Usually, my hair looks like this:
“Big deal,” you may be saying to yourself. “You sometimes straighten your hair. Would you like a cookie?”
No. No, hypothetical Socrates, I don’t want a cookie. (Unless it’s a peanut butter then yes, I would like that cookie.)
I’d be surprised if no one had ever noticed, but hair is a big deal. Why else would there be multimillion dollar empires only built to tell people what they should or shouldn’t put on their head? Why else would countless magazine ads feature women with long, silky hair, often blowing in the wind, whipping around her in the most unnatural way? Hair is important. Hair matters. I’m coming to the end of my hair journey, where I’m finally beginning to understand how to take care of it and how it makes me feel under different circumstances. Because it’s more than hair. I wouldn’t go as far as to say hair is everything about me, but it’s a big part and I’m glad I’ve finally reached this part in my life where I understand how I feel about myself and my hair. Here goes nothing.
In middle school, I had a pretty, popular friend. Yes, I was definitely one of those people who wanted to be “cool” and “popular.” I wanted to be liked by almost everyone and since I thought my pretty, popular friend knew what she was talking about, I followed her advice. I ignored her when she shoved a bottle of hair gel at me (with my name on it no less) as if asking me to “tame” my hair. Was I offended? Maybe. I don’t really remember. But I do remember the reaction I received when I walked into school a few weeks later with perfectly straight hair. Hours in the hair salon do wonder and the payout was fantastic. Compliments rained down on me. Boys suddenly wanted to speak to me. It was wonderful and I felt empowered, but now I think back to it and I laugh at the person I used to be.
To a lot of people (I guess even to society), straight hair is pretty. Straight hair is the “norm.” Straight hair is sophisticated and cute and nicely styled and obedient and it just looks nice. What is curly hair? Curly hair is frizz. It’s having curls slowly unwind themselves and become heavy with grease. It’s having people compliment you while having a lady at the mall pull you aside and let you try out This Amazing New Flat Iron on your hair because you are the Prime Candidate.
Maybe I used to be the prime candidate. Sometimes, I still catch myself wanting straight hair, but after more than seven years of being conscious of who I am and what I look like to the world, I have a few words to say:
Man, screw you guys. I look great.
My hair isn’t just my hair. This is a culmination of all of my ancestors. This is my identity, my Afro-Latino/European-Indegenous heritage shining through my tiny nose, my dark lips, and my curls. This is me. I feel like me when my hair is natural, all unruly and bouncy.
“Hypocrite!” You might scream. “I saw you last week! You had straight hair last week!”
It’s true. I did. And last week is when I finally understood. Straight hair is nice. It’s very low maintenance. It goes wherever I want it to and it’s easy to hide under a hat when it rains. But I don’t really feel like me.
I don’t know if it’s because my head has become used to the weight of my fuller hair (is that even possible?) but walking around with straight hair feels a little… uncomfortable now.
A few weeks ago, I turned to my roommate in bed and asked her if me straightening my hair was a rejection of my identity because I was conforming to societal norms of “pretty hair” and taking a flat iron to my hair disguises the influence of my ancestors on my current appearance.
She told me to “go the [censored] to sleep” but I haven’t forgotten that conversation.
Though now I don’t think of it as an outright rejection.
Now that I’ve come to college, now that I sort of know me and understand my likes and my dislikes, I’ve come to see how just being me is sometimes harder than trying to be someone I’m not.
Straight hair is so common, you know? You sort of know what to expect with straight hair. It’s there. It doesn’t move. But my curly hair? Dude, my curly hair is me. My personality itself is curly. I’m bouncy and loud and obnoxious and talkative and sometimes a little frizzy and all over the place and I don’t respond well to humidity.
I haven’t liked me for a long time, but I think that’s mostly because I don’t know me yet. I think I’m finally starting to and it’s a little awesome. I’m annoying and chatty and I love to hear myself talk. I like waking up late on Saturdays and I watch really bad reality tv. I’m a little addicted to Tumblr, I love to write, and my hair is fantastic.
“She looks better with a straight hair,” someone told me roommate about me. I rolled my eyes so hard I thought they were going to fall out and roll across the room.
My ancestors are the reason I look like this and I’m proud, very proud, for what the genetics dice roll has given me. I don’t need straight hair. It’s pretty, yes. Most of my friends have straight hair and I love it on them. I don’t know if I’ll ever straighten my hair again or how I’ll feel (or if people really do treat me or look on me differently when I have straight hair) but until then, I’ll give my hair bonds a break.
(Wow. Terrible pun. I’ll give them a break by not breaking them. Whoa. [I apologize.])
Yeah, so, LET’S EMBRACE OURSELVES AS WE ARE, GUYS! We were all born like this for a reason.