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A Curly Hair Peace

I developed contempt for my spiral locks at an early age. Kids poked fun and even grown-ups would kick in as cliché a comment as, "Did you stick your finger in a light socket?"

When I was 6 my mother, tired of wrestling a comb through my disobedient tresses, coaxed me to the hairdresser's to watch her get a haircut. After overdoing the comeliness of her new "do" she and the beautician lured me into…the chair. Minutes later my long, blonde locks lay on the floor and two little strips of pink tape held new pixie curls against my cheeks. I felt like a queen! Mommy clapped, the beautician beamed and I pranced to the car. The first remark back at the kingdom? "She looks like a boy." I felt a cheek curl spring loose with contempt.

By third grade, left unattended, the curls had reclaimed their territory and as far as managing them I was on my own. All I learned was to keep them from showing.

In high school, while others paid outrageously for curls, I smacked mine down monthly with dollops of home straightening goop until I finally realized the stuff didn't work. I used blow dryers set on the strongest, hottest heat with enormous round brushes of every bristle type as well as enough lotions and potions to write for Consumer Reports. Still, when the fog rolled in I became a troll doll.

Having pity on me, my mother ordered a hair-straightening iron. It was the 80s; you didn't find those things in any store. It became my best new buddy until those horrifying words years later, "Well, it's a goner." My dad couldn't fix it one more time. I wanted to bury it next to my favorite hamster.

Now that "reality" seems to be the hottest thing going on the planet, I decided to get real and face the curl so I'd never again fear the rumba my hairs begin at the first report of rain. A friend recommended the book Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey. By page one I was a convert. Finally, someone not only addressed the true structure and needs for the curly hair fiber, but also taught a revolutionary program for its care. I must confess that going without shampoo had me grimacing. Using scant amounts of conditioner, like Massey recommended, though, has created softer ringlets, less frizz and I haven't had a bad hair day since I tossed the soap.

Throwing out my relaxing, glossing, freezing and shaping products was another story. But one by one they went out the door, some winding up in my daughter's room, another curly who's still choking down the fact that Mom never shampoos and uses funky ingredients on her head like brown sugar and baking soda.

It took years of tears and self-torture before I finally came to accept the fact that these curls aren't going away. They are a part of me; no longer do I fear the fog or run from the rain, as winter weather seems to bring out the best in my tresses. I'm having fun with my curls for once in my life. It has truly been a sweet surrender!

A Curly Hair Peace