As so many of you already know, i am a curly hair supremacist. Like many of the self-loathing (Hitler’s grandmother was a Jew, which by his very own concentration camp-worthy definition meant he was a Jew), I came to this conclusion only after years upon years of being bullied for my frizz and spending hours in the mirror trying to perfect my tresses.
Over the years, I’ve interrogated fellow curly girls, often with hair much kinkier than mine. What products did they use? Who did they go to to get their hair cut? Unfortunately, in bumble-fuck Wisconsin, I only knew two females cursed with twisted locks. The mother-daughter duo were the rare breed of white Protestants (I met them at church) with super kinky coils (which I now know as fractal curls). They informed me (and my mom, who was just as frustrated as me) that Tresemme mousse was the only affordable product they’d found that worked. We immediately drove to the grocery store and bought a bottle. This was in the time well before any mainstream brand made products specifically for curly hair, including Tresemme. So it was simply styling mousse, not styling mousse for curly hair.
After this discovery, I spent my formative years always putting at least a ¼ of the bottle of white stuff onto my hair in the morning and combing it through my strands with my Afro pick. Never brushing. I often had the dreaded “crunchy” look that seems to be a popular hairstyle in my rural areas. And my hair would be wet ALL. DAY. LONG.
But Tresemme was my gateway drug into the world of curly hair products. After I moved to Chicago, I learned I wasn’t the only one! There were people like me here! Lots of ‘em. Curly hair abounds in the city, probably because of its more ethnically diverse population. As I met new friends and co-workers and grilled them and tried to empathize with them about taming our locks, my hair began to fall flatter and straighter. The really curly girls rolled their eyes at me when I tried to bond with them over our twisted fates.
So last week, I had to order something from Amazon, and if I spent $10 more, I’d get free shipping.
So I finally got “Curly Girl” by Lorraine Massey in the mail last week.
I read ½ of it in a day. And I cried -- at least 5 times. I kid you not. The emotions tied up in our hair -- especially those of us with coils -- is overwhelming.
‘Finally, someone understands me!’ my inner child, the 10-year-old within, felt. All of the stories in the book of name-calling, bad haircuts and utter frustration at their hair lots in life helped me to feel that I was not alone, as I so often felt amongst the sun-kissed bronze WASPs I sailed against and lived among growing up. I wasn’t the the only one who was given a mullet in 6th grade, or called names or otherwise othered because of my hair! Several of us all over the world were going through our very own lonely curly hair journeys, and only with the advancement of the Internet would we finally form into an actual community. And a movement.
One of the most poignant parts of the book is where Massey calls out that the cultural tirade against curly hair is a subtle form of racism. I couldn’t agree more.
Who has straight hair? White protestants. And Asians, I guess. The so-called “good” minority. Since moving to Chicago, I’ve been discovering and learning more about my Jewish ancestry. It wasn’t even until I moved here, at age 23, that I learned that curly hair was a Jewish trait. I had been calling my hair a Jew-fro for a while, so I’m not entirely sure why I hadn’t put two and two together. Straightening Jew-fros seems like a way to try to to fight your own identity and morph yourself into the white majority mainstream. On perhaps a lesser level, is it similar to the current natural hair movement in the black community? That to take back our identity, we must embrace the physical traits our ethnicities have provided to us?
Anyway, over the years, I’ve really felt a need to embrace my natural hair, just the way it is. To pretend my ghastly skin is thicker than it is and ignore the backhanded compliments:
“Your hair looks so much better straight! Why don’t you wear it like that all the time?”;
“Did you do something different to your hair today? It looks good.” (No, a cold front came through. Duh.);
“I just love how you don’t do anything to your hair and wear it naturally!” (Um, I put at least two handfuls of gel in it this morning, and I spent at least two hours trying to dry it between the plopping and the diffusing and the using the heater in my car and it’s STILL wet.)
I also realized, upon reading the book, some of the reasons my hair has probably loosened lately:
Birth control pills. Hormones cause changes in hair. And I read somewhere that curly hair is linked to testosterone. Not necessarily meaning that curly-heads have more testosterone but rather that for whatever reason, their hair responds more to the testosterone that they do have. Pregnant women’s hair texture often changes from straight to curly or vice versa because of the hormones.
The water in Chicago. I always showered with well water growing up. Multiple women have told me that when they came to Chicago, their hair loosened. From Nashville and the proper south and Wisconsin.
I think a hairstylist put a relaxer on my hair -- multiple times -- without ever asking me. I went to this semi-shady salon in the South Loop, and the hairdresser told the shampooer to put something on my hair, but I didn’t quite catch what. I know my hair looked good for the next couple of days but I also know that he would always straighten my hair without asking me, even though he professed that he “just loved my way hair”. Once, he asked me if I wanted to have my hair styled curly, and shockingly to me, another guy came up to me, first with a straight-iron, and then with a curling iron!
All in all, then book has lots of interesting concepts. I’ve been getting Deva cuts, and I don’t love their products. Ouidad’s work better for me, but they have sulfates (and are really expensive) and don’t follow the Curly Girl Method outlined in this book. So I think I may be going on a 2-month or so Curly Girl Method challenge. We shall see…
But this book is a blessing. I only wished it had been sent in the mail to me about 19 years ago.