Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Curl-bashing & How to Respond


Our curls: we take them into the world to endure wind, UV rays, extreme weather, and silly, insensitive, obnoxious remarks! It's always wonderful to receive a genuine compliment, and that person always deserves a gracious response. But then there are all those comments that are innocent but intrusive, ignorant, or downright diabolical.

Here is a list of comments I've received or over-heard. The responses were designed to educate a few people, or at least make them think twice about what they're saying. Though I rarely suffer negative hair comments, I have suffered them - they are included  below and the responses I gave at the time are in black print.

You should straighten your hair.
You should curl yours.

Why do you wear your hair like that?
Because I'm cute. / To disturb you. / Because you can't.

How'd you get your hair to do that?
I crossed my eyes and hopped across my lawn at midnight, under a full moon.

Will you straighten your hair for the prom / the wedding / your job interview?
No, I'd rather look amazing. 

Don't you own a brush?
Yep, I agree, you don't understand curly hair.

Why do you leave your hair curly?
Why do you leave yours flat?

Is that real?
No, it was on sale at 7-11.

You must hate your hair.
You must hate yours.

I love your hair ... You should straighten it!
I love my hair too ... especially my curls!

Your hair is huge. How do you cope?
I think of how much yours will thin out as you age.

That's a rat's nest / tumble weed / mop / blob / frizz ball / poodle / helmet / Q-tip / pubic mound / circus clown / hobo / Madusa / Chia Pet ...

Whoever you're talking to must think you're crazy.

... What have people said about your hair? What have you said back?

Curl Compliments

Comment: "You have beautiful curls ...  really beautiful."
Response: "I hate my hair."

You may not agree that you have beautiful curly hair when someone pays this kind of straight-forward curl compliment. And because the Universe is ineffable and fundamentally entertaining, the majority of curly compliments are collected on "bad hair days", making it even harder to accept that person's kind words.  What makes "I hate my hair" a troublesome response, even if it is genuine, is that it's ungrateful. A compliment is a present that a person bestows upon you. A compliment is an act of generosity. An unqualified "thank you" for that gift shows gratitude and allows you or me an opportunity to accept something positive into what is often a hectic, stressful day. 

Comment: "Wow, you have great hair!"
Response: "No I don't. It sucks. You have great hair!"

This can be really awkward for the complimenter. Suddenly a simple compliment has become the foundation for a negative comparison.

Yes, you may genuinely think the person somehow has "better" hair. But if that's true, there's no reason not to graciously accept their compliment and then praise that person's hair in return, without insulting your own hair.

As we curlies learn to embrace our hair, the "My hair sucks, yours is great" line represents a type of trap that people in American culture, especially women, tend to fall into. Many of us have been  taught that being apologetic or self-deprecating is noble, or that it somehow morally elevates us; that wholeheartedly embracing compliments make us look overly-confident, stuck up or too proud. Well, it's worth the risk, in my opinion. It's healthy to be positive about oneself.

Comment: "Your hair is amazing. People pay a fortune trying to get your curls."
Response: "That's crazy. My hair is a nightmare."

Our negative responses to compliments don't just affect us individually. Unfortunately, when so many of us downplay our curly hair, it re-inforces the societal message that we all hate our curls. And we all know what that results in: An onslaught of trollish remarks from people who assume we all hate our curly hair, plus those crazed anti-curly straightening wand sales people chasing us down in malls across the country  ;)

... Have a wonderful curly day :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Holy Grail Syndrome

Here are a few uncomfortable thoughts many of us have about our hair, especially at the start of our naturally curly journeys:

I covet [Jane Doe's] perfectly formed curls
I covet tighter curls
I covet looser curls
I long for root volume  [I suffered this one]
I long for “hang” rather than volume
I loathe frizz
I want shine [or more shine]
If only my hair were softer
If only my hair could …

It's natural to appreciate what others have, or what we don't have. It's natural to have hair envy sometimes. But an unhealthy extreme is Holy Grail Syndrome. HGS is not to be confused with a simple, casual mention of a “holy grail” product. A holy grail label in itself isn't problematic and can be an exaggerated way to describe a product that is especially suitable to a particular head of hair.

Here are the problematic symptoms of the syndrome I call HGS:

Obsessively searching for the “perfect” product or hair care method.
A constant need to attain or maintain “perfect” curls. (Agitation or upset when hair is mildly “off”)
Excessive time/energy/money spent researching and buying product and equipment
Repeatedly discovering a so-called HG product, followed by dismay when it stops working
Daily complaints or negative thoughts about hair

HGS is as crappy as "flat-iron affliction" or being "straight-struck" because HGS involves a lack of acceptance of one's natural curls. Obsessively chasing after holy grail products fails because nothing in life, including hair, is perfect.

Practical advice: If you have to throw a bucket of products at your hair to get it to look a certain way, your hair probably wasn't meant to look that way and it will let you know because all those products will stop working the way you want them to. You could also suffer build up or protein overload as a result.

General advice: Holy grail chasing is expensive and elusive. If you're obsessing about your hair, consider where you'd place all that energy and all those thoughts if you had no hair to obsess about.