Lately whenever I see someone with naturally curly hair, I feel spellbound by how beautiful they look… then I remember that I actually have that hair myself! Why have I not embraced my true curly nature sooner? Well when I was growing up there weren’t any other girls getting around with naturally curly hair so I always felt different – but not in a good way. As a child I guess all I wanted was to fit in and be the same as everyone else. All the little girls at kinder and school had long straight hair, mine was a short curly frizz ball. My Mum has dead straight hair (Dad had curls) and she just didn’t get how to look after my type of hair so her solution was to keep it really short – I hated it! She would try to brush it with force – any curly girl worth their salt knows that you do NOT brush curls! Not only does it cause frizz, but it bloody hurts! Mum got sick of hearing me carry on like a pork chop so she left it up to me to brush, which of course I did not do. I ended up with dreadlocks underneath my hair (at the nape of my neck) which she tried in vain to brush out with me crying the whole time, so she had to cut them out.
Growing up I can’t really recall seeing anyone on TV or in magazines with natural curls, so in my mind that meant that to be beautiful or accepted, you needed to control and tame the wildness. I used to get compared to Shirley Temple a lot, a very outdated reference even when I was a child… The only females on TV with curls were the comedians that people laughed at, and even then their curls were manufactured to add to their comedic value. My brother (who is 5 years older than me) and his mates called me names when I was a newbie at Primary School. I got called Franco Cozzo (an old Italian furniture salesman who had the most terrible ads on TV), Gollywog, Medusa, the list went on. Mum once said in front of a bunch of people at a social event that my hair “looked like pubic hair” and then laughed. None of this was funny to me, I was deeply humiliated and felt so hard done by that I had been born with such ugly hair. Why couldn’t I just have shiny, floppy, effortless hair?? I grew it as long as I could and pulled it back tight in a pony tail (which gave me headaches) until straighteners became a thing. Then the GHD was invented, the answer to all my prayers! I could get silky, poker straight hair at home instead of the $40 I paid my hairdresser to blow wave it every Friday night. I bought one right away! Most people didn’t even know I had curly hair, no one in my young adult life had ever seen it anything other than straight and blonde.
Somewhere along the way I got the idea that men only liked blondes, so I bleached it for 10 years. All that time and money wasted on trying to fit into some imaginary ideal that I made up myself. I’m not blaming anyone – I think parents do the best that they can with what they have at the time. We are all becoming more conscious and aware now of the things we do and say and how they affect the young and impressionable. School and parents never used to put any time or emphasis into teaching children to love ourselves and be proud of what makes us unique. It was all about comparison, striving, doing – never about simply BEING. The decision at 29 years old to stop bleaching my hair and go back to my natural brunette colour was scary for me. Intuitively I felt it was time to be more myself, but I was so scared I would look unattractive to men. My self-esteem hinged on how validated I was by the opposite sex – negative belief patterns I have thankfully worked on and let go of. I want a man who loves me for who I really am, so it starts with me. How will anyone even know who I truly am if I hide her all the time?
I think I have always been trying to play small in many different ways and this is just a physical manifestation of that – big, curly hair seemed ‘too much’. Too wild and out of control according to a patriarchal society, but to be feminine is to be wild like mother nature! I want a man who deeply desires to be with a wild woman embodying her true nature.
I tell my beautiful 3 year old niece how gorgeous her curls are all the time yet I deny that in myself. I don’t think she has ever seen me with my natural curls. Kids learn from what you do, not what you say. I went to visit Neel Loves Curls and had them educate me on how to look after my hair and style it with the Curly Girl method. I am loving being my wild natural self – I was definitely not born to fit in but I sure did waste a lot of energy trying in the past! I recently stumbled upon homemade flax gel and am pleasantly surprised at how well it holds my curls without looking hard and crunchy. It’s so cheap and easy to make! I have been wearing my hair out and proud for the past few days. It’s easier to style cause I don’t do anything but whack in tiny amount of flax gel. I am learning a lot from private Facebook groups and articles like this. So good to finally appreciate the hair I was given!