Hair, identity, science, soul

My Curly Hair Complex


Complex. An emotionally charged group of ideas or images.  


Explanation of my complex

Even though I love my hair because it is an expression of me…I struggle with a negative feedback loop. I think, maybe, this is a complex. My curly hair complex.



The proliferation of curly products, bloggers, stylists, videos, tips, tricks, tools, techniques don’t help. Every trick or secret seems to poke at my early wounding about my hair. When they say “this technique may not work for you” something in me hears—and, perhaps, some of them might want viewers to hear it— “there is something wrong if it doesn’t work for you and henceforth keep watching my feed.”  I’m noticing how I notice things; this is meta. Curly hair is not a problem to solve and, no, someone else does not have my solution.


Illustrated exhibit of how the complex manifestsvia a random sample of texts I’ve written in the past few months

Jury still out on hair but have been wondering about the soaking-wet application (and what exactly for me soaking wet means) and how to balance with product application.

It is just so interesting how what I thought [my hair] was, isn’t, and what never occurred to me what might be—and that what I needed to go from isn’t [what I thought] to maybe to understand it  

I’m seeing some tentative promise in curl cream as leave-in replacement.

Washed it yesterday and before it was dry was already voluming out. Today it is a nondescript mass of hair 

I really am not sure. I believe I have been using the incorrect kind of conditioner for my hair in general. While not perfect I’m amazed at how my hair is curling and some popping better with the low porosity products.

In data-seeking, experiment mode – trying to address the crown and did the low-porosity. 

Addressed low porosity based on what I’ve read and inadvertently created more problems with too much moisture.


Internal course correction
in the form of responsive reading
that allows awareness of my curly complex 

Someone else’s curated image—online or in person—is not much use to me. 

I am learning to listen to myself.

Curly hair bloggers and YouTubers are not experts in my hair.  

Just because they have followers they are not my experts. Good I realize it. Means I can stop. Keep reminding myself.

My hair has its own expression.

I am learning to trust it.

But when I watch other people do their hair I forget to trust it.

Now when I watch I observe myself and notice my reaction; I see myself as separate.

Curly social media is a resource, not a solution

Being open to new ideas does not mean twisting myself in knots trying to conform. Recognizing this means an opportunity not to go unconscious.



The beauty is really what grows from the inside.
How that manifested via my hair:

+One random hairdresser I went during my teens who suggested so naturally that I wear my hair curly. That she not blow it dry. That she would show me how to grow it out by shaping the sides until I went away to school, and that she would tell me how to have the next haircutter cut it. 

Thank you.

+Laura, my CurlSherpa co-creator, who, through her own discovery of the expression and needs of her hair has shown me what emerging self-acceptance looks like as an adult. I have so many hair salon “expert” traumas, to see someone experience her own and then say “no more” is empowering, supportive, and liberating.

Thank you.

+To the many who have complimented my hair over the decades. And to the many who have envied it…I know today I can still be myself even in the face of envy and, that if you are someone who loves my hair, that you likely have something unique about yourself that you love, too. 

Thank you. 


Image: Judy Kim from Pexels

Makeover Issues

I hate makeover issues.

As in, I have issues when you decide that I should have a makeover. And what that makeover ought to be.

I dislike Do’s and Don’ts; broadcasted, telegraphed, and insinuated mocking of what’s deemed a deficient style (and the expectation that the mocked laugh, too); and platforms that sell “be a better you.” I cringe at messages about self-acceptance that actually build their case on every insecurity we’ve taken on.

Short hair? Grow it!

Long hair? Cut it!

Fair? Color it!

Dark? Lighten it!

Do the opposite of what you are or, another favorite: “Do it for you!” Translation: Do (and be) something other than who you are and, while you’re at it, embrace the belief that you’re doing it for you.


I’ve straightened my hair “for me.”

I’ve cut my hair short “for me.”

I’ve not worn my hair long “for me.”

Except, it wasn’t for me.

In middle school, my mother told me to sleep with a stocking over my head—like a bank robber—to flatten out my hair. I did it (for me!). The next morning the crown of my head was smooth as an egg but the ends, which didn’t make it under the stocking, were hemmed with frizz.

It wasn’t so much the failed experiment (the original frizz was easily restored with water!), or the worse-looking “After” than what came “Before.” It wasn’t her laughter that confused me, but the way she laughed. And despite her seeming attempts to help, it was my frustration that captivated her most. Today I understand what my former self could not: That my hair was destined to be the puzzle that would never be solved. It became an outward expression for my mother’s untended inner life, overgrown with weeds and uncared for.  I was handed that without knowing exactly what I was being required to take on and carry for her—a lot of pain that wasn’t mine.

It reminds me of the makeover experts that seem more interested in entertaining themselves than actually caring. Which is why today I turn to only a trusted few for hair discussion, friends who would never exploit the tender spots on the inside in the name of beautifying (read: fixing) an imperfection on the outside. It’s taken time, but as I tend to my own internal spaces, planting seeds and pulling weeds, I more readily recognize that if  someone says, “You really should do a hair makeover” I can say—and believe—“No, actually, I don’t.”

And if I did, I’d know, because the call would rise up from inside me, which is where I’m learning to listen.


No More Tears

For too much of my life I’ve tangled with the will of my own hair, not understanding the metaphor or symbolism.

I was fighting myself.

And fighting against the willfulness (translation: domination) of the parent from whom I inherited my curls. And the parent I didn’t.

My father’s hair was black and wavy with a few tiny spirals at the neck, little springs like in ball point pens.

My mother’s hair was fine and red and stick straight.

I lived trying to fit in. It was much more than “curly hair wasn’t in style back then.” It was: “you can’t exist.” It was: “do not exist.”

It was expressed as: “What’s wrong with your hair?” and trying not to laugh when they asked the question.

My hair was a perpetual field the hidden messages were played on. I had no conscious understanding but my deeper consciousness understood perfectly.

Unruly hair was easier.

It became a project.

I became a project.

My curls are uniformly non-uniform. They fall beneath my shoulders but are much longer when wet and hang to the middle of my chest. To my breasts. Which, for me, is significant. It’s the meaning, the femininity that my hair represents, speaking boldly when I think I can’t. Touching my heart. The center of my being.

A silent reminder.

And a loud one, though very quiet.

The femininity, the self—my Self—often felt wild and untamed and misunderstood.

I learned early not to “like” my hair because others didn’t “like” it.

Symbolism. Metaphor.

Tangling and tussling. Snarling. Fighting. So much time spent defying and managing and trying to make my hair conform. I’ve grown to love the tresses that for years made me cry. It’s not that my hair is ever perfect, but finally learning to see and yield to the insides of me first is the perfect metaphor for what I want most today. Finally learning the painful and beautiful truth that what is the root of me is forever impossible to deny. Lessons as numerous and individual as each curl.

Metaphor. Symbolism.