I have naturally curly hair. I mean really, really curly hair. Sounds great doesn’t it? Because curly hair is so in right now! Well it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The thing about curly hair is it has a mind of its own. It might as well move out, rent an apartment and only come to visit me when it needs to be washed. It’s a struggle to maintain my hair because curly hair is a spoiled brat. You give it love, you feed it lots of lovely oils and conditioners to keep it healthy, you give it everything it wants and yet no matter what your do it ends up being a big fuzzy demanding mess.
The internet is full of advice for looking after curly hair but all of them seem to ignore the realities of actually having curly hair and trying to manage it. I mean if you have hours to spare and you don’t have to leave the house then all this advice would be so helpful. For example, apparently you are not supposed to brush your hair, but if you have to brush your hair you should only do it after washing. Well that’s great but if you have ever gotten your fingers or leaves caught in your knotty curls you will understand how painful not brushing can be. Also sometimes when you run your fingers through your hair, in slow motion while the scene turns to black and white like a horror music, and intense high pitched music begins to pay as you pull out a large clump of your own hair and you will realise how this isn’t necessarily a better option than not brushing. But if you do brush your hair you go from Shirley Temple to Phil Specter. There is no winning. You just end up tying it up and hoping for the best, which is also supposedly really bad for your hair.
When you do manage to keep it tame for a little while and wear it down you come up against the weather. If it rains: your hair goes frizzy, if it’s warm: your hair grows frizzy but if you have a hot humid day, well good luck to you because you’re fucked. You know that episode of Friends where Monica’s hair expands twice the size when she goes to Barbados? Yeah well that’s real life for me. I think everyone who has seen that episode asks why she just doesn’t wash her hair well let me answer that for you, because it makes it bigger. Why? Because people with curly hair must be punished, obviously! Seriously though, it just expands with the moisture in the air, and it prevents you from fitting through normal sized doorways.
I’ve always struggled with my curls. When I was little there was nothing much I could do with it. My mam would attempt to tame it by brushing it. This caused my hair to increase to twice its volume. To make it worse, for a good proportion of this time I had no front teeth so you can imagine what an attractive little girl I was. Once while at a kids disco in a holiday resort we were staying at, I got pulled up on stage. They made me head bang because my hair was so monstrously huge. It actually got worse after all that shaking. I looked like I had stuck my finger in an electrical socket. On another occasion, when left in the charge of my father, I blow dried my own hair. I was about eight years old and had no idea what I was doing. I mean, I had no idea what I needed to do to make it be either straight or how to get it to stay in its natural state. It just ended up being this ridiculous frizzy mass of hair that had a will completely independent of my own. I will never forget the look on my mother’s face when she saw me. Poor terror as if my hair was something evil that might attack her.
After being through so many traumas due to my untameable hair, I spent most of my teenage years trying to get rid of it. I straightened my hair almost every day, which was no mean feat in the beginning, I mean, do you remember the first hair straighteners, it would take me hours to even get it partly straight. Every morning before I went to school I would try to iron out the ringlets, saying a little prayer during the whole process. Then I would walk to school and by the time I would get there, due to rain, wind or just the damp, dank Irish weather, my hair would look like It hadn’t even been brushed let alone straightened and hair sprayed to within an inch of its life.
I like to think I have this whole curly hair thing down now. I am nice to it, speak to it kindly, put lots of nice things in it, don’t apply heat to it. I’ve just sort of accepted it for what it is and more often than not just let do whatever it wants to do. I’ve basically mothered it and given it the space it needed to grow. Literally because short curly hair was a chapter of my life that I just can’t go back to. All and all my curls and I are doing well, we do struggle a bit when there humidity is bad or if it’s a day of heavy rain, but we get through it. Now if we could just maintain this good relationship for another few years so that I don’t start going grey then that would be great.