When I say that I’ve always been a naturally curly girl, I may not be telling the whole truth. Up until about two years ago, my natural hair was more or less in a battle against nature. I was manipulating the wave, rather than riding it, saturating my tresses with as much gel as they could handle in order get some sort of order in the court on my crown. Oh, the naivete of youth.

Shampooing with the best of them, tossing in silicones to add short-lived sheen, BRUSHING. So many sins I am ashamed to admit, on the alter of the curlies. I shudder to think of those dried-up days.

It was at a New Year’s Eve party, amidst a torrent of Polish vodka and cheese wedges, that I learned of my wrong-doings. Or more kindly, of the way to do right and do good to my curls. I’m not saying that the Curly Girl method is a necessity for all, but the results could not and cannot be denied: my hair, even on those lazy days when I don’t follow my co-wash, leave-in, all-natural gel routine, is more defined, soft and shiny. And for that all-mighty achievement alone, I am thankful.

But telling your friends that you have denounced shampoo and brushes and combs is an arduous coming out process, to say the least. The looks of disbelief, maybe even horror (despite my using my curls as a curtain of blinders”> on my straight-haired friends’ faces were hard to miss. I softened the curly anvil (curlvil?”> by telling them that it’s because of the little known fragility of my curly hair — the dryness, the porousness — that I don’t use shampoo. They nodded and pretended to understand, but inevitably ran back to their bathrooms and cradled their sodium laureth sulfate.

I don’t mind, though. Maybe some would say, “It’s only hair,” but in a world of Japanese straightening treatments and relaxing balms, I choose aloe and flax and coconut oil. Being naturally curly is about making an assertion, a commitment to who you are, unrelated to pleasing others or navigating trends, special cuts or too-blonde highlights. It’s about accessing the best version of yourself and flaunting it. And I’m proud to be an advocate for that in whatever way I can, one plop at a time.

Alison Zwecker

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