My hair has changed a lot. When I was a child, it had a gentle, frizzy curl. As I got older, it grew coarser, crimped, almost, curling up at the ends. I didn’t like that it didn’t lie flat. Looking back, I can hardly believe all the time and effort I spent over the years trying to get it straight.
As a kid, there were hours of blow drying, tugging, pulling and stretching the wiry strands, forcing them to smooth out. Now and then I got a wash and set with big rollers, followed by a flat iron. Once, when I was very young, someone used a hot comb on me. Imagine this: A metal comb, heated up on the stove until it was sizzling, and then passed through my pre-pubescent hair, which smoked as it cooked itself straight. For what? To fit in. To feel like my hair was “manageable.”
I started getting my hair relaxed in 6th or 7th grade, which had a lot to do with going to a predominantly white school. I remember the horrible smell of the chemicals, I remember the burn, and I remember how my hair was close to how I wanted it to look — smoother, mostly — but still didn’t have the flowing lustrousness I saw on on my white classmates, or on the glamorous people on TV.
I stopped using relaxer in high school — I think I was inspired by Janet Jackson — and for a while, as the straight part grew out and the waves and curls grew in, my hair looked strange and awful. But eventually I cut the straight part out of my life and found that my hair was manageable — when I just let it be. My curls had turned softer and my texture seemed less wiry than when I was younger — probably because I was no longer subjecting my hair to major heat damage.
Not only did I realize that my hair was fine the way it was — I discovered that I loved it.
It’s taken years for me to reach this place, but it’s a great place to be.