Tender (Self) Lovin’ Curls

I cannot believe it’s September already! I always feel rejuvenated by Summer, sun and cool breezes but I love when the seasons change too. Summer and Spring make me want to be out and about, but during Fall and Winter? Well, Fall and Winter make me want self-reflection and a huge mug of hot chocolate. Yes, there is so much to love about the season change.

I am looking forward to change this Autumn– physical, mental, and emotional change. I was fussing over my hair while splish splashing around at the waterparks recently, because I really did half expect to go to a water park and not get my hair wet (…ok, so maybe I was slightly delusional!) when J told me I looked beautiful.

My first response was “Yeah. Oh-kay,” quickly followed by a wrinkle in my nose and a hard eye roll. You know, just my usual response. But later that night I got to thinking… What gives? Why did I hate my naturally curly hair?

Hate might seem strong but my dislike ran so deep I would hightail it to the salon those rare times my hair was curly. Let somebody see my curly hair? Ha, over my dead body!

Man, me and my hair… me and my hair we been through some things. As a little girl I used to stand in front of the t.v. reveling in all of my hair’s glory to the tunes of Gloria Trevi’s Pelo Suelto. It was soft, it was curly, it was frizzy, it was voluminous, it was rebellious but most importantly it was me. Somewhere between Gloria Trevi and Third grade I lost the love I felt for my naturally curly hair.

For most of my life I was self-conscious about my hair. The Little Dominican_Straight HairIt never seemed long enough and
stepping out into humidity meant not even John Frieda’s Frizz Ease could keep my fly aways in place. Imagine my horror at 14 when my aunt took me to the salon to get a perm and I stared in the mirror, trying to keep back tears, at what I would for a very long time call “the poodle” on my head. Small ringlets packed close to the side of my head, jutting out to create what looked like the head of a mushroom. My shoulder length hair was reduced to just below my ears. Ruined, I thought. I swore I would never go curly again.

My mother picked me up from daycare one evening with long straight hair and bangs. I spent months begging and pleading with my mother, until I finally convinced her to let me get a relaxer. I no longer wanted her to do my hair again, it was to be touched by salon hands only (hello Dominican blowout!) because they knew how to make my hair slick straight. I wore straight with the same part down the middle until I cut my hair for the first time Sophomore year of High school. I found strands of my hair longer than others. Again horrified, I vowed never to go short again.

There was a point in time when I thought I would never stop relaxing my hair. I thought relaxing my hair was me finally being me, finally accepting straight hair made me pretty, finally feeling comfortable to step outside. The first time I tried to explain why I liked my straight hair I was a sitting at the multicultural ALANA Center on campus in a circle with a handful of women. Except for the one White student, who we had joked nicknamed our honorary member, we were all women of color. Our topic that week was hair, a topic coming up often amongst me and my five female college friends.

Sitting there with other women of color I learned talking about hair was not easy to do. There in the living room of what became a second home to me and my peers, we open ourselves up to listening and to sharing. Listening to women talk about their hair– keeping still while mom brushed and untangled, having White people ask to touch their fro, or feeling un-pretty without straight hair– I begun to see that culture, self-esteem, and racial biases all affect how one chooses to wear their hair (whether we are aware of all these things being at play or not). Unfortunately, I didn’t see how any of those were at play for me.

“I just like my straight hair.” I reasoned, never really tapping into why. I spent years saying straight hair was just easier for me to maintain but in actuality nothing about it was very easy: wrapping my hair every night to avoid split ends, shelling out $30-$60 every 2 to 3 weeks for a Dominican blowout, showering with a shower cap (or returning to my room if I forgot my shower cap) and, despite my dislike of umbrellas, carrying an umbrella everywhere because having nice-looking hair (what I interpreted as straight hair) was in my book top priority.

In my second semester of junior year, on the heels of my semester abroad in London (the farthest I had ever been away from home on my own) I decided I no longer wanted to relax my hair. Actually, chopped off my hair instead. I had just turned 21. And feeling liberated, I swore I would never go long again.

The_Little_Dominican_shorthair

Looking back, I laugh, because cutting my hair was motivated by a complete lack of self-love. I told myself it was time to accept being the less attractive friend. In a morbid way, I wanted who I thought I was on the inside to match who I was on the outside.) I thought rejecting society’s straight hair norm would help me hide and wallow in my self-hate but it had the complete opposite effect. Unknowingly I stripped myself of a security blanket. I felt rebellious and free, unapologetic and confident. Cutting my hair made me more visible.

The Little Dominican CurlySo here I am, six years later, finally ready to return to where I started: wild, curly and frizzy-haired. Am I scared by “natural” and “sulfate-free” and “3b?” You betcha. But I’m also super excited by “green” beauty, diffusers and the rebellious springy spirals falling from my head. The thing is dear, I simply do not give a fuck (pardon my French!) about hiding me, my hair and my beauty. Plus, I get to share everything I learn with all of you because it’s not just my time to love my natural hair, it’s our time.

So this month I’m going back to basics.

Have you gone natural? Thinking of going natural? Comment below and tell me, what has your hair journey been like?

And if you love your straight hair (girl, I get it!) I hope you will still join me in this new chapter!

With Tender (Self) Lovin’ Curls,

Your Little Dominican

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