My mother is Puerto Rican and my father is Portuguese – one hell of a combination, I know. As a result, my sister and I have been blessed with some beautiful features, but also cursed with the lifelong task of managing our curly hair. Let’s dive into the love/hate relationship I have had with my hair for over 20 years. If you have natural curls, I’m sure you will relate!
On a good day, they respect and support one another. Their love radiates so strong they make everyone stop and stare when they walk into a room. The bond they have is so resilient, it is worthy of envy. If you know them well enough though, you know that this is not always their reality.
On a bad day, they can bicker and fight like nobody’s business. They have arguments so loud you think something drastic might happen! This may describe that one couple you know or even a romance of your own but for me, that is the relationship I have had with my curly hair my whole life! Quite the love/hate relationship, right?
It is curly. It is thick. It defies gravity. It makes love to humidity and creates ugly frizz babies. I was forced to become very well-versed in the art of blow-drying and straightening. For years, I tried every conditioner, gel, and diffuser out there with no success.
Being able to leave the house for school and return home with my hair looking somewhat like I had left it in the morning was a mere fantasy. I really wanted to embrace my curls but I just felt like they hated me. My curls were that popular girl you were partners with that one time in biology who was really nice to you and made you feel cool but totally forgot who you were the minute you stopped being partners. I felt rejected by my own hair.
It came to the point where I just gave up. I saw my sister’s beautifully smooth and silky blow-dried hair and had her work her magic on me. After a couple times of observing her technique, I tried it on myself and never looked back.
Following that, I would spend 2-3 hours every week washing, blow-drying and straightening my hair. I would only wear my hair natural in the comfort of my own home or slicked back into a bun whenever I didn’t feel like straightening it.
As some of you may know, I took a trip to Europe earlier this year. While preparing for the trip, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to straighten my hair for the period of time that I would be away. My backpack could barely fit the little amount of clothes I was bringing, let alone a blow-dryer and all the other essentials. Also, I didn’t think the other travelers in the hostels would appreciate the glorious sound of a blow-dryer in their ears for 30+ minutes.
So, I had to think of a plan. For the first time in my life, I decided to make an honest effort with my hair. I wouldn’t just throw some gel in it and get frustrated when it wouldn’t work. So I sat down and started reading. Curls are delicate creatures that must be cared for in a specific way, which I didn’t know.
I had been spending my time whining about how I couldn’t just wash my hair and go like my other non-curly friends. I came to terms with the fact that it would take some effort; it would take some love to get love in return. I came to the realization that me rejecting my curls was equivalent to me rejecting myself, my ethnicity, and the hair that was naturally given to me.
In the end, I went 3 months without touching a blow-dryer, and I loved it. I learned to embrace my curly hair and not to feel so unnatural being natural.
Growing up in a town lacking cultural diversity made me feel out of place and at times, ashamed of my appearance. But, as I have grown older, I have come to embrace everything I have been given. I feel proud to be among the rainbow of people we have walking this earth with something unique to offer.
Now I’ll be honest, I still straighten my hair. The difference now is that I don’t feel as if I have to. My curly hair and I will always have our good days and bad days, but as long as they’re still growing out of my head, I’m in it for the long haul!
And speaking of feeling beautiful, I was featured in a blog series this week called Operation Beautiful. Click here and give it a lookie!
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