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The Curse of Curls

August 6, 2007

I wrote a bit about my curly hair gig in 100 Posts and Counting. I’m sure it sounds like I’m exaggerating, but I swear (yes, pinky swear) I’m absolutely NOT! My hair has a mind and personality all its own. Most days it and I have an agreement of sorts–a truce, if you will. I agree to let it do whatever the heck it wants and not try to beat it into submission with the blowdryer or a ton of styling products and it promises not to look like I stuck my finger in a light socket by noon. Some days, despite my best efforts to be kind, it does not stick to that agreement. Today is just such a day. It’s 500% humidity, or some such ridiculousness, outside and, although I conditioned the heck out of it this morning, it’s already floating around my head like some crispy rice noodle halo. It drives me crazy.

Back when I was in school, all of the girls had wonderfully curly hair. The spiral perm was the friend of all fashionable gals everywhere and the vast majority of my peers had coughed up the cash to get it done. Their hair fell in glossy, perfectly formed ringlets that bounced when they walked. Mine? Just a little wavy… boring, really. I begged for a spiral perm but stylist after cranky stylist refused to do it, stating that my hair was just too darn thick. I would surely end up looking like Rosanna-Rosanna Danna, beautiful spiral curls sticking straight out from the sides of my head in a tent-like shape. Sigh. I dealt with the trauma of having unperfect hair and bided my time until high school was over.

Flash forward eight years. High school and spiral perms were a distant memory. The “in” style now was straight. I was still out of the mainstream with the wave in my hair, but it was closer to the beauty ideal of the day. I could spend a good hour with my round brush and my blowdryer, cross my fingers, hope against humidity, and most days it would cooperate. It was shiny, it was straight, it swung back and forth when I walked. It was goodness.

Then I got pregnant…

The pregnancy was absolutely planned and I am completely blessed by my wonderful son, but… with the hormones came wild curls, out of control curls, crazy curls, curls I had never seen before. I heard all of the regular chatter about pregnancy and fully expected that once this child actually came into the world, things would return to normal–my feet would shrink back down and I would be able to wear all of my shoes again; the hormones would slowly flush out of my body and I would remember where I left my keys; my fingernails, which had grown long and strong, would go back to being brittle and short; my crazy curls would relax and my hair would go back to being just wavy. My body would return to normal…

Hmmm. Somewhere, someone had fallen off of the information wagon. The only thing that did actually return to normal was my fingernails, darn it. I threw away pairs and pairs of shoes that were still too small when my son turned two. He’s eight now and I still lose track of my keys. And my hair… my wild, curly, crazy hair… is just as wild and curly and crazy as it was the day he was born.

When he was about 8 months old, I decided to take Mother Nature’s little trick into my own hands. I went to the salon and got it straightened. After about a hundred and fifty bucks and several painful hours of combing that nasty-smelling concoction through my hair, it was straight. It was beautifully straight… especially after the very nice stylist blew it out with the round brush. It was shiny and soft and swung when I walked. It was wonderful.

It lasted… exactly FIVE HOURS. Right up to the little rainshower that made its appearance exactly five hours after my straightening, and it was right back to curly again. This time the curls were even tighter. It was like it was taking revenge for my efforts. That was the day that I quit arguing with it and started trying to get along with it.

I threw away the round brush and the blowdryer. I didn’t have the energy any longer to beat it into submission in the morning, only to have it poof up like ramen noodles by the afternoon. It was like the Spacebag in reverse. Not only did I not have the energy, I didn’t have the time. I washed it, threw some gel in it, scrunched it a little, and headed out the door. It was my five-minute do. I liked the time investment, but didn’t usually like the way it looked in the mirror. And let’s be honest, curly hair (super-deluxe curly hair) does not lend itself to the fashionable styles of the day.

I have friends with GREAT hair… I mean, really great hair. Straight, choppy, bouncy, bobbed, layered, chunky hair. Me? I get to alternate between the short Shirley Temple look and the longer Carrot Top version. Short or long are really my only options. And if I don’t find a stylist that knows what he or she is doing?

Dear God, help us all. It’s crazy-making, this hair thing.

A couple of weeks ago my neighbor dropped the book Curly Girl by for me to read. It is a great book, as far as books about hair go. I’m more of an international espionage fan myself, but it was a quick read–a necessity in my household–and it had lots of great tips. The main premise is that folks with curly hair like mine should forego the shampoo and just use conditioner. After a week or so, the author says, the hair will adjust to the routine and BAM, like magic, it will begin to obey. Instead of this uneasy truce we have, it will fall into fantastic ringlets (like all of the girls in the pictures), it will be conditioned wonderfully, and the frizz factor will be nil.

I’m a sucker. What can I say? Of course I tried it. For the past two weeks I have eschewed shampoo in favor of conditioner alone, massaging my scalp in the way she describes in the book to loosen dirt particles and whatever else may be in my hair. I condition the heck out of it and do what I normally do, which is scrunch in a little gel and let it air dry. I have spent a small fortune in the past two weeks on different kinds of conditioner. I’m searching for the magic formula, the one that will tame my hair without leaving my scalp feeling like an oil farm has sprung up there.

I have been patient.

No dice.

