Growing up, my hair was always kept short. I was the only girl I knew with a pixie cut. I’d dream of having long hair like my blonde Barbie dolls. But regardless of how much I protested, each month my mother would drag me to the hairdresser were I would be reduced to looking, once more, like that one Barbie who didn’t have hair because of that time I got bubble gum stuck it. Mom knew what she was doing, she was saving herself the hassle of having to have to help me take care of my curls; a struggle she never had to battle with any of my siblings.
When I finally gained autonomy over my own head, I was 10. What I knew I wanted to do was grow my hair out until it reached below my buttocks. However, it only reached about mid shoulder blades before I cut it all off. My self this time, with a pair of blunt scissors, in front of the bathroom mirror.
I hated my hair. It was too thick. Too heavy. Too curly.
In the Princess Diaries, an average curly haired girl, straightens her hair and becomes a princess. In the Harry Potter series Hermione goes from being a curly haired genius to being a straight haired Girlfriend-Of in just two movies. Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, starts off having perfectly normal hair to having hair that looks like when you’re a prostitute who falls in love with a rich white capitalist.
After you watch enough of these movies, Curly becomes synonymous with Unwanted, Unnecessary, Ugly.
When I finally got the courage to grow it out again, I was thirteen, determined that I would succeed this time because I was armed with a flat iron my dad bought for me for 99 bucks at Checkers. And so began my abusive relationship with Flat-Iron Fascism. I would burn out my insecurities every morning before school. It would take three hours, sometimes longer. Even when my hair started falling out in chunks and the ends became damaged and broken, I continued. It was an identity war, with myself.
But eventually, I won.
The best way to wear curly hair is with confidence. It was like an epiphany, only obvious. One morning I decided to just stop fighting it.
The first time I got a compliment on my natural hair, I was at a charity store. I had gotten to the counter when the woman serving us looked at me and said “wow, you have beautiful hair” and I stood there, ceramic turtle in one hand, a pairs of worn out jeans in the other wondering if this hippie was being sarcastic or if she was high on something.
But then, it happened again, at a jewellery store with no hippies in sight, and from teachers at school, and waiters at restaurants and friends and random people in the street. You stop hearing these compliments when you start believing them. Even the bad comments are good now. It becomes enjoyable when someone says “you look untidy” or “unprofessional” and you smile because well it just feels good to get on peoples nerves being loud and obnoxious and true to yourself.
It feels good to know that you are actively taking up space in the world. You learn that blending in rarely means standing out. I wear my hair like my mane, like I’m king of the Jungle. I laugh now thinking about the silly things I did trying to achieve mediocrity.
I think everyone should feel this way about themselves.
So to hell with society’s standards. Let go of your insecurities. Don’t let them cage you. Be an identity rebel. Be annoying and unapologetic. Be hysterical in your individuality. Let the world know who you are and then laugh in the face of uncertainty. You were made to be fierce and brave and free. Let everyone know.