Updated: Jul 16
I think I started caring about my hair around the age of 10 or 11, when I started to like boys. I’d never thought much of it before. I was a tomboy and super into sports, so as long as it was out of my face, I didn’t care. My mom washed it once a week and kept in two braids after detangling it and applying lotion. It was all good.
But as I started to like boys, it suddenly became a priority to be as attractive as possible. The more popular girls began to point out that my hair was curly and thus “ugly.” I would have to “fix” myself. At the time, it seemed that they were right. Growing up, all the shows I watched had white girls with long straight hair. Even the few black girls I saw in media had chemically straightened hair, or weaves. Most Disney princesses had long, flowing, straight hair. All evidence pointed to one undeniable fact in my 10-year-old mind: I was not beautiful.
I begged my mom for a relaxer. I needed to “fix” myself. She would not allow it, and told me I was fine just the way I was. I answered back angrily:
“no, this is a mutation, a mistake! God made a mistake! I’m defective!”
My mom is Hispanic and Native American. She has curly hair too, but they’re softer curls, which in my mind was “acceptable.” My dad is Black. I hated that he was Black. I hated that I was half-Black. Why did he and my mom have to make ME, this weird alien mix of two different looks? It just made everything complicated for me know, having to reconcile my European and Native facial features with my curly hair. In my mind, and according to what all the evidence presented to me had shown, these did not match.
I remember one particular day, I snapped. I think I was about 13. Looking back, I believe this was truly a mental breakdown, an anxiety attack with some obsessive-compulsive characteristics. I cried and screamed every time I looked in the mirror, because I remember seeing the most hideous beast in the world. I just wanted to be normal. I just wanted to be pretty. I took a hairbrush and a spray bottle. A voice in my head told me that if I brushed my hair long and hard enough, I could brush it straight. And that’s what I did…..for 4 hours. I locked myself in the bathroom. I brushed and screamed and cried and prayed.
I prayed to God for 4 hours that I would do anything if I could just wake up one morning with perfect, non-defective, silky straight hair….or even just wavy hair. I would do absolutely anything….please.
I would drench my hair with water and brush it…because when I brush my wet hair, for just a few moments, my curls clump together and look smooth and shiny. My hair lays flat on my head, just as “it should.”
But then the curls would shrink back up, as curls always do, and I would shriek in terror. Every time I watched my hair shrink back into their natural curls, I watched myself turn back into a mutated monster.
After 4 hours, I guess I just got tired and gave up. I put my hair up into a messy bun and left the bathroom.
Every night as I went to sleep, I said the same prayer: “if you just give me straight hair, I won’t need anything else in life. Everything will get better for me….please let me wake up with straight hair.”
Obviously, that would never happen. Every Friday night before church, before I saw any of the boys I liked, I would spend 3-4 hours in the bathroom with a straightener, “fixing myself.”