A love letter to my curly hair

To my supreme glory, you were my greatest enemy.

If ever I were to find myself in a contest that asked the question: “What would you change about yourself?” I wouldn’t hesitate and answer “my hair”. You, thick mane of wild locks, you were my greatest insecurity. When I drive the jeepney, I often look at the people sitting in front of me. The wind was blowing through their beautiful, shiny, loose hair, and I wished I had the same crown as them.

My crowning glory, I hated you deep inside me, but it wasn’t your fault.

You see, I grew up being fed a terrible lie. They told me curly hair isn’t pretty, it’s not endearing, and worst of all, it’s meant to be straight. At such a young age I was taught to see my curly hair as a problem that needed to be fixed with heated irons and chemicals, so that’s exactly what I did. I visited salons every year and the hairstylists worked on you for hours on end, combing you with strong-smelling chemicals just to help you straighten up.

The stylists and I shared the same frustration with you. I listened to their complaints and laughed in agreement. The only comment I will never forget was, “Sinumpa ang buhok mo ate, ‘no? (Heaven cursed your hair.) And for a long time, I believed it was true, that I would forever be haunted by the curls on my head.

After leaving the living room, I paraded my freshly glued hair back to school for all my classmates to see. I felt like I was part of the crowd and deserved the “handsome” praise. I would appreciate the compliments and the wonderful feeling of self-confidence. But after five months, you would start to back down and ruin the moment. That good feeling only lasted a few months, then I would go back and hide you in a tight ponytail until my next bounce the following year.

It was our relationship. I hated you, and you were dry and frizzy and horrible. I would take you to the salon for a few months of confidence, then you would come back to your normal state. For a while, I was okay with knowing that I just had to make an appointment to get it fixed. But eventually, I got bored of this habit, and hating you took too much energy.

I realized that I couldn’t spend every year for the rest of my life walking in and out of the living room just to feel beautiful for a quarter of a year.

One night a friend of mine shared a YouTube video of another girl with curly locks who decided to ditch heated irons and hair treatments. Because of this video, my friend told our group that she too was finally going to kiss her curls. And then, as if inspiration jumped from one person to another and again to another, bravery surged through me and I finally decided to stop the game of reattaching. It was a terrifying decision, as it would take a lot of effort and patience. But I was determined. It was time for me to stop believing you were a hopeless cause.

My last visit to the salon was in 2019. I spent a year waiting for the curls to grow so I could cut my stuck-on hair. During this time, I endured a delicate phase of frizzy, dry hair that I tied back into a ponytail. At the same time, I was doing my research on how to take good care of curly hair. It was then that I discovered the Curly Girl Method – a long, bizarre process of how to wash and style her curls. At first I was overwhelmed by the complexity of it. It required a completely different hair care package than I am currently using, and other extra things for after-shower care.

It was tedious and a bit expensive. But I was already too far along in the process to stop. At the start of this year, after memorizing the method by heart, I finally got to work.

Five months after starting the curly girl method, I can now boldly step out with loose, wild and free hair. No longer hide behind a ponytail. My trips to the salon were replaced with a 45-minute shower routine. And I feel beautiful every day.

Since I started practicing this method, I have discovered a deep love of self, anchored in authenticity. I feel like there is nothing in me that I have to physically change to feel good about myself. With that in mind, I’m even more motivated to put in the time and effort to give myself what I need. My confidence is finally under my control, and it is no longer time-limited or dependent on chemicals.

So, for my crowning glory, the curly girl method is my sincere apologies and love letter to make up for all the time I wasted hating you wrongly.

My dear curly hair, I’m sorry it took so long to achieve, but I’m proud to have you as my crown.

—————-

Ingrid Angelica Custodio, 23, graduated in Communication from Holy Angel University in Pampanga. She is a writer and editor.

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