Growing up, I despised my big, curly hair. I had so much hair and no one in my family really has hair like me. No one knew how to take care of it, so I pretty much gave up on dealing with it myself. I’ve spent countless hours sitting on the floor between my mother’s legs while she detangled my hair and during my summers in Puerto Rico, it would be my grandmother dealing with my tresses. After spending an entire afternoon in the pool, she came across a huge knot in the back of my head. Tempted to cut it off, my abuelita drove me to a salon on the island and at just 7 years old, I got my first perm. Since then, I permed my hair every 6 months like clockwork.
I loved the idea that this “treatment” would make my kinks straight. At such a young age, I associated straight hair with beauty. People would tease me about my hair, saying that it resembles a brillo pad or a bush. Latinos, even the women doing my hair would say that I had “pelo malo” (bad hair). Then I would have older Caribbean women tell me how much they wished to have hair like mine. At the time I had no idea why anyone would want my kinks and curls. While I was trying to get rid of them, women were striving for them.
For years, my hair was never growing, never shiny, always begging for moisture and still I strived for straight hair. I never left my house without my hair being bone straight and absolutely refused anyone to see my hair in its natural state. My curls weren’t curls anymore, but I didn’t care. I felt beautiful with my straight hair.
It took me a long time to fully understand the damage these perms were actually doing to my hair. Today I would say that I was in denial about this treatment. By my sophomore year of college, I’ve decided to stop perming my hair but refused to give up the heat! I was still using my flat iron every single day, making sure there were no curls in sight.
I’m not entirely sure why I decided to ditch my flat iron, other than the fact that summer time was approaching and straightening my hair would be pointless with all the humidity in NYC. I went the entire Summer Sixteen without straightening my hair. Just with that, I noticed some length and my curls slowly coming back. I tested out products that my hair loved and products that my hair hated.
There was a lot of trial and error and it took me forever to love my hair. Now that I’m older, I understand what it means to be satisfied with what was given to me and why all these women were dying for my hair. I can do pretty much anything with my hair. I can choose to do a wash and go and wear it naturally curly. I can do twist-outs or buns, big or small. If I want a change, I can straighten my hair and if I get tired of it, I can just go back to curly!
Don’t get me wrong… There are still days when I just want to shave my head off or go to the salon and get a wash and set! But I just put a little leave in conditioner, put my hair in a bun and conquer my day. Going natural, I had to accept that not everyday is going to be a good hair day. I had to accept that I have different textures in my hair. I’m going to have frizz. Some curls are going to be coily, kinky or loose. But the best part is seeing the transition. My curls are making a come back and I’m finally getting some length and hydration.
So if you’re thinking about going natural- DO IT! Love the crown you have. It’s irreplaceable.