My mother recounts the struggle she had with trying to get my hair to grow as a baby as a process of shaving my bald infant head repeatedly in order to encourage hair growth and, feeling defeated in her efforts, piercing my ears so that people knew I was a girl (that’s a problematic concept to deal with at another time). She always ends the story with “and then when her hair finally did grow out, it was a wild curly mess, and all I wanted was to put it back in!”
Don’t get me wrong, my mom loves me more than should be humanly possible, and would never intentionally hurt my feelings, but what she did not realize was that as I grew up, that is exactly what I began to view my hair as: an inconvenience, a mess to be cleaned up, a chore.
With her soft, dark waves, my mom had never dealt with the likes of my unruly locks that did exactly as they pleased (which rarely aligned with what she had in mind for them). So she spent years putting my hair away, tucking it out of sight in an array of braids, buns, and pigtails, anything that created the illusion of control over my rebellious little fro. This was customary until we came across the Holy Grail: the flat iron.
It provided all of the solutions we had so desperately been searching for: a way to eliminate my knots and extreme volume for an extended period of time, faster and more effective than a blow dryer could. I have now spent nearly eight years straightening my hair every single week. I can’t even remember the last time I left my hair curly for longer than a day. There are friends I have had for years that never even knew I had curly hair until we went to a beach.
The years of heat damage and wishing I had naturally straight hair are so deeply ingrained into me that I still feel extremely bold and self-conscious wearing my hair natural even for a short errand. It just doesn’t feel like “me,” even though that is exactly what my curly hair is: a part of my raw, natural self.
Coming to terms with that is a journey I am still on, but the growing representation of curly-haired queens in ad campaigns and social media has been a great catalyst for me. Meetings girls who rock their natural curls and are willing to teach the techniques and products that help with curl retention and styling has also helped in this process.
Rather than buying your daughter expensive hot tools, try teaching her how to manage her curls in their natural, beautiful state. Her “knots” are stunning, bouncy curls — don’t come near those dried locks with a comb or brush, that is guaranteed curl execution. Different hair types require different care, help her learn this. Teach her of all of the beauty in her fun, kinky curls.
Telling your daughters that straightening their hair is fixing it implies that in its natural, curly state, it was broken. Western standards of beauty and “work appropriate” hairstyle restrictions are already working against kinky-haired girls. As a parent, one should work to combat these societal perpetuations and raise a daughter who is so equipped with confidence in her curls and herself that she can fight against those internal battles and come out victorious. I would like for future generations of young, curly-haired girls to feel confident and happy with the hair on their head, and know that they are just as whole and “fixed” in their natural state as the pin straight-haired models they see in magazines and in their classrooms.