None of the girls ever wanted to play with my hair. In second grade, I sat, listening to the teacher read a story to our class, and each girl seemed to be paired up--quietly braiding, brushing with their fingers the hair of another. Even I was paired up--with a blonde, straight-haired girl. I ran my little fingers through her glossy hair--smiling at its texture. When it came time to switch, the girl told me, "You can't play with your hair--it's too curly."
I sat--rejected and sad. Hating my hair even more than I had five minutes prior. No one liked my brown Medusa locks. It wasn't "play" worthy. Straight-haired girls have all the fun, I thought.
By the time I was three, I had a fro. My mother would try to brush it out, and I would cry (you don't brush curly hair--what was she thinking?) I associated my hair with pain very early on. Once in school, I associated it with ugliness--with roughness--any negative adjective you could name.
As I got older, I attempted to kill my curls--death by hair straightener. Before the hot iron, my mom would wrap my hair, bobby pin it up, and place a roller in it. For countless nights in elementary school and part of middle school, I slept, uncomfortably, with my hair like this. Each morning, I would unwrap my hair like a Christmas present, thinking long, luxurious straight hair would magically appear. It never did. It would look a bit straighter after the "bobby-pin massacre," but nothing close to the girls at school. I mostly kept it up in a ponytail--hoping no one would notice a) my conformity and/or b) my poor attempt at curl-killing. I felt like a fraud. And I was one. Then I bought a hot iron, and things got real.
Towards the end of high school, and off/on in college, I used my hair straightener frequently. I singed those curls away. As the hot iron closed down on a curl, I would think, "Die, curl, Die!" I got some weird gratification from the whole thing. I received more compliments with my "new" straight hair. I was told I looked, "Pretty", "Sexy", "Different"--the one time "different" meant something positive. I took these compliments, and placed them, like secrets, in the corners of my mind.
It didn't help that anytime I got my hair professionally done, the stylist would always straighten it at the end. This made me even more conflicted about whether to love/hate my hair. During grad school, and after, I was just too lazy to use my straightener. I would use it for special occasions.
Today, I use the almighty curl-killing-machine even less. It takes too long, and strangely enough, I've grown to appreciate my Medusa hair, even if others don't. I still meet men who tell me I "look better" with straight hair, but that's a red flag letting me know that they just can't hang.
My curls are badass.