Coming from a mixed race background, my sisters and I had very different hair types from one another. Regardless of that, for a while, my mom did what she knew best: when in doubt, braid or cornrow it. For picture day or family outings, flat iron it. ALWAYS flat iron it. If not, bump it up with the flat iron to create some curls.
In order to please strangers in public, or judgmental relatives, the best thing to do was to conform to a style that everyone could appreciate.
My hair is what people called “poofy,” because I always brushed my hair out. My hair was pretty long, but it always looked like a lion’s mane. Deep into my mom’s Facebook photo albums hide my dirty secrets involving my fly-aways and brush-outs from long ago.
I grew up with a lot of people touching it without my permission. Especially strangers. I kept saying “sure, it’s okay,” when people asked if they could touch it as they were touching it. It was not okay.
It still isn’t okay, actually.
At one point, I decided to get bangs with my poofy hair, because one of my sisters decided to get bangs. My sister had the better form of “good hair” than I did, being straighter, that is. So I thought that if I got bangs, I would have better hair like her. I wouldn’t get as many stares.
Maybe people wouldn’t be so intrigued to the point of wanting to touch it all the time.
In middle school, I went through a period of low-self esteem, which triggered my first experience with anxiety and depression. I did not like the way I looked, so I hid, making myself looking worse without even trying to. From over-greasing and attacking my long hair by poorly using the flat iron, I exacerbated my split ends, and my poofy hair looked mangled, especially around my overgrown bangs at this point.
[bctt tweet=”I did not like the way I looked, so I hid, making myself looking worse without even trying to.” username=”wearethetempest”]
And unfortunately, life was too busy for me to depend on the “when in doubt, braid it, or cornrow it” protocol.
Before high school, I started to feel better about myself. My mom asked me if I wanted to cut my hair shorter, and I let her have at it. It was the healthiest my hair has ever been. I started to love my poofy mane more than ever before.
However, it did start to get old, and I was impatiently waiting for all of my hair to grow back. And the shorter my hair was, the more prone people were to touch it.
When it was at medium length, I decided to give bangs another shot, asking for side bangs instead. Consider this an “edgy” time for me, I suppose. I didn’t get the bangs to have better hair this time. I got them because I actually liked them, and felt good with my bangs, even if they did get frizzy sometimes.
[bctt tweet=”Consider this an “edgy” time for me, I suppose. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
Senior year of high school, I finally started to scrunch my hair more (thanks to shea butter for that), so people could actually see my curls, especially now that all of my hair grew back. It was a long time coming, but I finally grew out of the poofy mane look. I may have brushed out my hair every now and again, but only when I felt like it will be tame enough and have more of a nice blow dryer look than a frizzy, out of place, animalistic vibe.
However, it didn’t stop people from freaking touching it! I didn’t have to look like an animal to feel like one, apparently.
College gave me permission to become more vocal about who can touch my hair and who can’t. It saved a lot of time, I wish I was more vocal about it earlier. College also gave me permission to experiment with my hair more with various hair products and layered hair cuts that best fit my curly hair type. I even got to the point of being addicted to chopping my hair shorter, and shorter.
Yes, the pattern still continued of more people wanting to touch it. There are some days when I feel too exhausted to repeat myself over why someone can’t touch it that I just don’t say anything. But, most of the the time, speaking up about it helps a ton.
Freshman year, I donated nine inches of my hair – yes, after all that time complaining in high school for those nine inches to come back. Sophomore year, I allowed my hair to be chopped to my neck. It was the first time I experienced the use of clippers on my hair – as well as allowing my neck to breathe without the use of a ponytail holder. It was exhilarating!
And because I was so busy with school and I was experiencing depressive episodes again, it was nice to not put so much effort into my hair with it being a low maintenance, pixie/afro sort of deal. Although depression and anxiety still sucks from time to time, it’s nice that body image is no longer a factor in those issues.
[bctt tweet=”Have more of a nice blow dryer look than a frizzy, out of place, animalistic vibe.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I’m letting my hair grow out again, and it’s been growing out nicely now. No more business in the front, party in the back when flat ironed, either. It got awkward at one point. It will probably get to a medium length by the time I graduate from my undergrad.
My hair has been feeling a lot softer, and has been looking a lot better over time. It has taken quite a bit to feel confidence in my hair, and become an advocate for my hair when it’s being judged or prodded upon, but at least I finally got there. And, I look forward to seeing what’s to come next in this hair journey of mine.