“I miss seeing you.” That was the email I got from the amazing guy who straightens my hair, um, I mean, used to straighten it. I had emailed to tell him about an article I wrote that included him and that’s when he wrote back that he missed me. Little did he know how much I missed him—especially now that I have a halo of frizz sprouting from my head. I told him I hadn’t been to see him because I was “thinking of going back to curly.” (I used the word “thinking” because the commitment of being more definitive scared me.”> He responded by telling me about a new chemical treatment that just banishes frizz but keeps most of the curl. This was the equivalent of telling an alcoholic that they can have just one or two drinks. I was tempted, very tempted, rationalizing to myself that perhaps I could have it all. But deep down I know I have to go cold turkey and just let my natural hair grow back.

I’m trying to follow the advice of Devachan’s Lorraine Massey to “hydrate, hydrate, hydrate” and thanks to loads of conditioner and botanical gel, the frizz is getting better, but it’s still a startling sight. What’s funny is that in over six years of having straight hair, I never gave curly strands a second glance. In fact, I’d see them and feel elated that they weren’t mine. Now, I’m obsessed with them. Totally obsessed. No matter where I am—the subway, Starbucks, my kids’ school—I analyze the curls around me. “I hope my curls look like hers,” I think wistfully. “Yikes! What if mine look like hers?” I fret. “Boy, could that girl use some conditioner,” I tell myself. I also stand in the bathroom analyzing how much my curls have grown from one day to the next. I look at them as c’s that grow one on top of the other so I stand in the bathroom counting how many c’s I’ve got. In my just-below-the-shoulder-length hair, my virgin, curly hair reaches just the top of my ears (about three c’s worth”>. I also stand in the bathroom with my mirrored medicine cabinet open to just the exact position where I can see the back of my hair through a mirror on the wall. Underneath in the back my curls are sprouting, ready to bust out and I love lifting up the top canopy of my hair and checking it out. What amazes me is how in my loving-straight days those little twists and turns were the bain of my existence. Today, I light up when I notice that they’ve gotten just a millimeter longer.

Still, I’ve relegated my hair to a pony tail and at times hate its confused disposition—roots that are curly and ends that are straight. Since I’m working with Lorraine on her upcoming book, “Curly Girl 2,” she and I email dozens of times per day. Most of the time, those emails are about the book, but recently in a weak moment when I wanted to toss my ponytail holders and get my hair straightened I sent Lorraine an email that said, “I hate my hair.” Just like people going through Alcoholics Anonymous have sponsors, I view Lorraine as my curly sponsor. Her emails back encourage me to keep, well, curling. The other thing that really keeps me going is that I live close to one of her Devachan Salons. To go practically anywhere from my apartment, I have to pass it and I’m amazed—and in awe of—every curly head of hair I see walk out the salon doors. Seriously, no matter what shape or size a woman is, her curls look gorgeous, natural and effortless. As a result, my goal is constantly dangled in front of me and I know that if I just stick with it, I’ll get back to my curly roots.

Michele Bender


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