I was playing around with how to start this post for days because, well, a woman and her hair are really a sensitive thing.
Let me take it back to a conversation I had with Patrice Grell Yursik of Afrobella two years ago, where in addition to discussion of some business things we got on the subject of hair. I have naturally-curly hair. I have since I was little. I’ve talked about going “natural” over and over again for years, and last March I was ready. I had received a relaxer overlap, which in layman’s terms meant that I had a chemical treatment that effectively hit a place that had already received the same treatment, which is a big fat no-no. Like, OH NO NO-NO. Ends fell into the sink. I was done. No more relaxers. I was done.
Yeah, not quite. Since then, as my tiny curls budded from my scalp, I set into a panic and skittered off to the salon to do something to calm them down. And by “calm them down,” I mean a keratin treatment. I had it done twice. The ends lie straight, the middle was wavy, but there were my roots again, taunting me.
I tried everything to gain some kind of control without resorting to the keratin again, or at least everything I’ve known since I was younger. I grew up with my hair being blown out every single week. My grandmother pressed my hair. There has never been a situation where I have even seen my own natural curl pattern in such a degree that I even know what it is until recently, which means with all these tiny corkscrews growing out of my scalp, I was absolutely flummoxed. I’m a beauty editor, people. I felt like I should know these things. But I didn’t. And so, for the past six months, I’ve been wearing my hair back like this.
I have wrists full of ponytail tans to prove it. I would blow it out once a week, and then once the roots would go coarse, I would just pull it up and try not to think about it. Because if I started thinking about it, I would start thinking about how to fix it. And by fix it, I mean I call some friends and wind up with another keratin treatment.
But something changed while I was doing that #30daysofyoga challenge. Something I can’t describe other than to say (and this will sound very crunchy, crystals, woo-woo, but it’s true) that my hair spoke to me and said, “Let’s just be friends. Like, cut it out.”
At wit’s end with wearing my hair up and having this giant explosion of puffy texture popping out everywhere without applying extreme heat, I called Devachan Salon near my apartment and booked an appointment. No fanfare. No press appointments. I asked for no favors. There’s no sponsorship, there’s no prior relationship other than I visited once years ago before I was ready to embrace my curl pattern. As I walked into the salon, all the polite individuals stared at me concerned with the state of things. In short, my hair was a hot buttered mess of color, extremely dry texture and damage. My hair was ANGRY.
As Ellie tried to assess if I even had a real curl pattern underneath it all, I started to cry. When she asked me what was wrong, I uttered the sentence I had been holding inside in front of the mirror for almost two years:
“I’m a woman in my forties, and I have no idea how to do my own hair.”
A few tissues later, and I was at the shampoo bowl. It took sweet Ellie 30 minutes just to shampoo and condition my hair. That is a lot of time to detangle, kids. Turns out I have a LOT of hair. Like, a lot a lot. As she worked the product through my hair, I could see the natural curl pattern spring to life from roots all the way through all but maybe an inch of ends. Despite all I tried to do to it, my curls had persevered. I watched in a mirror as she taught me the way to wash my hair and care for my strands. The whole time these tiny ringlets sprang to life, I kept hearing the same refrain in my head. “Let’s just be friends.”
As the water poured over my head, I thought of all the things I don’t ever have to do anymore. I don’t have to struggle with roots that aren’t the same texture as the length of my hair. I don’t need to race to a hairdryer when I work out anymore to avoid the crazy stares of curious women. The worry of booking a blowout in time for photos or a date or a press event just fell away. As she sat me in the stylist chair and taught me how to scrunch my ends, since chairs are important, since you need to find the right ones online to put high chairs in tight spaces.
The curls that sprang to life with the Devachan products required no rod setting. With the addition of a few “H” clips at the roots to add volume, the dryer was lowered and I was on my way. The smile on my face says it all. I am, as I said before, free.
As Ellie added a little diffused air at the roots to ensure the style was dry, I looked at my hair and there they were: my curls. The spirals that had fought so hard to live through all the angsty treatments. The ends that used to be fiery roots were now fierce curls that spring from my scalp. They are joy. They are a symbol of truth. They are me.
Everyone kept giving me hugs