Growing up, we all had someone we identified with. Most girls my age looked to Britney Spears or Cameron Diaz for inspiration, while I was more preoccupied by the man they had shared- Justin Timberlake. Now it wasn’t because I thought he was dreamy or because I swooned at the first note of ‘Tearin’ Up My Heart.’ No, for me, it was because I felt his crispy, crunchy, spiraled pain. A decade and a half later, I still fight that same battle against the curls.
Many of you out there were the girls who lived the effortlessly sleek and shiny dream life I knew I could never have. Although you might never understand the plight my fellow Noodle-Heads and I shared, understand just how difficult things were for us, I certainly hope that you can commiserate with us.
While there have been numerous occasions where I’ve found myself scraping my jaw off the ground, in awe of another girl’s beautiful, bouncing curls, I myself was not blessed with curls to lust after. My Ramen Noodles, or the Esthers, as my dad calls them (my middle name is Esther, and my dad holds firm that the curls come from my Jewish side), only looked good about once a year, if I was lucky.
The first time I knew I was different was in fourth grade when my art teacher cruelly assigned a larger-than-life self-portrait. A glance to the left revealed a crudely etched, but enviably frizz-free, drawing of my friend Josephine. A look to the right only further disheartened me, as each sweep of my friend Mae Mae’s hand brought to life a pin straight head of hair. To my dismay, my drawing was an all too accurate representation of the one giant ringlet that was my ponytail. I wore a crown of wispy baby hairs. I was a victim of the South Carolina humidity. I was a monster.
That self-portrait still hangs in my parents’ home, haunting me every time I return.
I didn’t have many options. I either had to embrace the coils that adorned my scalp or fight back. My first instincts led me to spend my middle school years desperately trying to cultivate some sort of pseudo presentable head of hair. I stocked my shower with Bumble and Bumble Curl Conscious shampoo and conditioner and religiously applied John Frieda Frizz-Ease. If ever I dared mention the idea of beating my curls into submission, my mom would shake her and lament the fact that I didn’t love them like she did.
My tweenage hairstyle seemed passable at the time, but in retrospect is mildly horrifying. My head was covered in an army of frizzy helixes, shooting off in any direction they pleased. In my mind, it was a sweet, nostalgic throwback to Shirley Temple, but in practice I looked a lot more like the love child of Sarah Jessica Parker and Carrot Top.
High school was a never-ending parade of Chi Straighteners, side ponytails, and thin plastic headbands from Urban Outfitters. I was fed up trying to curate a better curl and instead, elected to do all I could to combat them. I never quite straightened my hair successfully, always left with a kinky chunk or two at the nape of my neck. I was only able to achieve that glossy helmet effect with the help of a hairdresser.
I continued my hair-frying regime through my first two years of university, straightening my hair so often that the scent of burning hair could lull me into a state of calm as easily as the perfume of essential oils. I did all of this until one revelatory day in December of 2011- the day I discovered Keratin.
My first year or so with Keratin was most certainly a honeymoon phase. I would wake up, wash my hair, and leave my flat without a care in the world. Because I knew that even without blow-drying my hair, there wouldn’t be a crease or a curl in sight. While I’m still quite happy with the results I have to wrestle with it a bit more to get that silky, lustrous sheet of hair I had for that brief stint.
I should tell you that Keratin does not come cheap. Each time before I trundle out of my flat and to the salon, I feel I have to weigh the pros and the cons. Is it worth it? Do I really need to blow hundreds of dollars on my hair? I mean, maybe I should just let it be free. Let the Esthers run wild. But each and every time, the ease and convenience and promise that my hair might just be manageable on a daily basis wins out. Because honestly, my hair never looks better than it does after a Keratin treatment.
It is a battle I will continue to fight, unless, god forbid, I choose to shave my head. So what about you? Have any of you lived with the burden of unwanted curls?