Join Date: Dec 2012
Getting my first "mini" chop tomorrow... kind of nervous
I've never written on a message board before (I'm a serious lurker), and I literally just discovered this site last week. However, I've been going through a real storm of emotions these past two weeks since reading Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey. So much so that it's caused a bit of an identity crisis. Against my better judgment I've found myself spending a good thirty minutes per day this past week diving into google and looking up curly hair stuff so in order to nip this obsession in the bud (I have a tendency to get pretty obsessive), I've decided that I'm going to actually write about my hair and exorcise my demons.
Let me start off by going back. Wayyyy back...
I've always had low self esteem about my physical appearance and I think my hair had a lot to do with that. Growing up I didn't know anybody who knew how to handle my curls and my childhood/teenage years were pretty awkward. I hated my hair. H-A-T-E-D it! It was big. It was dry. And frizzy doesn't even begin to cover it.
No matter what I did it was always unmanageable. Brushing was almost a violent experience. I remember once when I was eight years old swearing off brushing because it hurt so much and I didn't want to do it anymore. I still was shampooing daily, however, (and defly not finger detangling) so maybe four weeks later I'd collected quite a few snarls and knots. When my mom finally noticed she was pretty upset with me, and I guess rightfully so. It took maybe two hours to detangle my hair and a good chunk of it broke off in the process.
From then on I went to war with my hair. I’d brush it vigorously and wear it pulled back in low ponytails, buns, and braids so nobody could see my shame. I was eleven when I demanded my first short haircut. I was taken to a garden variety salon (I think maybe Supercuts?) where a hairdresser with pin straight hair cut my locks a little above my shoulders. No cropping, no layering. Just all one even length. The result? Serious triangle head. That lasted me through much of 7th and 8th grade. It was ugly, yes, but it was manageable. And my burden to bear.
Then in 9th grade my older and well-meaning cousin decided to show me how she straightened her hair--ghetto fabulously! (This was 1999, before flat irons were commercially available for anyone other than movie stars.) She'd spread her hair out on a table and sweep the steaming hot iron over her tresses. It seemed ridiculous (not to mention dangerous) but the results were amazing. Even though the only curl she’d had previously was a slight wave, her hair came out silky and glossy. And then when she offered to do it for me I couldn't wait to try it out. Immediately, I looked better. And what was worse--EVERYBODY told me so. It was wonderful, and yet terrible at the same time.
See, people would always tell me I was nice enough to look at but that my hair was a rat’s mess. I recall a "friend" in grade school telling me (and this is verbatim), “Wow, that Pantene you use really doesn’t work, does it?” (Yes, it really didn’t.) I was also told while my friends and I were doing a horoscope game about our futures and whether or not we’d be beautiful that I’d be, “Eh, normal”. I was told so with a glance not at my face, but at my hair. So whenever I’d straighten my hair (and this is true to this day when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a while), a very common reaction I get is, “Wow, you look great! Have you lost weight?” Having always been a vegetarian, a runner and a fairly healthy person, I’d find such comments extremely discouraging. As though the sheer size of my hair masked my figure. So even though I straightened my own hair ghetto fabulously a little in high school, it got to the point where the compliments I was receiving were only serving to make me feel worse.
And then… I decided to chop all my hair off. I wore my hair in cropped pixie cuts from my sophomore year of high school to my junior year of college. I thought they were cute enough, but I’d often get asked if I was gay or hit on by lesbians. I’m not homophobic in the slightest, but it was rather disheartening to know some boys might automatically count me out, you know?
It wasn’t until my later years of college that I finally began growing my hair out. Fortunately, it grows like a weed, and after college when I got in the habit of straightening my longer hair I noticed my life automatically got better. I looked better (obviously), I felt more confident, and people would tell me I looked hot all the time. Unfortunately there came that time every three days or so when I’d have to wash my hair and see it dry in all its frizzy, bushy glory. Yuck. And then just before I’d set about straightening it I’d look at myself in the mirror and I’d think, “Wow, I’m not pretty at all, am I? It’s all a big lie.” And so the vicious cycle continued.
I want to try the Brazilian blowout, but reading about all the formaldehyde and that fact that hairdressers have to wear masks while administering the treatment scared me off before I got the chance. Keratin therapy seemed much of the same, and Japanese straightening is so outrageously expensive. Given the rate at which my hair grows I’d have to get touched up every six months or so. I simply couldn’t afford to do it, and since I can’t handle a blowdryer to save my life it seemed my trusty CHI flat iron was my only failsafe.
I’m twenty-seven now, and even though I’ve been washing with a sulfate free cleanser the past two years and generously using silicones and heat protectants to keep my hair in good shape despite all the flat-ironing, I have to admit it’s getting to be an ordeal. It’s winter now and I live in fear of rain and humidity messing up my hair. I also hate how the frizz comes creeping back every time I exercise. Oh, and how I loathe that I can’t wash my hair after I exercise! It makes me feel grimy to come back from a trek on the trail and to still be able to smell the sun and sand in my hair, even after I shower with a bathing cap on.
So two weeks ago after discovering The Curly Girl Handbook at my local Barnes and Nobles, I came to the conclusion that enough is enough. I read that book almost cover to cover in one sitting and I felt something I haven’t felt in a very long time: hope. Hope that maybe I could come to love myself exactly as I am, not just on the inside but the outside as well. I tried the Curly Girl Method, and was amazed to see from just one wash a font of curls spring up from every direction. Frizz was still there, but the shapes were soft, pretty, and very encouraging. I didn’t look beautiful to myself just yet, but I looked… not bad. Well enough to step out of the house, at least. Perhaps this could be a fresh start then. A new beginning.
Tomorrow I’m going for my very first haircut with a certified curly hair specialist. She’s Deva trained and even though I’m not brave enough yet to get the actual Deva cut (I want to reserve the option to straighten JIC), I’m hoping that she’ll teach me exactly what I need to do to treat my hair right and get it healthy. Looking back I realize that every person who has ever cut my hair, from rinky dink barbershops to fancy salons, has had straight hair. Every single one. Next to all of my friends (from Caucasian to African-American) either have straight hair or wear it straight. Most of the celebrities I see on television and film wear their hair straight. It’s overwhelming and not a little daunting to be bucking the trend, but I want to try.
I’m not going to go super short again. Indeed, at this point in my life short hair is associated with the growing pains of my adolescence… Instead, I want my curls. I want the healthy, pretty long hair that I’ve never been able to naturally have. I hope to cut off just enough of the fried hair that is reluctant to curl that I might be able to leave the salon with no frizz, a girlish length, and my head held high. I’m a tad nervous, but also truly excited. My consultation over the phone with the woman who’s going to be cutting my hair was extremely reassuring and like none other I’ve ever had with a stylist. Usually I just walk in the door and I hear:
“Gonna take two flat irons to straighten that!”
“Wow, you have a lot of hair.”
And worst of the worst,
“We’ll have to charge you extra.”
Ugh, I’m done. At least I hope I’m done. Oh, God. Why can’t it be tomorrow already?