“Mom, what’s wrong?” my daughter asked. “You seem upset.” My daughter’s only eight years old, so not only did her concern make me feel proud that she was so sweet and caring, but it made me feel dumb. Dumb because what was upsetting me was my hair! How could I admit this to a little girl whom I’m constantly telling that inner beauty is much more important than outer beauty? But since I’m also trying to teach her to express her feelings—no matter how silly they seem—and to be honest, I had to fess up. “I’m upset with my hair. I just wish it would grow faster so it was all curly,” I told her. This sounded even more ridiculous once I said it aloud, but it’s also true since now the majority of my hair is curly except the most important part—the hair in the front. Those pieces are a combo of curly on top, straight on the bottom. The very front pieces are half and half and the ratio of curly goes up toward the back of my head. It doesn’t sound like much, but it still looks weird. Also, because the chemicals used for Japanese straightening are so strong, it takes a lot of time to manually curl the straight part with a clip and gel to match the rest—a skill I have yet to master.
“So just tell your hair that you’re mad at it,” my daughter said, as if my hair the solution was totally obvious. What I realized was that if anyone had the right to be upset, it was my strands. After all, I spent six years subjecting them to four-hour-long Japanese straightening treatments using harsh chemicals and flat irons that were literally smoking they were so hot. And all this was in an effort to hide my hair because I couldn’t stand what it was doing naturally. This reminded me of a few months earlier when a friend asked if I was sick of waiting for my hair to grow. “Don’t you wish you could take a pill, go to sleep, and wake up with a full head of long curls?” Of course this sounds good in theory—and on days when I can’t stand my hair, but I actually feel like I’ve had to earn my curls in order to appreciate them.
So even though it’s been hard and seemingly endless, the journey off the straight and narrow has made me appreciate every twist and turn of my hair much more. I get excited when I see a new group of curls or waves. And my daughter and I play a game where she goes around my head finding the curliest strand and then finding the piece with the most straight hair and measuring it. (Hey, it beats ten rounds of Operation!) I also realized that my hair’s transition is symbolic of my life. Though I’ve had lots of great things happen in my life, I’ve always said I’m not one of those people who have had things just come to them. I’ve always had to put in a lot of effort and usually have a hiccup or two along the way. This just makes me work harder so I know in the end it’s a good thing and the curls growing out are no exception. They’ve taken work and patience, like the rest of my life. At first I thought sharing all this curly craziness with my daughter was really bad parenting. But when I realized that this journey with my hair was bigger than, well, hair, I also realized that life teaches us important lessons in the strangest ways. And I guess this is what makes life exciting and unpredictable. But now that I’ve waited more than 18 months, learned some lessons and really appreciate my curls, can someone please invent that magic pill?