I have naturally curly hair and on days like we’ve had lately they spring like crazy. I call them wild and I love them. But apparently curls can sometimes be the envy of those with straight locks, I wish I had just a little bit of your curl… even my hairdresser has said this to me. Thus the rumor my friend asked about – Is it true women who look like you should wear a bag over their head? Genevieve is from France so hearing it with a French accent made it all the more unsettling for some reason. French and fashion, you know.
I admit there have been times when I was tempted to wear the bag, but it wasn’t because I’d conjured up the green-eyed monster.
Oh Sweetie, you look just like Tiny Tim… Mom’s sorrowful greeting after another day of Ohio humidity and what it did to my shoulder-length naturally curly hair. I know she meant well…Tiny Tim
Grandma wished for just a little of my curl. Mom would spend hours on a Saturday every few months giving Grandma a perm. Those were the days of the tiny pink, sponge rollers and stinky – there’s no other word to describe the smell – perm-setting solution. Grandma would have her hair washed and she’d be wearing a simple cotton slip with a towel around her shoulders. She always wore dresses and was modest. I never got used to seeing her in nothing but a slip.
I can still see Mom portioning Grandma’s hair, wrapping the short tresses around pink sponges, making sure everything was rolled nice and tight. They looked like mini Tootsie Rolls. Then she’d attach the combing applicator to the bottle of setting solution and comb the liquid over each roll. Grandma caught drips with her towel. They would spend hours giggling and gossiping. Both of them telling me how lucky I was to have such nice curls and I’d never have to go through this.
Well, not until high school when everybody else had spaghetti-straight hair and mine looked like Tiny Tim’s. Mom and I tried everything. I bent over the ironing board, my hair stretched out beneath a towel while she ironed it. I slept with my hair wrapped around the stubby cans from concentrated orange juice, my head 2 inches off my pillow. We tried cutting it in the ‘Farrah Fawsett’ but the layers just made me look like an Egyptian sphinx. It wasn’t a good look.
I must not have been the only teen-age girl suffering with curly hair trying to fit in with girls with shiny, swinging, straight beautiful hair. Uncurl-The Curl Relaxer mercifully came on the market. It was Grandma’s perm in reverse. Mom would roll my wet hair onto the huge gold plastic rollers, which were about 4 inches in diameter. I’d be in a tee-shirt with a towel around my shoulders while she applied the relaxer. It didn’t completely take away the curl, but I could wear it down and it actually looked straight. Even on days with humidity. I loved it!
Then in college I decided to be me, embrace the curls whether they were cut short or left long. Eventually I started to color it to tame the wildness as the gray threatened to turn my locks wiry and break. The image of a Brillo pad atop my head was scarier than Tiny Tim.
But this summer I decided to embrace the gray as well. I wrote a piece for a writers’ workshop saying this bit of bravery was a challenge only other curlies would understand. There were four other curlies in the class – two who continued to dye their hair, one still too young to make the decision and one, like me, who has embraced the challenge. All gave me high fives. At the end of the workshop one of the men walked up to me, I like your curly hair. It makes me think of Carole King.
I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it’s much better than Tiny Tim or wearing a paper bag~especially on a day when the moisture in the air makes the curls dance and go crazy.