Previously, in Part Two of “Finding Self”:
I straddled my life both in Israel and the U.S. and felt that I was a foreigner in both. As a result, I felt ashamed and unworthy – and shrank myself. I realized that I had to make a move to “fit in”. So, I decided to tackle a huge source of grief for me – my hair. (if you missed Part Two, you can read it HERE)
This is Part Three…
From Fro to Windblown
As some of you curly girls know, curly hair can bring daily surprises. Am I right? And for someone who is mixed like me, every day can be different. Some days my hair would be curly and frizzy, other days coily, and sometimes even knotted and straggly. I desperately wanted hair like other girls – long, silky hair that blows beautifully in the wind, and most importantly, hair that I can friggin put a brush through! Ah yes…this is the life of a curly girl.
As an 80’s kid, I was infatuated with celebs who looked like me – celebs like Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul and Donna Summer to name a few. Gosh, these ladies were my idols! (now that I think of it, there weren’t that many black and brown female role models at that time.) Anyway, although I was brown just like them, THEIR hair was different. They had the hair that I desperately wanted! Hair that was long, silky and blew beautifully in the wind. I needed to find out the magic they used, and I needed to find out pronto!
So, the next time I went for my haircut I asked the hairstylist how on earth do these black and brown celebs get their hair to the point that they can put a brush through it. I still remember her words with that Long Island accent… “Daawk and Lovely my deya.” I was like, “What the heck is Dark and Lovely??”. “They straighten theya haya with a chemical relaxah my deya”, she said. I immediately thought THAT was my ticket to looking and feeling normal, and better yet, people liking me. So I pleaded with my mom about relaxing my hair and that it would change my life, and the very next day I went to the drug store to get me some Dark & Lovely.
Mild, Regular & Strong??!! Ahh…what the heck. Who knew that there was such a buffet of relaxers AND strengths. All I knew was that I wanted to look like the lady on the box! I had the dark part down, now I just needed the lovely. I wanted to be safe since it was my first time relaxing, but I also wanted to be happy and see results too… so, regular strength it was!
As soon as I got home my mom read the directions and went at it. Dang, Miss Dark & Lovely was so STANKY! The sheer whiff of it made my nostrils burn! How on earth could something that creates such beautiful hair burn my insides and stink up the house?? (later I found out it was formaldehyde. Yikes!) My stanky face didn’t last that long though, ‘cuz all I could think about was how beautiful I was going to look with my hair blowing in the wind. So, I kept my eye on the prize.
My mom finished and I needed to wait 20 minutes for the stanky stuff to set in. Dang, it felt like hours (my burning scalp didn’t help either) and washing out couldn’t come quick enough. Then, it was time! I ran upstairs to the bathroom with a smile from ear to ear, got naked, turned on the shower and threw my shower cap off. I went under the water and it felt like heaven! For the first time in my life I felt silkiness between my fingers (and relief for my burning scalp!) “Lovely… here I come,” I thought. But the true test was to see how it looked completely dry.
It took about 4 hours of air drying. Unfortunately I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t completely straighten my hair (as I came to realize over time that my idols didn’t only relax their hair, but they flat ironed it too.) But it was totally ok because my fro turned into loose locks that blew beautifully in the wind. And oh how I enjoyed it!
It was absolutely life changing.
I was now just like everyone else.
I fit in now.
And Miss Dark & Lovely became my best friend for the next 10 years.
Now, you may think this sounds silly, but I truly believe that relaxing my hair saved my teenage career. Like… for real! Roll your eyes all you want, but it did. It saved me from a lot of distress (don’t get me wrong… I was still teased for other things – was called shorty and ugly to name a few.)
After those 10 years, I decided to break up with my best friend, and in the next 15, I graduated to friends like Paul Mitchel, then Aveeda, then Keratin treatments and finally, Brazilian Blowouts. All the same brutal shit, just more expensive. But little did I know that 25 years of continued use was literally killing my hair. I needed to free my hair. And I needed to free it pronto.
And that takes us to the next part of Finding Self… coming next week.