Since I was four (I blame Florida water), I've had this mass of rebellious corkscrews on my head. And not the soft, bouncy Shirly Temple type, or the funky Lauryn Hill coiffe, but a frizzy mop that defies the blow dryer, good weather and any Japanese straightening system that wages war against genetics.
When I was eight, I attempted to de-volumize and had it all chopped off to a couple of inches. The end result was a full on square-shaped 'fro that earned me nicknames like Don King, and plenty of bawling sessions in the lower bunk bed. Then when I was 12 I discovered a straightener and have since spent hours with 430 degrees applied to my scalp for parties, interviews, or any time I needed to feel, yes I am saying it, empowered.
At age 13, an age when you will do anything that will make you look like everyone else, I succumbed to a $500 burning ointment that changed the chemistry of my locks, and continued to shell out atrocious amounts for just a few months of normalcy over the next eight years.
But things change. I went through a couple more battles with Self, and then to college, where I watched this one guy in the Plaza of the Americas hang out in the grass with incredibly tangled and mangled blonde hair, sticking up and coagulating into dreadlocks and probably washed less than my car.
And I met Lynsey, whose own hair liberation inspired me to question why I was constantly suppressing, straightening, stressing out what was rightfully my version of beauty. She called it "going natural", and while I touted going natural in all other aspects, I never considered how vital it could be for my hair.
Fast forward to last weekend when I sat in the chair at the hairdressers. Every hairdresser except for one (who quit) tells me to straighten and relax my hair. Last Saturday was no different and I started my usual apologetic shpiel for the difficult situation I had burdened my stylist with.
On her third insistence that I pay her hundreds to relax my hair, I got straight up angry. With a smile still on my face I said, "I like my hair. I like it curly and I don't want to straighten it." So she made a face, she shrugged, she kept cutting. At the end, she said, "I'm glad you like your hair."
Sometimes I read articles about how straight hair is taken more seriously and how to buy the perfect straightening iron. And it's true that the click-clack of heels and a shiny blow-out helps me face an employer or potential date with more confidence. But on just any day, like a misty March Sunday, I've got my hair down and free and in absolute defiance of any glossy ad, and I'm reveling. Isn't that what it means to grow up?