro by the metro police and they immediately asked me where I was from, my friends had to help me and get me out of a ticket I didn’t deserve. I blamed it all on my hair. Every time I have worn it curly since, it seems that people have felt themselves entitled to give me an opinion about it, to tell me that they like it better straight, to question my ethnicity, to ask me why I am or am not one thing or another, and to get mad when I give them an answer they don’t like. Every time I wear it curly I look at myself in the mirror and feel that I am not ready to go out and be “professional” because one day someone told me it just wasn’t good enough. One day I ate from the tree of prejudice and ignorance and saw my hair was curly and that it could bring me problems. I feel like every time I wear it curly now, I’m exposed, my one insecurity is out there shining bright like a diamond (or not because diamonds don’t shine and we all know that, “thanks” Rihanna) and it feels uncomfortable and honestly quite sad. Last year I cut my hair the shortest it has been since I was 7 years old, and I loved it, but I’d be lying if I told you I wore it curly from then on. On the contrary, I mostly wore it straight. The water and climate in my current city have wreaked havoc on my hair and it hasn’t been healthy. As a result, straight hair has been my only option (or so I feel). At the end of last year something happened that made me realize that not only had I grown to hate my curls, but that I was genuinely traumatized with the idea of letting it be curly again. Someone who didn’t know how to blow dry curly hair asked to blow dry it, I knew what would happen, I knew I’d feel embarrassed and lesser beautiful when they brushed it out and saw that the result wasn’t the infamous “sleek” hair I imagined they were expecting. But I let it happen, of course I ended up looking like a cotton ball, but what made me feel worse was that tears welled up inside of me and I cried, I cried bitterly. I literally couldn’t help how horrible I felt when I realized that I was this controlled by dead skin cells that grow out of my skull.
Today, as I was looking through old photos I realized something, my hair was beautiful. It was always beautiful. You know why? Because it was mine and it looked amazing. I ruined it not because I hated it, I messed it up and damaged it not because I thought I looked bad with it, but because someone I thought cared about me told me that I could be better without it. I was trying to make someone else happy, so I learned how to not be happy with myself for them. It sounds tragic, and it is; how many times do we learn to not be happy because of someone else? Because of a family member? A friend, a lover? I was taught that the giddiness I felt in wearing my hair curly, in thinking I looked like a mermaid wasn’t accurate. I know many people feel unhappy with themselves for some reason or another and if they seek change for whatever they want and it makes them happy, that makes me happy too! Be happy! Fix what you want! But this wasn’t my case, I used to love my hair. After years of loving how I looked and learning to ignore the haters, one person, one guy came along in the most diplomatic and loving way to say that he just didn’t like my hair curly and I was hooked. I lived for 21 years of my life loving my hair, and have lived for 7 hating it, I don’t know how to get around this hurdle quite yet… but I think that for my own sake, and the sake of what I stand for, I better start being a lot less diplomatic with people when they have “comments” about my curls. I’ve realized that my true friends are right, I look exactly like Moana, exactly. And the next time someone says I look better with my hair straight, I might just tell them I didn’t ask them for their opinion and walk away like a boss. Like. A. BOSS.