I grew up in a household with two parents who had two different hair textures and no idea to do with my curls. My mother has short relaxed hair and my father (although he rocked long waves back in the day) has short straight hair. As a child, my hair was soft with little ringlets all around my head. As my hair grew longer it easily tangled, but it remained soft and wavy. All my mother had to do in the morning was run a brush through my hair (as I was loudly protesting) and style my hair with clips and ponytails. It wasn’t until I went to middle school that I noticed my hair had grown much thicker and frizzier (I would say curlier, but that simply wasn’t the case).
Looking back at the pictures, I clearly decided to ignore the change in hair texture because my favorite hairstyle to rock was the frizzy ponytail.
How to Create the Frizzy Ponytail (if you’re looking to go as an awkward twelve year-old girl for Halloween)
1. Instead of brushing your curls when it’s wet like a curly-haired girl should, sleep on your wet locks. Make sure you’re using a cotton pillow (God forbid you use a satin pillow to ensure a lack of frizz) and don’t apply any product into your hair.
2. Brush out your dry, already-frizzy curls with a paddle brush (yeah, I know- so much more effective than a wide-tooth comb).
3. Pull your never-been-trimmed frizz hairball back into a low ponytail. Bam.
As you can probably tell, I had literally no idea what to do with hair like mine. I honestly thought it was a fluke; I felt like the only girl on the planet with my particular texture. All the popular (I sound childish just saying “popular”) girls in my school seemed to have long, straight hair. The natural hair journey movement had not taken off by any means, so I rarely saw curly hair on television shows, commercials, magazines, etc. I tucked my hair away in awkward ponytails and buns until I discovered the straightener- a tool I would later call “God’s gift to women”- in eighth grade.
How to Straighten Your Curly Hair like a Confused Eighth Grader:
1. Don’t worry about thoroughly drying your hair before straightening it. It’s totally okay if your strands are a little damp- fried hair is cute.
2. Don’t brush out your hair. Straightening chunks of curls gives you depth and texture.
3. What’s a heat protectant? No seriously- what’s a heat protectant? In eighth grade, I had literally no idea what that was.
4. Straighten your hair every day. Why worry about heat damage and time-consuming hair styling when you can rock fried hair every day.
Clearly, I had no business straightening my hair with my complete lack of knowledge of how to take care of my hair. But my obsession with straightening my hair would continue on all the way up to the middle of my sophomore year. Although I became a little more knowledgeable about how to straighten my hair and I would give my hair brief breaks from the straightener, my hair still suffered through heat damage. Every time I would step into the shower and saw my straight hair revert back to curls, I would cringe. My parents could see how much I hated my curly hair and attempted to reassure me of how beautiful it was, but who is ever really reassure by their parents?
After nearly three years of constant hair straightening, I finally put my straightener aside. It wasn’t because I gained a new-found appreciation of my curly hair or I worried about heat damage. I was simply tired of all the maintenance straight hair required (look, I was a lazy high school student). My curls were limp and damaged, but grateful. Although I had very little idea of what to do with my curls, I wore my hair in its natural state for the remainder of my high school career. By the time I had left, my curly hair was strong, healthy, and long.
College was when, after 18 years of living, I started paying close attention to my hair. Surrounded by women with hair similar to mine, we all would discuss the knowledge we gained from our families, YouTube, books, etc. From that, I cobbled together an understanding of how to make the best of my curly hair. Don’t get me wrong- I still straightened my hair every once in a while, but I was comfortable enough with my curls to wear them proudly. It also felt like the first time in my life where everyone unanimously said my curly hair fit me best. Crazy, right? My natural texture fitting me best? What a concept.
Although I embrace my natural curls, I gained an unhealthy obsession with dying my hair in this past year of college. After a years-worth of changing my hair color, the combination of that and heat damage finally did my curls in. I noticed that they wouldn’t cooperate with me or any of my products anymore. If this had happened in eighth grade, it would’ve felt like a dream come true. But when I realized my curls weren’t coming back early this summer, I actually deeply missed them. I guess the cliché saying is true- you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Luckily, hair isn’t an ex-boyfriend; it grows back. As awkward and weird this hair journey has been, I definitely don’t regret going through all this tug-of-war with my curls because I wouldn’t have learned to properly love and appreciate them without it. With a lot of love and care, my curls will return strong and healthy, and I’ll love them even more than before.