Embracing My Curls: A Self Love Manifesto
“How Embracing My Natural Hair Taught Me How To Stop Seeking Approval and Be the Real Me” is what wanted to title this blog but they told me it was too long.
Let me start from the beginning.
I know some of you must of heard of the term: “pelo malo”, but for those of you who don’t know, it means…
In Latin culture, that label is for curly, kinky, and wavy hair. Long, Luxurious straight hair is the most coveted and beautiful hair, according to many.
So, being latin and wanting to be beautiful, I have been getting my hair relaxed since I was little. For those who don’t know, “relaxed” means that my hair was relaxed with chemicals (contains Lye, which would burn your skin off!) and blow dried straight, if it wasn’t down and straight, it was held back in tight French braids.
I was never given an option to not have my hair straight. Putting chemicals in my hair was done for me again and again until I didn’t even know that I had curly hair until the age of twelve when my mom told me I had to start taking care of my own hair.
I think back and I remember crying tears of frustration trying to straighten my hair and then hiding in my room feeling embarrassment and ashamed to leave my room because my hair wasn’t done.
It would be in a huge fluffy fro that took up the entire room and the name "medusa" would repeat over and over in my head because I was actually told that is what my curls look like when it wasn't straightened. And I felt hideous and ashamed to leave the house if my hair wasn't "fixed’.
So for most of my life, I only wore my curly on my ”off days” when I was either home all day or running errands. Whenever someone commented on it, I would shrug and be defensive and say "it's an I-don't-give-a-fuck-day!" hoping they thought i actually didn't give a fuck. The reality was that I did and wished I had the time and patience to just spent the two hours "fixing" my hair. And I would attack myself for not doing this.
My family thought I was depressed because If I didn’t do my hair for awhile. If I had to go to business meeting or party, or it was the holidays I was always asked “you’re going to straighten your hair, right?", with a judgmental tone.
I would start asking my friends and family, “Should I go curly or straight?” hoping they would stay curly.
The women always said “Straight! You look like princess” or “oh your long hair is so womanly, you look like superwoman!” or “You look like the girls in the magazine, its beautiful!"
I don’t blame any of my family for saying this to me. It’s not their fault the we are taught that way.
But I realized that I had to own my side of the street of this self attack machine and I had to learn that what I thought of myself trumped other’s very misguided opinions.
When I was alone in my room after a shower and I would see my natural hair curls against my forehead, I was happy with my appearance. It was just when I went out into the world, where other people saw me, did I feel shame that my hair wasn’t “fixed”.
I can't actually pinpoint the exact "aha" moment when I decided to ditch heat.
I took baby steps. I did my research. I knew that curls needed to be taken cared of and I only had only been taught how to take care of straight hair.
For moral support, I surrounded myself with images of women who looked like me.
I followed tumblr blogs that were dedicated to curls and when I saw women with the same hair as me, I felt better.
They looked gorgeous, happy and free. If their curls could be viewed as beautiful, why can't mine? If they are beautiful, so am I!
The best perk was that I was able to take carefree showers and wet my hair without worry of having to spend an hour fixing it. I could walk in the rain worry free!
I would actually be excited to see the end results of an air dry (lets be honest, it never dries quite the same day to day) and be curious about how different products respond to my hair.
Honestly, it was more fun to whip my hair back and forth with my curly locks than my straight ones.
I felt bad ass, I felt free, I felt playful, wearing my hair curly makes me feel sexy and grown up because I'm not hiding anymore.
Ditching relaxer was me standing my ground and saying no more. It took four years for my hair to grow and repair from chemical and heat damage.
Now I can finally see my REAL hair texture. It has taught me patience, how to be flexible, embrace mistakes (i.e., frizz, fly-a-ways, inconsistent curls) and seek wisdom from other women. I am constantly asking people about their routines and connecting with other women about their hair.
The whole process of going natural has been so worth it. My hair is now my favorite feature.
Loving your natural hair is NOT superficial, it's self love.