Growing up as a young girl with big, frizzy, curly hair (the result of my beautiful interracial family), I always felt I stood out. My curly hair was a magnet for eyes, comments like, “Have you tried straightening it?” and fingers reaching out to touch.
At school, I would look enviously at the girls with long, shiny, straight hair that fell perfectly into place. As typical for many young girls, there weren’t girls at my school or in my sphere of influence – T.V., toys, and movies – that looked like me. Even my look-alike American Girl doll had bone straight hair that I’d brush forlornly. Back at home, I’d look in the mirror, pull my hair straight as I could and bend my knees to see what I’d look a few inches shorter. Why couldn’t I just look like everyone else?
And this was all before I turned eleven.
In seventh grade, my grandma offered to take me to her hair salon, where the stylist gave me my first relaxer. When she spun the chair around and I was face-to-face with myself, I was speechless. Where once was my triangle-esque corkscrew hair, I now had softly waved, smooth hair. I was hooked.
Years of relaxers, Brazilian blowouts, and at-home straightening ensued. I’d run over my hair four or five times with the iron, leaving damaged, sad remains where my curls used to be. I loved every minute of it.
Or I did, until my roots would grow out, leaving me with wild, curly roots and bone straight ends. Not a great look, let me tell ya. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I stumbled upon beauty vloggers like AndreasChoice and SunKissAlba, loving everything about their hair that I realized what I was destroying.
Slowly, I started to learn to take care of my hair, appreciate it, and admire every single wonky strand. Unfortunately, it has not been an one-and-done battle. Up until a year and a half ago, I’ve gone through phases of itching for that perfect beauty standard (curse, you, LOB, for being so trendy and SO cute!), straightening to fit in and blaming my hair for rejections and mean boys.
But today, I’m starting to find worth in my curls, and in myself. So I decided to write them a love letter.
I’ve spent so much of my life despising you, so much time wishing to be “more beautiful,” and so much time hating myself for something so woefully out of my control.
I just want to say, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being afraid my peers were judging how big my hair was, and feeling self-conscious that the people behind me in class couldn’t see around my “birds nest.” I’m sorry for blaming you when that cute boy wasn’t interested in me, but in the blue-eyed blonde girl next to me. I’m sorry for shoving you down and shutting you up while I forced myself to conform to white-washed European standards of beauty that I will never mold into.
I also want to say thank you. Thank you for projecting an attitude of self-assurance and confidence when I feel too low to take on the world. Thank you for providing a hiding space when I just really don’t want to talk today. Thanks for looking good and springing back to life after so much mistreatment from me and my junior-high hot tools.
You’ve taught me some hard lessons about self-love, and you’ll teach me many more, I’m sure. I hope our friendship gets better with age.
How have you overcome society’s expectations for your beauty? Share in the comments below, and join the community of supportive #bossbabes at Hey! VINA on the app store.
(Feature image via @mydevacurl)