I have always loved curly hair. I myself have straight hair so my preference for curly is usually ascribed to the fact that I don’t have it. My hairdresser says all the straight-haired girls want curly hair and all the curly-haired girls want straight hair. When I press him on this, however, he admits that it’s not entirely true. That many of his clients are quite happy with their hair. I, too, am quite happy with my hair. But I do get bored and I’m glad that I know how to make it wavy without too much effort. A change, they say, is as good as a holiday. To which I’d say depends on the change and depends on the holiday. I once went to [redacted] for a holiday and let me tell you . . . *heh hem* I digress.
I don’t actually think my love of non-straight hair—it’s not just curly hair, any kind of non-straight, textured hair fills my heart with joy: kinky, curly, wavy, nappy, twists, locs etc. all looks good to me—is because I don’t myself have such hair. I think it’s because I like curves. Aesthetically I always choose a curve over a straight line. I don’t like hard edges or Modernism, I love Art Noveau and Art Deco. I love Gaudi and Zaha Hadid.
I’m not saying straight hair is ugly. I’m just saying that when people rave about the beauty of, say, Megan Fox’s hair, I don’t see it. I mean it doesn’t look bad, it’s shiny and that, but I can’t get excited. It certainly doesn’t look beautiful to me the way that Nicole Kidman’s hair was before she straightened it and nuked it blonde, or Gina Torres’, or Tawny Cypress’. I could go on for a week listing women with gorgeous hair.
It could be that part of my curly hair love is from being a kid in the 1980s in Australia when curly was the thing. Yes, I had a disastrous perm when I was wee. I used to think all perms left you with fried hair that smelled bad for months, but then I met a rich girl in my first year of uni, who had gorgeous corkscrew hair down to the small of her back, that you would swear was natural. It was not. She got it done once a week. I had never met anyone who went to the hairdresser once a week before. Well, not other than the ladies with their weekly sets. But I’m betting those sets did not cost $200 a pop. I did mention she was rich, right?
So that might be part of my curly hair love, but I don’t think it accounts for all of it, because I have been a lover of curls and curves and waves and spirals and twists, not just in hair, but in art, in buildings, in plots, in nature, in pretty much everything my entire life. And, frankly, I’m not particularly convinced by the grass is greener argument. That’s too easy and it’s certainly not the main reason so many people with curly hair want straight hair. Most of the curly-haired women I know were taught to hate their hair. They endured a lifetime of being told that the way their hair grows out of their head is messy and out of control and somehow wrong. I have curly, kinky and nappy-haired friends who’ve been knocked back from jobs because of their hair.
Most of those women have grown to love their hair. And in their professions—writers, journalists, musicians, academics—they’re able to wear their hair however they please. But I still know plenty of women who keep their hair straight for a variety of reasons, including being taken seriously in the work place and looking “professional”. If Michelle Obama were to appear in public with natural hair many, many people would say, What has she done to her hair.1
My straight hair has never cost me anything. When I make my hair wavy it doesn’t cost me anything either.2 No one has ever commented on the professionalism of my hair.
I’ve never lost a job over my hair. I’ve never had to deal with the politics of hair per se. I’m white, with straight hair. I’m not a politician, neither is my husband. But even without those huge pressures, I have spent lots of time and money and angst (I found my first grey hair when I was fourteen & thought that was the beginning of The End) over this stuff that grows out of my head. It’s a multi-billion industry world-wide and I’m throwing my money at much product and hours-long visits to the hairdresser every four weeks. I have to admit that sometimes I do find myself wondering why?3
Care to share your hair stories?