When I was twelve years old, I was friends with a girl who had a brown, sleek bob, with those super cool chunky highlights everyone was into for god knows what reason. I remember her teasing me, calling me "Frizz ball!" What started off as a joke quickly became her name for me. I awkwardly laughed, simultaneously trying to hide the gap between my teeth. I just wanted to be accepted by her, to be seen as cool, to be her friend. But she was a mean girl.
Her words stuck with me, especially since they felt true. My hair was frizzy and unruly. It was thick and kinky and curly and, no matter what I did to try to tame it, it never worked. My twelve years of life had not yet afforded me the experience to become an expert stylist. So I resorted to shittily flat-ironed, still-frizzy hair, with a horizontal lump across the back (you know exactly what I am talking about). It still wasn't the sleek, shiny, smooth beautiful hair I desired, but at least I was trying to separate myself from that mess and not accept what I thought was a curly curse.
Now, fifteen years later, I know that my hair is beautiful. While I still enjoy wearing it (blow-dried) straight sometimes, I also don't despise it, and I love that it makes me unique.
It's also starting to become obvious that our daughter has curly hair like I did. I don't know if it will stick around her entire life, since hair texture can change during puberty, but if it does, here are a few things I want her to know about curly hair:
1. The right way to take care of it. My blonde, straight-haired mom didn't have curly hair, so when she ended up with a brunette, curly-haired girl, she maybe got more than she bargained for. I remember my hair being brushed, my tight curls then unraveling into a weird frizzy blob. (Never brush your curls. Every curly-haired girl knows that is, like, rule number one.) My mom was a pro at blow-drying her gorgeous, goddess-like golden hair, but I don't think she knew how to help when my hair wouldn't just automatically fall down the way hers did. Instead of falling down, it would puff up, a mixture somewhere between a lion's mane and an afro. I never had or knew what kinds of shampoos or conditioners to use, so I was constantly using ones heavy with sulfates, which are terrible for curly hair. I vow to buy or share my own shampoos with you and explain why we use those. I will teach you to brush your hair only when it's wet. I will show you how to properly blow-dry when you want to blow-dry it, but I will also encourage the curl-friendly, all-powerful air-dry.
2. Most men actually prefer natural curls over flat-ironed straight hair. In my experience, most guys like naturally curly hair over flat-ironed straight hair. While all hair types are beautiful, remember that curly hair is a desirable trait and you do not need hair just like Barbie to get a man's attention.
3. But if you want to straighten it, that's your choice. Do whatever makes you happiest. Because my curls were a big source of insecurity for me, I fried the hell out of them for the wrong reasons. I ask that if you choose to do that, please let it be because you just like straight hair and not because you think your curls make you ugly.
4. ...But also be aware of heat damage. Remember that what you do to your hair today isn't temporary. You can't just abuse your hair and think it will do you any favors in the future. Your hair can become dry and brittle and prone to splitting easily. I wish hadn't smashed it with 365-degree plates all those years. My hair is permanently dry and much thinner now.
5. ...And also be aware of the safety risks of styling tools. When I was in middle school, I was straightening my bangs once, and I literally dropped the flat iron onto my face. MY FACE. It burned a huge spot above my lips. I ran around in the backyard for twenty minutes because the cool air was the only thing that made the burning feel better. I had a burn mark-turned-scab for weeks. Don't be me. Don't be that girl. Know that styling tools are dangerous and should be wielded with care. Actually, you know what? Let's just stick with the blow-dryer. I'll teach you how to do that really well.
6. If someone teases you because of your hair (or any other reason), there are some other issues going on in their lives. They have to break others down to make themselves feel good. There is a reason they crave that sort of control or power over others. And, though I don't want you acting like you're too big for your britches most of the time, if the situation warrants it, I'm not opposed to you saying, "Stop being a bitch, [insert name here]!" Standing up for yourself and your beliefs is a valuable attribute, and no one deserves to be treated like shit.
7. Your hair is beautiful. You are beautiful. You will probably think that my opinion doesn't count because I'm your mom and moms are supposed to think their children are beautiful. But I bet that you will find many other people who share my opinion. And I hope that, by the time you're in middle school, our world will have become kinder to women. That we won't be valued by looking a certain way. That more emphasis will be put on your abilities and your intelligence, and your looks will just be something you choose to care about. If you want to. Not because you feel like you have to. It's a pretty far-fetched idea, I know, but I can only project that thought into the universe and hope it comes back to us all.