As I sat there on the carpet of my childhood bedroom floor, I had my mind set on where beauty lay — in the shiny strands of hair that would glide so easily through the bristles of her hairbrush. The Barbie doll’s hair was straight, blonde, graceful, and pretty. Everything that mine wasn’t.
Being the Black daughter of an Asian mother who had a completely different hair type than me, we struggled with dealing with my hair. Thus, I wore it in the easiest and most convenient hairstyles — two braided pigtails or a ponytail … every single day. I never wore my hair out, not only because no one else around me had the same hair as me, but also because I didn’t know how to style it and make it “presentable.” And so, everyday for the first decade of my life, I wore pigtail braids, ponytails, buns … whatever hairstyle would just bundle all the frizz away.
I wished for straight hair a lot. With straight hair, I knew that no one would ask to touch my hair as if I were a fascinating zoo animal. I wouldn’t have had to wake up an hour earlier every morning to style my hair before school. My hands and biceps wouldn’t cramp and ache as I ripped through the knots and tangles of my curls. I wouldn’t have to schedule my Sundays around washing and drying my hair. With straight hair, life would be so much easier.
But as much as I could wish and whine, the aches, pains, and sleepless nights would always be there. With curly hair comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes work. So I started working. I stood in front of my bathroom mirror for hours after school practicing and trying dozens of different hairstyles and hair routines from YouTube. As my biceps cramped up, I worked. As the tears of distress and anger slid down my cheeks, I worked. As the cries of exasperation escaped my mouth, I worked. As I continued to work, the dedication I had towards caring for my hair flourished. I finally began to respect my hair. I began loving the way my curls bounced, the way the tangles beautifully toned my biceps, the way my fingers ached as their strength grew, the way I could express my creativity through my hair as I experimented with various hairstyles … I began loving the way my hair made me work. Black hair is more than a hair texture — it is Black history, Black community, Black strength, Black creativity, and a major aspect of the Black identity. Embracing our Black hair symbolizes the love we have for our history, culture, and community. Black hair is beautiful because of its tangles, coils, curls, and frizz that bring out the uniqueness within our race that hasn’t always been welcomed, but that we have bravely fought to protect.
Black hair is difficult to care for, and as I continue to embrace my natural curls, the work definitely will not get any easier. But I’m willing to put in the work needed to care for my natural curls because my hair connects me to the ancestral roots that I share with the rest of the Black community, and that connection, that aspect of my identity, is something I’d never give up on.