A Brief Curl-story

Whenever I get complimented on my hair, my first instinct is to say how much I hated it growing up.

Then, “oh, yeah. Thanks.”

It usually confuses people, present-day me included. One of the last times someone questioned my lock-loathing history, my reply was “because I didn’t know I wasn’t white.” He laughed. And was drunk. 

Growing up I went to school with predominantly white children (my instinct was to say “white people” but “people” sounds weird adjacent to “school” and children are people too, so deal). I specifically recall envying the way that straight-haired white girls (which all of “them” essentially were) could effortlessly tuck their hair behind their ears without it falling forward. It was so cool to me, let alone super aesthetically pleasing. It was like their ears were built-in barrettes just holding their silky tresses tautly in place. Multipurpose AF. 

I would stand in front of the mirror emulating the ear-tuck to no avail. My hair always defiantly bounced back to the side/front of my face. I thought there was something wrong with me. 

For years I never wore my hair down. More accurately, I would leave for school with it wet and down, because when it was wet it was acceptable, but I hated how much it shrank when it was dry.

I felt like I looked like a chia pet.

So it was always pulled back, or on top of my head by the end of the day. 

Eventually I began relaxing my hair. In middle school and high school my mother religiously took me to “the Dominicans” to get my hair blown out straight. I could finally do an ear-tuck! I had arrived.

For years I hardly ever rocked the curls. The relaxer cooked the curls anyway (probably with Adobo) so now when I wore it down, I looked like a wilted chia pet.

When I went off to college, I figured…I might as well go hard or go home, and went for the Japanese relaxer.

Yeah, I voluntarily sat in a chair for 8 HOURS willingly letting an Olympic figure skating team worth of Koreans slow-roast my curls with chemicals.

BIG mistake.

Never listen to your Korean friend who tells you to get Japanese straightened. I love you Rosa, but ’tis the truth.

Yes, her name is Rosa and she is Korean, and yes we are talking about Japanese not Dominican relaxer. Stay with me people. 

Styling my chemically-altered straight tresses was effortless post-initial cooking, but as soon as there was any hint of a curl growing in, fuggedaboudit. When I’d sweat it out, after hours of applying all forms of heat to it to straighten that damn root, I looked like I had a helmet on my head. She was not cute. 

After two rounds of getting Japanesed and one go at getting Brazilianed, I was done. I was done taking my curls for granted and for treating them so shittily. I cut my hair short, and grew those tender tendrils back in. I made it a priority to treat them better, use better products and to learn how to rock what God got me. You know? 

Today it’s the opposite. I almost never wear my hair straight. I avoid it at all costs. My curls are basically my brand. They’re my personality: big, spunky, imperfect. My curls are mad dope yo. 

Not to be all Meghan Trainor but my hair is my crown. Today I wear it proudly. 

I used to straighten my hair to come off as more “professional” for interviews, as once upon a time I did subscribe to the idea that curly hair was not that. I want to give that version of me a big ass hug. Poor thing had abysmal self-love. 

Today I love the skin I’m in, and all my keratin.

Photo Credit: Jordi-Lakeem Foster https://www.jfp.nyc/

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