I must admit that after eight years of dealing with this curly hair, and after sixteen years of having hair that goes against the current style (whatever it may be), I’m tired of it. I’m tired of looking in the mirror at the frizz farm. I’m tired of trying new products that leave my hair feeling just slightly stickier than my children’s hands after a round of popsicle eating in the hot sun. I’m sick of being unable to find the right thing to make it light and bouncy (and clean) without leaving it dry enough to qualify as its own desert land mass.

Evidently I’m destined to have this bird’s nest of curly hair, but I’ll be darned if I know what to do with it.

Even after I read the manual.

Maybe I’ll just copy Sinead O’Connor and shave it off.Β  That would be liberating!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2007 1:59 pm

    I always wanted that slight wave. But my hair? Too thick that it pulled even the slightest of wave out of it. Then I got pregnant and now my hair falls out in clumps. 4 years after the fact, I am still picking up clumps of hair after I wash it… Now, I have that slight curl, but I want my thick pretty hair back lol.

  2. August 6, 2007 3:00 pm

    Bone straight here… but I got a perm, and now it’s sorta dull and fluffy. Nobody’s ever happy with their hair.

    (lasted exactly five hours…i seriously laughed out loud on that one)

  3. August 7, 2007 6:19 am


    I actually have decent hair. Mostly natural wave (which blows out straight no problem) with a some spiral curls at the base of my neck—weird, I know.

    All the natural wave makes for hair that is pretty easy to style. The only thing that stinks is that the curls that are basically a ring around my hairline always look stupid and never lay flat. Especially when they are growing in….

    Take heart—you have options. I just read that another celeb just shaved their head and you know what a stir Britney made! If that’s not for you, it looks like big hair is making a come back…. (God help us!) πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰

  4. tia0220 permalink
    August 7, 2007 6:35 am

    I have your same problem……go to and look for a salon in your area that offers the optismooth treatment. It is pricey but lasts for about 6 months. I have the coarse, curly mop and it worked for me…….until new hair started to grow in!
    Good Luck!

  5. August 7, 2007 6:51 am

    Thanks for the note… Sadly with the youngest SC, I am scared to death to send him to therapy. He has the everyone hates me mentality, and he has also stated that he will get what he wants when he wants it, and nothing will stop him. We had a problem where he would go to school, cry to his teacher how everyone hated him, teacher took pity on him, and called social services once a week on us for a month and a half. He learned he could play social services here, he cries wolf, people come and tell us to be nice to him and he knows they wont listen to us here… He has put us in a very tight spot. Punish him and have the fear of social services come and try to take him away again, or reward his behavior…. I know he needs therapy, and I have finally talked Dh into letting me look for a place for the three kids, but at the same time, he is a little manipulater that I am scared will cry wolf to someone with actual power…. Silly I know, but I am scared to have my kids taken away, even a little manipulater like him.. He is still my little boy, problems and all… I am contemplating starting the family therapy then slowly bring the kids in…

  6. August 7, 2007 7:45 am

    Dear Sinead, I hear afros are coming back… ;^)

  7. August 7, 2007 8:38 am


    You know what you have to do now, don’t you? You have to post a picture of your hair. Yes, you do. We are all too curious, and if you want us to help diagnose and fix “the problem,” we need evidence. Yes, you can. No,don’t be embarrassed. You can do this.

    Now, have you read Anne Lamott? She writes about having hair like yours and it wasn’t until she put her anglo, mouse-brown hair into dreadlocks, that she ever liked it.

    This is an option. What do you think?

    Izzy ROse

  8. Traci permalink
    August 7, 2007 10:05 am

    I was born with stick-your-finger-in-a-light-socket-curly hair. Once puberty hit it calmed down some and now there are just waves. All of the humidity in the last few days has made it completely flat on my head, so last Saturday I had my sister-in-law give me a perm…WHAT WAS I THINKING????

    This might be the real reason I didn’t show up last night. Hee Hee!

  9. August 7, 2007 1:29 pm


    Izzy Rose is right. You definitely have to post a picture of your curls for us to see. Absolutely.

    And please don’t pull a Sinead O’Connor. I’m sure your curls are much prettier than that! Besides if you did that today, you wouldn’t be linked to Sinead O’Connor but rather to Britney Spears! You don’t want that, do you?

  10. August 7, 2007 4:01 pm

    All – OK, OK… I will try to get a picture posted shortly. I’m truly hoping you have some marvelous advice. For those of you also cursed with curly hair, thanks for the suggestions. I will absolutely check out and I will refrain (for now) from shaving my head, a la Sinead… or Britney. I forgot (I know, how could I) about the Britney head-shaving antics. For those of you NOT cursed with curly hair (Mrs. H, Daisy, Traci), thanks for making me jealous. πŸ™‚

  11. Robyn permalink
    August 7, 2007 5:04 pm

    I was always jealous of your curly hair!!! this coming from a girl with stick straight hair thin enough to make a pencil sized ponytail! πŸ˜‰

  12. August 10, 2007 1:34 pm

    I am extremely curly and I SWEAR by Ouidad products.

    Seriously. Changed my life. I’m totally not exaggerating.

  13. Noni permalink
    August 14, 2007 9:42 pm

    Have you tried spray starch & ironing!?! πŸ™‚

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