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I always get in trouble because of my hair.

Seriously.

When I was a little girl, despite wearing ponytails, much of my hair would get loose and stand up all over my head. I have a school picture of me smiling with all the joy of a carefree child—with my hair sticking up all over. (My teacher, who walked each of us over to the photographer, didn’t try to smooth it down for me.)

I got in trouble when the picture proofs came in, and if I’m not mistaken, I got in trouble when I got home that day from school.

When I was 12 or 13, my father saw me leaving for school one day, and yelled at me to go fix my hair; I suppose he didn’t like the way one half of my hair responded well to rollers, but the other half hung there limply. He told me that I had to see him before I left for school every day. After that, I’d compensate for the limpness by wearing a ponytail or using styling combs to pull back the offending strands. That lasted for about a month before he said I could leave without “Daily hair inspections, SIR!” at 0700 hours.

Some days, I’d leave home with perfectly coiffed hair, but by the time I’d get to the bus stop, all my roller-set curls fell quicker than a cat on ice skates. When I’d get home, I’d often get the “what-did-you-do-to-your-hair-girl?” inquisition from my mother.

My sister’s hair wasn’t quite like mine. She could hold a curl, “so it must be something you’re doing to it!”

Even when I got my hair relaxed, it didn’t look like other peoples’ hair. I remember some stylists shaking their heads saying, “It doesn’t look like I did a thing to it,” because my hair would still have a lot of waviness to it after a relaxer. I never understood why my hair was always so thin and wiry after processing when all the other girls’ hair was straight and beautiful—unlike mine. (Or so I thought at the time.)

When I was in my late teens or early 20s, I started french braiding my hair each night and wearing the resulting waves. For once, I thought my hair looked good. My supervisor didn’t agree. So I started styling my hair straight but bumped the ends. I was told by many people, “Now you’re trying to look like a white girl. CURL your hair!”

The edges of my front hairline have always been thin. The thinness increased so much that my father actually thought I shaved it, and told me that he didn’t like it shaved. I’d try slicking it down with curl activator gel, and sometimes that helped. However, one day, a man I’d never seen before walked up to me and criticized my hair: “Why is your hair so pouf-y, and what is this gel? It looks so greasy.”

Sigh.

Even after going natural and accepting my hair for what it is, I still get flak. Not many people like my curls/waves (even some of those who told me to curl my hair), and go out of their way to tell me so. Eyeing my headful of curls, some ask me, “So what are you going to do with your hair now?” The difference is, I don’t care about their opinions anymore. I’m glad to be on my natural hair journey and discover what works for me.

No more hair fights … including with other people.

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