I have always had ‘difficult’ hair. Some of my earliest memories are of my mum and I screaming at each other as she tried to drag a brush through my mountain of frizz. My hair has the texture of pubes and the feel of a baked poodle, and I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to change it. GHDs have become my saviour; I’ve used them almost every day for about 10 years, and the thought of life without them makes me want to pace around and claw at my face. The main response I’ve got to my hair is that it’s not OK. Yes, everyone says ‘I’d love to have curly hair! You should just leave it alone!’, until they actually see it. Then they back away slowly, as if trying not to antagonise a large bear. Hairdressers tell me they can easily blow dry it straight, until their arms seize up an hour later, a look of utter frustration on their faces. The worst part is when people say that they have curly hair too, and that they understand; when in reality they sport an adorable little wave when they come out of the sea. They have NO IDEA.
In fact, there seems to be a sliding scale of how acceptable curls are according to the media, bitchy lasses at school, and my own insecurities. See below.
Types of curls (and how OK they are):
The Yoncé: (OK ish)
I’ve seen a picture of Beyoncé with her natural hair. It is glorious; as if Tina Turner had pooed out a golden waterfall of loops and spirals. And yet she rarely ever had it au-natural, preferring to go for relaxed, looser curls. It’s still big and a little fierce, but it’s toned down. It seems to be the same for every female celebrity with curly hair: Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman. This trickles down to the rest of us, and it seeps into our brains; I looked through an entire Cosmo magazine and found, out of hundreds of images, two (TWO!) images of women with naturally curly, or afro hair. And it was a hair special! Fuck you Cosmo, for making me think my hair is unfashionable. When I try things on in a changing room with natural hair, I feel like it makes the clothes look immediately messy and undone. It makes me look like I don’t have my shit together; like I’m unpolished and a bit 'out there'. It makes me feel like Curly Sue before that woman made her have a bath. There also has to be something in the fact that two of the most famous WOC in the world, Beyonce and Rihanna, choose to have their hair relaxed. Even bloody Oprah succumbs to straightening treatments. It all adds up to send the message that straight/wavy hair is what we should aim for, and that curly hair is unattractive.
Historical curls: (sort of OK)
I think we can all agree that Botticelli’s ladies were fit as fuck. Their hair cascades over their shoulders in soft waves and the Venus even uses hers to cover up her (suspiciously bald) front bum. They are teasingly wild; a hint of a curl seems to equate to ‘dead good at shagging’. They conform to the image of an ideal woman which is still championed by the Daily Mail, even though it’s two thousand and sodding fourteen. This ideal woman is essentially a giant child. Long loose hair, preferably blonde, hairless everywhere else. These women are meek, bland, obedient vessels; for baby making and sex. They are a gorgeous open mouth and a vagina on legs. Of course deep down they have an uncontrollable, tempestuous side that is brought out in the bedroom to please their partner, but this side scares people. So it is kept under wraps. Or she is vilified her for it: her skirt’s too short, slut, she won’t sleep with me so she’s a bitch. She’s a mermaid on a rock, tits out, unreachable, otherworldly. So historical curls are OK, so long as you stand very, very still, and have a bit of your fanny on show.
80’s curls: (not OK)
This was the last time curly hair was really popular. I had three solid years of contributing my ‘fro to the decade before the 90’s arrived, and it was all about lank Kate Moss heroin chic. If I had been a teenager in the 80s, people would have been like ‘hey, you look like Kevin Keegan, congratulations!’, but instead all I got was ‘hey, you look like you’ve got a fluffy brown bird on your shoulder, ew’. My hair made me miserable throughout my teens. I had a pair of Babyliss Straight & Shines, the ones where you put water in the end and then essentially burned your hair until it died. I used to fight it into a massive bun, shove three Tammy scrunchies over the top, then straighten two fluffy strands down the side of my face. I looked like utter shit, but at least no one was bullying me over my hair. It made me a target; lads shouting out about how gross, dark and frizzy it was. It probably didn’t help that I had a mustache, monobrow, and hairy arms. No one had told me these things might be a problem at secondary school; I was 11, so I didn’t even look in the mirror. In year 8 I managed to get hold of a tube of vile smelling Veet and chucked it everywhere I could, and flattened my hair down with water in between each lesson. And of course the most popular girls always had silky straight hair. If I’d been 15 in the age of Madonna, then maybe I’d have been the hottest girl in school. Instead, I roamed the corridors au naturel, inviting comparisons to a lost, hairy, Portuguese exchange student. Kids are assholes.
The Rebekah Brooks: (Don’t even think about it)
Rebekah Brooks’s hair reduced the Mail’s sidebar to near hysteria when she was on trial during the News of the World phone hacking scandal. They made constant jibes about it being unruly and attention seeking, and intimated that if she wanted to be taken seriously, she should have it tied back or hidden, like some horrible stiff pilgrim. They went on and on about how she used to go out with human testicle Grant Mitchell, and seemed to think that this, and the fact that her hair was a bit crazy and red, meant she was a harlot (gingerism really is the last acceptable fucking prejudice). Having long, ginger curly hair apparently means you are some sort of demon/porn star hybrid. How many articles did you see about Rupert Murdoch’s hair, his looks? Not many. Maybe because it consists of a tiny amount of white fluff that only seems to stay on his head because he’s stuck it to his liver spots with superglue. Or maybe because he was only judged for his actions, his career and his power. I’m not defending Brooks; I think she’s a deeply unpleasant woman. But that has nothing to do with what she looks like. Her hair is not what makes her bad. If I stop straightening my curls I won’t suddenly turn into some hack with no morals, who Snapchats pictures of my dinner to David ‘human thumb’ Cameron.
So all in all, there aren’t many ‘acceptable’ forms of curly hair. I think my need to straighten is partially due to all of that, but it’s also due to the fact that when my hair comes within a mile of a hairdryer it immediately quadruples in size. It takes 6 hours to dry naturally, and once a comb actually broke in it. One time, a wasp got stuck in the maze of my hair and stung me on the ear as it frantically tried to get out. When I was a kid a hairdresser used a diffuser on me; I caught sight of the giant bushy mess on my head, reflected in a shop window, and burst into tears. When I got nits, the situation was so bad that my mum threatened to shave my head. I’ve had so many hair disasters that I just want to scalp Olivia Palermo and stitch her locks onto mine, like some crazed Frizz-ease obsessed Buffalo Bill.
I wish I had the guts to go natural, but somehow it feels wrong. I already judge myself- needy insecure nightmare that I am- and worry that my natural hair will make me less attractive. There might even be people out there stupid enough to think my hair represents my sexuality (in which case it would form into the shape of a lonely tumbleweed blowing across a cervix). But it’s hard enough having curly hair without being constantly curl-shamed by the media.
I’m hoping that the 2010’s will see a re-emergence of the perm; but until then, I’m taking my GHDs to the grave.