I think it’s fair to begin by saying that, as I write this, my hair is completely slathered in coconut oil and is currently clipped onto the top of my head and wrapped up in an old t-shirt. It has been this way for the past two-and-a-half hours, and realistically, will probably be that way for another three.
If your gut reaction was somewhere between “That’s an odd way to spend a Saturday night,” and “That is downright bizarre,” you are probably among the 89% of people in the world that do not have curly hair. (I can give you this math because I just looked it up. Google is such a nifty thing…) If you are one of the 11%, and therefore among my curly haired sisters, this sounds perfectly normal to you. Curly-haired folk fall into two camps: they that spend hours and hours trying to make their hair sleek and smooth like the straight-haired people of the world, and they that spend hours and hours trying to get their curls to behave in a civilized and attractive manner, rather than like an Exorsist-style version of Cousin It. It’s very time consuming.
What you have to understand about curly hair, if you do not have it, is that curly hair has a life of its own, and nothing you can do will convince it to do anything other than exactly what it wants. Oh, sure, you catch me on a day when it’s cooperating, it’s amazing. But you don’t see all the mornings when I wake up and look in the mirror only to think, “Oh, why?!” Straightening it is an involved, forty-five minute process that only lasts about an hour, until I walk into anything even moderately humid (say, past a drinking fountain…) Keeping it curly involves trying to tempt and cajole it into doing what you want, which is dicey at best. I can do the exact same thing to my hair three days in a row, and I’ll get “Meh” hair on day one, “Smashing” hair on day two, and “I Just Put My Finger In A Light Socket” on day three. It’s completely hit-and-miss.
Most of my hair-care habits have been picked up from one of three sources:
- A really smashing book called Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey. This was my first soirée into accepting my curly hair. (If you have curly hair and have not read this book, you should stop reading this and go read it. Immediately.)
- My African-American students who wear their hair the natural way. They come in from swimming in gym class and we talk about how insane curly hair is if it gets wet and you don’t put in product, and they’re always like, “Miss D., what you really need to do is…” I’ve gotten some good stuff this way.
- Pinterest. (Because whenever do you not have Pinterest on a list like this?)
Pinterest tends to be my favorite lately, mostly because I like trying new stuff, and like every curly-haired girl of my acquaintance, I’m constantly on the quest for a miracle produce that will give me cinema-style perfection on a daily basis. (This is totally impossible on the level of waking up at 3 a.m. on two hours of sleep with perfect make-up, but a girl can dream…)
Segue into the coconut oil and the t-shirt. A Pinterest find, in this case. It’s ridiculous and it might not work. But it might. And the article had 4/4 tried-it-and-loved-it hearts, so that’s something. Of course, after I had this all slathered up, I read about how some people are really allergic to coconut oil and get horrible breakouts–with my luck, that will be me, but it will be an interesting object lesson.
My hair has gotten curlier as I’ve aged, but even in my teens, my hair was voluminous. I came of age in the final seasons of Friends, where there was nary a curl or wave or even a hint of volume to be found.
While it’s nice that curly hair (along with brunettes, a membership card I also claim…) are finally back in fashion, having hair that could never be “cool” taught me a lot in those formative late-teens and early-twenties years. I made peace with being me. I will never be able to pull of all those sleek, polished looking up-dos. It always looks, well, wrong and anyway, it would only last about ten minutes. But I like my curly hair. It’s kind of crazy and everywhere and only marginally following the rules, which is kind of who I am as a person, really. I only marginally believe in patterns and instruction manuals and believe top-down mandate protocol is open to a certain amount of, shall we say, interpreation. I’m kind of like my hair. So I guess it’s no mistake that it’s growing out of the top of my head.
I have started finding a few gray hairs (a total moment of panic that would have been worth getting on camera…) mixed into my mass of curls lately. They are a million times more curly than my “regular” tresses. I hope this is an indication of what kind of old lady I’ll be one day–no Bea Arthur coif for me, no sir-ee. I’m going to be that crazy old lady who is always coming up with wacky ideas and bending rules and doing all the things she wants to do. That’s what curly hair says to me. And I say, sign me up.