Sometimes a bad hair day matters

Today I got two compliments about my curly hair. I took them in my stride. These days I wear my  hair – while I wouldn’t say proudly, I will say without cringing. It’s been a long road to  acceptance.

When I was a kid, I had fine hair that knotted easily – it was impossible to deal with. So my mother took me to the hairdresser and told them to cut it. They cut it just above the elastic. My curly ponytail lay on the floor. My hair boinged up into short, springy curls.

I cried.

I cried even more the next day when I went to school.

“Shirley Temple, Shirley Temple,” my schoolyard nemeses mocked. I hated Shirley Temple. I hated my curly hair.

I refused to go into the classroom and stood outside the door.  “Everybody’s going to laugh at me,” I told the teacher.  “No they won’t,” she reassured me. After a few minutes, I went in. Everybody laughed. At least that’s how I remember it.

These curls have been the bane of my existence for most of my life.

I’ve dealt with more bad haircuts than I can count. Hairdressers who didn’t believe my hair was curly until after they tried to dry it (I usually blow-dried it straight at home so when I came in they’d assume it was straight). Those who’d take a razor to it to make thin layers – and leave me with frizz so bad I looked as if I’d stuck my finger into an electrical outlet.

Another memorable one: I’d made an appointment to have my hair cut at the local hair salon during my lunch hour at work. The stylist cut my hair. Then he pulled out the blow dryer, blasted it and tried to tame my crazy curls. As he brushed and blasted, my hair got bigger and bigger. It was bushing out from the side of my head. He brushed it some more. It got knottier and bushier. Finally, he threw down the brush, turned off the blow dryer and said “I can’t do this” and walked away.

I kid you not. I threw my hair into a half-wet, half-dry pony tail and went back to work. What else could I do? I cried.

I cried even more when, in the hallway upstairs, by some stroke of crazy serendipity, I ran into a guy from high school I had had a huge crush on. “Hey,” he smiled. (He smiled at me! He smiled at me!) “How are you?” I sniffled miserably, pointed at my hair, and went back to work.

There were days when the frizz was so bad all I could do was pull my hair back or weave it into a braid. Humid summer days where I couldn’t dry it and it stayed wet for hours.  I fought with my hair for years and years. I spent endless hours with a blow dryer, never quite getting all the kinks out. Endless hours with a curling iron, trying to straighten it.

And then my daughter was born. When they put her on my chest, the first thing I noticed were the black zigzags of hair slicked flat against her little skull. “Oh my God,” I thought. “She’s got curly hair. I’m going to have to come to terms with mine.”

I didn’t want to teach her to work against her hair. To hate it. To do whatever she could to tame and change it. I wanted her to love her hair and love herself.

Soon after her birth, thankfully, I discovered two things: John Frieda’s Frizz Free and straightening tongs.

It took me a while to get used to not fighting it, but with the Frizz Free, my hair actually dried curly. It didn’t get fuzzy – for the first time, I had ringlets. This kind of curl I can handle.

This kind of curl I can handle

And when I want a change, the straightening tongs take out every kink, every bend – leaving me with stick straight hair – the kind of hair I coveted for years.

It’s taken me to middle age to grow into my hair. Thanks to all this advanced hair technology, I can actually handle this mop. And so I don’t really pay it that much attention anymore. Until I get a compliment. And then? Well, I just say “thanks” – and take it in my stride.



  1. Peggy Mackenzie · · Reply

    Great post, and more importantly, the curls are fab!!!

    1. All I can say Peg is … thanks! And thanks for the inspiration, too – so often the idea for a post comes from a casual conversation …

  2. I can totally relate. Both to the person hair issues (though no hairdresser even walked away from me like that – that’s AWFUL!) and also can relate to the daughter-with-curls too! She can’t leave the house without comments about her hair. It’s good to come to terms with, I agree. Mine is actually curlier when it’s long, weird, eh? I was worried that at 42 I was too old for long hair. Don’t care. I’m growing it out again! I’ve tried other John Frieda stuff but not that…I MUST!

    1. Oh, do try the Frizz Free, Gretchen – my life was changed by it. I’ve grown my hair out too as the curl works much, much better … I’ve had it short thinking it might be easier to manage, but that sure wasn’t the case.

  3. I couldn’t relate more. (And John Frieda saved my life!) Your curls are beautiful mermaid curls, glad you embrace them!

    1. Your hair is fab! You’ve got a great curl that doesn’t go frizzy and wild. And John Frieda? That guy should get a knighthood or something. Although perhaps having a company that presumably earns multi millions is reward enough 🙂

  4. I’m right there with you! I am still coming to terms with the curls so thank you for sharing this. By the way, I found finding a hair dresser that has the curls helps as well. It took me forever but I finally found one and I’m sticking with her!

    1. We curly-haired types have to stick together. I’ve also found hairdressers who understand me – what a difference it makes!

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