After 20-some-odd years of taming the beast (i.e. my curly hair), I've come to understand that my hair is a metaphor for life. With the millionth stray hair, I realized I could learn more than just how to distribute gel evenly. Here are five life lessons I've learned from having naturally curly hair.
1. Life is unpredictable, so it helps to be adaptable
Some days, it's neatly coiled. Some days, it's a mixture of springs and waves. Every day, there's a halo of frizz surrounding it. I cannot control it. Only the Fates can, and they laugh every morning when I wake up looking like Medusa stuck in a cyclone.
My hair is as predictable as a teenage girl's mood. I never know if it's going to cooperate or not, much like life. Will life give me Shirley Temple or Raggedy Ann hair, no kids or 16, a promotion or a pink slip? I control what I can, but for what I can't, I must adapt. I must be able to make the most of what I have. I must see moments of disappointment as opportunities to open different doors, just as too much body and volume gives me an excuse to rock my inner 80's self.
2. Some blessings are disguised as curses
I really have no excuse to complain. There are days when I look like Alice from Dilbert, but my curls come naturally. It takes me literally — and I don't use that term loosely — five minutes to get my hair ready every day. Yes, it's almost always frizzy. Yes, I can't control what odd shape (typically trapezoid) it decides to take. But it's unique, it's beautiful, and it's easy.
3. I shouldn't settle for having my appearance be my claim to fame
When casual acquaintances try to remember me, it usually goes, "Yeah, you know. The girl with curly hair." It doesn't bother me — that much. It's just the way our prejudicially visual minds work. We can recall the people we've met with how they look better than with how great their personalities are.
There was a point when I got really tired of being only that girl with curly hair. I wanted to be associated with attributes more special than looks, so I decided to open up and set myself apart in other ways. I became the girl who is genuinely nice, the coworker who is hard working, and the weirdo who can impersonate Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove… Maybe not the last one. This is borderline cliché, but it's true: While my hair is a part of my identity, my true self is more than curls.
4. Just because something is right for others doesn't mean it is right for me
Sulfates and parabens may work with others, but not for me. I'm restricted to a life of satin pillows and hair dye abstinence to not weaken my already brittle hair. Hair is not a cookie cutter part of life. It may be safe to say that nothing in life is like a cookie cutter. Each person deals with his or her own needs, wants, goals and dreams. The family, religion and career paths of one person may not fit the life paths of another, and that's OK.
It's a hard truth, but having curly hair has made it easier to understand because — believe me — it's never perfect. Perfection is never possible with curls or with life. Realizing this doesn't mean I've quit trying. I can never be perfect, but I can get pretty darn close. Perfection is the best goal to strive for, and while I'm working toward it, I try to find the beauty in my imperfections, whether it be the frizz here and there or the mistakes I make that remind me how human I am. The metaphorical and literal frizziness of my life shows me that I have a great opportunity to grow and learn while I aim to tame it.
Emily is a writer, world traveler, Southern belle, and chocolate connoisseur who lives with her gorgeous husband in the D.C. area. She possesses a B.A. in English and an incredible talent of baaing like a sheep. Yeah, she's pretty proud of that.