Monday, January 14, 2013

Curse of the Curl

At the Vatican: one of the few times as an 'adult' that I've worn my hair curly
(because I couldn't take my iron in my carry-on for spring break)

Don't get me wrong, I love my curly hair. I haven't always appreciated it, but I do love the body and texture my hair has. And when I can get it to achieve a look that I like, I adore my tiny little mixed-race ringlets. But that's just the problem: getting them to look nice.

I've never been one to spend ages on my hair every day. (Editor's note: except in middle school where no amount of time spent perfecting the barrel-rolled fringe was too long.) Sure, for a special occasion, I'll take the time to try out a new style, and once a week I'll do a full straighten, but I'm essentially low-maintenance. I want something that is easy to manage, easy to maintain, and doesn't make me feel fuzzy and frumpy...even at the end of the day.

Maybe I'm asking for too much, but I certainly don't think so. However, when I try to scour the interwebs for some decent advice, it invariably ends up a shambles. I hate to play the race card, but I'm sick of being given entirely impractical advice on "seriously cute styles for curly hair" from white girls who wouldn't know what to do with curly hair if it bit them on the arse. Likewise, most black women have curly hair of a very different streak than my own that requires a very different regime to keep in order. I mean, let's take Glamour's curly hair slideshow as a pitiful but all-too-accurate example of the problem I'm having: (seriously, follow the link because it's too much work to get all those photos in here...)

Slide 1: aside from looking like a VS model artfully tousled out of bed, I don't have much to say about this. At least her hair is actually curly! But just letting it roam free isn't an option for me, so let's move on.

Slide 2: Things are looking up with Alicia Keys. I could conceivably rock this look with the right application of leave-in conditioner. But I don't just want to wear it down when I wear it natural because I'm a habitual hair-fondler. I twist and tug my hair around my fingers all the time. And with tiny curls that = frizz.

Slide 3: That mess isn't even curly! She had to curl those locks with an iron. Unworthy of further commentary: NEXT!

Slide 4: Thanks, Vanessa Hudgens. If I ever want to look like the half-drowned recruit for the next edition of Jersey Shore, I'll give you a call.

Slide 5: Pin-straight white girl with a curling iron. NEXT!

Slide 6: Ditto, Leighton Meester. NEXT.

Slide 7: Jordin Sparks isn't looking too bad, but with my shorter hair and layers, I don't know that this is going to work the same way on me.

Slide 8: I don't want to be mean, but this style doesn't suit her. It doesn't suit anyone to have your hair scraped back from your forehead and then left to fly free like a fuzzy flag. It just looks like she tried to make it neat, but just ended up 50% done and 50% bushy and unkempt.

Slide 9: I have nothing negative to say about Nicole Kidman, but she's not helping me at the moment. Moving on.

Slide 10: Aside from the fact that her top looks like a crocheted doily on acid (and is unflatteringly and inappropriately revealing), I'm just not a fan of big hair like Beyonce is sporting. The rest of you has to be highly polished to even consider pulling it off without looking like you ought to head down to the chippy in your slippers.

Slide 11: I'm sorry, I thought we were supposed to be seeing 14 STYLES for curly hair, not 14 women all wearing their hair down? Hair STYLES implies that the hair is STYLED!

Slide 12: WGWCI (White Girl With Curling Iron). Seriously. I'm done here.

Slide 13: Well, at least a ponytail is some sort of's the bottom row of the totem pole, but it'd be an improvement if not for another case of WGWCI.

Slide 14: Taylor Swift's faux-bob is the killing stroke. Most curly hair requires lots of work to achieve that, and work is something I'm trying to avoid.

I'm fed up. I know maintaining curls takes some work, but I want styles that won't make me feel like Lauryn Hill back in 1998 or require hours sacrificing to the ceramic plated god that is the straightening iron.

I need people who understand my hair. Who realise that it can't be washed every day; who appreciate that curls have to be reshaped every morning after you sleep on them; who get that a bushy triangle with fringe is NOT the look I'm going for. I need to be able to look and feel polished and put-together without having to reach for the heat protector every time. I enjoy the look of my hair when it's straight: it's become a large part of how I see myself since that was my default style when I started taking the styling of my hair into my own hands. But it's time to be able to mix things up more often as the mood takes me. And besides: they may be a little bit less mixed than me, but my kids will all have curly hair, and I want them all to be able to love it and work with it rather than working against it.

I demand legitimate styles for hair with legitimate curl. And I demand them now.


  1. Ok, so I am a white girl, but I have the craziest curls of anyone I know (I haven't seen your hair curly, but come visit me and we can have a curl-off). Here's a few things:
    1. Devachan/Deva Curl. If you can find it in the UK, it's heavenly. Also, when you come to NYC for the curl-off, I will take you to Devachan Salon where they cater specifically to curly haired people and actually know what the heck they're doing with curly hair.
    2. That slideshow makes me hate Glamour even more- 85% of those "styles" were done by first straightening the hair and then curling it with a curling iron. And nothing ticks this curly haired girl off like curly hair that's been straightened and then re-curled. Not ok.
    3. Embrace the curls. Curls are beautiful, they make you special. I spent the overwhelming majority of my life hating my curls and fighting with them and wanting them to be straight and hating people who didn't have my hair or who had curls but had a mother who didn't have naturally stick-straight hair so she had no idea what to do with me, and then once I decided to embrace the curls I spent years trying to figure out how to deal with them. But, now that I've (kind of) figured it out, I love them. I love not being like everyone else.
    5. Not leave in conditioner, but actual conditioner you just leave in after a shower.
    6. Dry your hair with a t-shirt, not a towel
    7. I've come to the conclusion that curls are the sign of a trustworthy person. Think about it- how many dictators have had curls? How many evil murderers have had curls? Watch Lock Up and count how many of the violent offenders have curly hair- not many (I've watched many a marathon of Lock Up and to date have found 1). I also saw a doctor who had gorgeous curls and she was amazing, and we talked about products, and she said "If the only thing I can help you with is giving you the name of my stylist at Devachan, I'm happy". I was happy too. She was a good doctor. She had curls. Coincidence? I don't think so.
    8. You're curls are gorgeous. You are gorgeous. Love you muchos.

    1. Kat,

      Yes, you're a white girl, but you obviously count in the curly hair department. :) Thanks for the suggestions: I'll definitely hunt out that Deva Curl stuff. Also: drying hair with a t-shirt!? I'll try it, but you have to explain the logic of that one to it just less abrasive on your hair than the terry cloth?