Friday, August 13, 2010

Lesson Learned, Emily: Love the Curl

Contest entry #6 by Emily McBride. Don't forget, tomorrow is the last day to submit an essay.

When I was just starting Kindergarten, my hair fell in long, light-brown ringlets. People would ask my mom how much time she spent curling my hair every morning, to which she replied with a smile, “It’s natural.”

As I grew taller, my hair grew thicker and heavier, leaving me with unruly and uneven curls. I didn’t like my hair anymore and my flat iron became my new best friend. But this wasn’t an easy straightening job. My hair was thick and long and extra curly in the back. Every morning I would drag myself out of bed an entire hour early—just to straighten my hair.

I faithfully straightened my hair every day, and if I woke up late or didn’t feel well, I would just put it in a ponytail. I didn’t know how to control my curls, and I didn’t want to control my curls—I just wanted them to go away. Straight hair was in. I was so jealous of my friends that had naturally straight hair, who could just get out of the shower, part their hair down the middle, and let it dry in the sun.

At some point toward the end of high school, I got sick of straightening my hair. And I also became more sure of myself. I experimented with my brother’s hair gel and my blowdryer one day in the bathroom. I came out triumphant, with sticky, but nevertheless, curly, hair. I started wearing my hair curly to school on the days where I just didn’t feel like I getting up so early. And as time went on, I grew more adept at working with my curls. As I figured out which mousse held best and discovered that blowdrying my hair upside down worked wonders, my straightener began to serve me less and less.

Now, I sometimes go months without straightening my hair—and not because I’m lazy. I have a fancy flat iron now, one that cuts the straightening time in half. But I’ve embraced my curly hair and have come to love it. Short or long—I like my hair best when it’s curly.

So, what’s the point of my hair history? Am I saying that curly hair is better than straight hair? Or am I saying that it’s not worth it to spend time getting ready in the morning? No, not at all. What I’m trying to say is that part of becoming lovely is accepting and being grateful for who you are and working with what you have. Not only does it help you feel better about yourself—but it’s often more convenient, too :)


Miri said...

I have the same story, Emily. My hair is intensely curly and has been a mess since I was a toddler. I've tried more products in the last fifteen years than I can even count--gel, mousse, paste, hair butter, hair food, chemical straighteners, all in dozens of different brands. I hated my hair for years, because it took so much time and effort to come up with a result I wasn't even happy with.

A friend and I were talking recently about how for our whole lives, we've felt like (and been told that) we needed to straighten our hair in order to look better and fit in. It was only in college that I began to appreciate my hair. But even still, in the last few years since I've finally been able to afford a flat iron, it's been basically a permanent part of my morning routine--even if my hair is curly, I straighten my bangs. It's always bothered me that I feel better when my hair is straight. My hair is naturally curly, and I am all about embracing things that are natural. Why should I want it to be different than it is?

This is still something I am struggling with, but I am determined to reach a point where I don't feel that straightening = upgrading. And in the meantime, here is what I wish I had known to say while I was growing up, when countless people asked me countless times, "Why don't you straighten your hair?" The answer is, "Because it's curly."


Loved this essay!

Meg said...

What I don't get about this is where these people are getting the audacity to tell you that you should be straightening your hair. I mean, sometimes I curl my hair for a change, but it takes forever and I only do it once ever few months (less when my hair is long.) Why should you have to straighten your (adorable, by the way) curls just because they're curly?

I know that's not really the point, and I love the bigger point too. Being happy with what we are is so important, especially about things that don't need to be changed. Improving yourself is lovely, but it should never be because someone thinks that the way you are is somehow inferior to the way they are.

Miri said...

That's been my question too, Megan, ever since I finally had that realization that straight hair isn't any more legitimate than curly hair. The fact that people--many people, in many different places throughout my life--felt that this was a normal question to ask is just proof to me of how deeply our culture believes that everyone should be aspiring to look the same--and how sad that is.