Tales and Adventures of Curls


Me, today, with my straight(ish) hair, and me when I was three with my boingy curls (photos by CSmith).

Hannah Smith, Editor in Chief

When I was little, and to this day (except today and few other days in my life), I had some of the most curly curls ever (I mean not really, but they were very curly, reference the picture). My mom still tells this story about how when I was three she was in Walmart and this lady asked her if she permed my hair; it’s one of her favorite stories to tell.
My first memory of my hair, however, is being in the eye doctor’s picking out my first pair of glasses, and the lady helping us told me that she wished she could trade hair with me; she had this really stick straight silky hair. I told her “that no she didn’t” and asked, “Do you know how much work it took to have curly hair.” That’s what my hair was to me when I was little. Something that caused work and annoyance. Something that took an unbelievable amount of time to comb. Something that was pulled and caused pain.
Then my mom got a straightening iron and for the first time ever I had straight hair. I remember running down to my grandparents to show my grandma. She was so excited; we were so excited. It was different, but my other memory to go along with this is showing my dad and my brother and then saying that they liked my curly hair better. Out of context, this sounds mean or rude, but even as a little girl I knew that what they really meant was “we like you as you.”
They were so terrified that I wouldn’t like myself. That my curly hair would become a victim of my own self-loathing. In general, it hasn’t. To me straightening my hair has always been an event, not a practice. My curls were something I had to live with rather then enjoy.
Even as I got older and found myself not happy with the way I looked, it was never directed at my hair. I always wished it would lay flat and not frizz, but to this day I don’t remember wishing for straight hair.
So I would straighten it every now and then when I wanted to, but not because I hated my curly hair. Then I went for a long period without straightening it at all, three years. Then this weekend I was setting up my memoji (Apple’s version of a bitmoji). I was looking through the hair selections and there weren’t any hair options that looked like mine. It was either too curly or not curly enough. Anything that came close to my curls I felt looked ugly or not like me. So I finally gave up and set my memoji up with straight hair. Not wavy, but stick straight hair. I looked at it and it looked mature and pretty. So later Tuesday night I plugged in the straightener, set it to 350 and started working. Then a little less than two hours later I had straight hair. To be fair it wasn’t stick straight, but it was as close as it was going to get and a heck of a lot closer than it was when I started.
The next day at school I was going about my day and something felt off all day. I was trying to smile and be happy and productive, but it just wasn’t there. Now again to be fair there was more to this, but a large part was that I didn’t feel like myself.
During my freshman year, I got contacts and I was really excited about them until I started wearing them to school. Then I felt almost naked without my glasses.
To this day, I can’t decide if I use my glasses as a crutch to hide behind and I think I feel the same about my hair. This straight, silky, slippery hair isn’t me; it makes me feel like I’m missing something like I’m missing a part of my arm (not the whole arm, but just enough to be annoying).
So I know that this sounds really stupid and really dramatic (like geez Hannah you know there are kids all over the world that would kill just to have electricity and you are complaining about the fact that you have enough electricity to straighten your hair, but that it isn’t “you”), but to me this is a story less about my hair and more about who I am. My hair isn’t so important to me, but over the last year, I’ve started taking more care of it. And somewhere in there, it has become a vital part of my identity and I think that’s just as valid as my love of reading or my inability to be on time for anything other than school. My hair is a piece of my story, and as I look back a larger piece that I realized, so against my will and the hopes of my inner voice. My bongy, curly, messy, frizzy, pretty hair is me, and I like me as me.

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