Opinions, Column

My Hair, My Problem

People have talked about my hair for my entire life. They aren’t proud of the fact that I merely grew it out of my head (although some appreciation would be nice)—rather, they obsess on its curly texture. 

“I love your curls!” “You look so much better with straight hair.” “Why don’t you wear your natural hair more often?”

Because it is such a talked-about subject, I have always resented my hair. I, like many other people with curly hair, know the struggle of making it look good. I don’t have the privilege of being able to wake up and walk out the door. At least 20 minutes of my morning are spent playing with my hair and debating whether it’s time to cut my losses and chop it off. That said, as I have gotten older, I have learned to appreciate my hair—but I’m still working on loving it. 

When I popped out of the womb, my head was covered in thick curls. My mom and grandmother also had curly hair. They understood how to make me look presentable. This was easy to do in my original neighborhood, which had hairdressers who catered to people with different hair types. When we moved to an area filled with straight-haired neighbors and classmates, though, suddenly the topic of my hair was thrown to the forefront of every conversation. 

Once I arrived in this new neighborhood, I was the odd one out. My curls were called frizzy, and I felt a strong pressure to conform to my town’s standard. I spent the majority of my middle and high school years trying to make my curly hair fit in. Rather than wearing my big curly hair with pride, I would brush out my curls and put my hair in braids.

This all changed in 2020. When the pandemic locked all of us up in our homes, I didn’t care anymore. Who was going to see me? Literally no one. I didn’t need to flatten and manage my hair, and it was free to fall in every which way. 

During that time, though, I grew to hate my hair even more. After years of damaging my natural pattern, my curls were thrown out of their shape, and they appeared ragged in my mind. I was home then, but after the pandemic, my “not caring” attitude transferred over to the public eye. I just didn’t touch my hair. It already looked bad, so why bother?

You were probably expecting isolation and time to play with my hair and products to bring on some type of epiphany—that my natural hair is beautiful, and that I shouldn’t hide my true self from others. Honestly? This is not that type of story. 

I really didn’t begin to love my hair until I cut off half of it. Suddenly, with half of my hair missing, I had to take serious care of it—and I had to leave it curly. Wearing my hair straight would demonstrate the blunt cuts and crooked lines of my hair-cutting “expertise.” 

I had to force a hair-loving journey on myself. I tested out different products, new hairstyles and cuts, and learned to love my God-given hair. As my hair started to heal and develop long-lost ringlets, I started to receive more comments about people’s preferences toward my hair. 

When you wear your hair one way, and people tell you they prefer it another way, it’s not a good feeling. Especially when you’re an overthinker like myself. Some people still say that to me, and it leads to thought patterns that feed into my self-esteem and make me uncomfortable. 

Why do people feel the need to talk about my hair? I couldn’t care less about anyone else’s hair, so why does every conversation with people I meet on the weekends first begin with “you have a lot of hair”? Thank you, Captain Obvious. I know that others with curly hair understand this struggle. 

On top of personal judgments, the topics of hair and hairstyle are inevitably wrapped in racial overtones about “professionalism.” At my job, a coworker once made a comment about the frizz that came off my curls on a humid day. They said I needed to look “professional,” and that I needed to wrap my hair up. Why isn’t frizzy hair “professional”? Would it be professional if I straightened my hair and killed my curls? To her, the answer would probably be yes. 

I’m done trying to conform to an unobtainable standard. My hair is curly, and I have to let the curls breathe. If I don’t do my hair one day, the world will keep on spinning—but please leave my hair out of conversation. I don’t want to know how it makes you feel. I’m trying to love it on my own, and that is a personal journey I have to embark on alone. 

November 5, 2023