There was a period in my life when, after my mother relaxed my very curly hair, I felt normal. I had dyed my hair a honey color to imitate how the other Caucasian girls looked. And it fit me. For a short while. Until my unruly baby hairs began to grow like weeds on my hair line and I would spend hours every morning attempting to flatten them with an iron. Even when my hair was straight from chemical treatments, it never looked like the other girls’ hair. I would stare in frustration at how humidity made my hair a puffy, dry mess while gorgeous blonde locks remained untouched by the weather.
I tried products to make my hair feel soft and moisturized. Instead I would get oily and stringy. Then I thought how the key was the flat iron. “I will take it with me everywhere”. But, after a couple of months my hair was brittle, dry, and severely heat damaged.
So I grew it out, and cut it off. I had never felt more liberated in my life. In the shower, my hair was no longer falling out. It came up to about my jawline and, at times, I would cry over having short hair. So it wasn’t always a walk in the park.
Above everything else, I did collect an album of lessons that I learned from this decade long experience. These are my favorite three (they get me through the tough days).
I Am Not Anyone Else.
Yes, other girls might have long, straight hair. And I have long, curly hair. And you might have short, wavy hair. Or a buzzcut. Or no hair. My point: Show me where in the “Big Book of Universal Beauty Laws” the commandment that states everyone needs to look the same. Or needs specific hair length to be beautiful. Point it out to me, or heck, just find me this said book.
It’s Just Hair
My mother used to work as a massage therapist. One of her coworkers had dreads so, one day, he became the topic of conversation. Let me rephrase: his hair became the topic of conversation. He stays silent for most of it, and when the conversation winds down, he says “guys, it’s just hair.” And it is exactly that: just hair. It grows, and it needs our attention, sometimes. But your hair is not even 1% of who you are as a person. Put it like this: when you cut your hair, do your interests change? No. If you are Susan, you will still be Susan after a pixie cut.
Beauty is Complicated
Since there are so many people in the world, there are billions of ways beauty can be defined. And none of them are right. And none of them are wrong. Many times, hair is tied to race and ethnicity. I am Cuban, so in my country, hair is a big deal. The blonde women are goddesses, and the white women with light eyes are queens. Black women are pushed aside. A lot. I was a little black girl in Havana with zero representation and with an early understanding that, as long as I was black with big curly hair, I will never be beautiful. Then I entered a beauty pageant years later in America, and this opinion changed. But not at all for the reason you are thinking of. I lost the pageant. And kept losing. I was the only black girl competing in most of these. A couple of contestants would ask me why I didn’t wear a weave. Others would ask me, after hours of doing my hair, when was I going “to fix my hair for the competition”. Ouch.
I would get dirty looks from contestants when laying down my edges and fluffing up my hair. As a result, I made my hair bigger every time I competed. Because I figured that if I’m going to lose anyway, I sure as hell will lose with genuineness instead of trying to look like everyone else.
In actuality, it comes down to this: out of the many things, concepts, and definitions that beauty carries, being genuine is definitely in the top three. I can change the texture of my hair, or wear a weave, or dye it red. But nothing, no hair cream or magic potion, will make me love myself more or see myself as beautiful. And that’s who beauty begins with. Your genuine, radiant, honest self. After that, everything beauty related falls into place.
I have curly, long, coarse hair which is tied to my appearance and what most people use to describe me to strangers. I am also made up of one billion other details which have nothing to do with what I look like. And that, above all else, I find the most beautiful about myself.