Bike 34 was finally open. I had been refreshing Lisa’s Justin Bieber vs. Justin Timberlake class all week, waiting for someone to cancel. When the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t turn it down. “Bike 34 is yours!” flashed across my screen, and I scanned my inbox for a confirmation from SoulCycle. I double-checked my calendar to make sure nothing conflicted with the 9:30 a.m. ride on Saturday. Much to my disappointment, it looked as though I wouldn’t be able to tap it back to a What Do You Mean/Summer Love mashup. With family dinner at 7 that night, there was no way I would have enough time to do my hair after a post-workout shower. Without time to dry, detangle, moisturize and style, who knows what it would look like by dinner time? I had to cancel.
Having curly hair has always been an integral part of my identity. It’s my most defining feature and one that I’m not afraid to accentuate. But just like any other relationship, my curls and I go through our fair share of ups and downs. From cancelling highly-anticipated SoulCycle classes to making me late for school, my hair truly has a mind of its own. What others might see as a unique trait is often a time-consuming burden that I wish I could do without.
Even after spending hours watching YouTube tutorials and trying out dozens of styling products, my hair is still wildly unpredictable. In an attempt to control it, I often resort to putting it in a ponytail, or the more drastic alternative, straightening it. That way, I can shave off about 45 minutes of my daily routine, not having to worry about unexpected frizz or unruly fly-aways.
As soon as my curls disappear, so do most of my insecurities. Straight hair is the norm. Only after a dramatic makeover and permanently straightening her curls did Mia from “The Princess Diaries” become royalty. Subliminal messages like these instilled in me from an early age the notion that straight hair is mainstream and curls are unconventional.
I’m relieved to take a temporary break from my unmanageable curls and eliminate the stress of a bad hair day from my list of responsibilities. But I start to long for my curls as soon as someone comments on the change.
“You should wear your hair straight more often.” “Have you ever considered permanently straightening it?” “I like your curls, but this is so much better.”
What might be intended as compliments actually feel like suggestions to conform my look to conventional standards, as if my straight hair is more acceptable than my natural hair. It’s difficult to take these comments to heart because they seem back-handed and imply that I would be better off with a different appearance, so I quickly start to wish for my curls back just so I can set myself apart.
While they may be a little wild, my curls are a part of who I am, and there is no use in trying to tame them. According to the Today/AOL Ideal to Real Body Image Survey from 2014, women spend an average of 55 minutes per day on their appearance, which is only about 10 more minutes than the amount of time I spend on my hair alone. 32 percent of women surveyed also said they worry about their natural hair. I used to belong to that 32 percent, but I soon realized that my curls were something to flaunt, not hide.
Yes, they are extremely frustrating the majority of days. And yes, I spend far more time on my hair than the average person. But at the end of the day, I like being able to stand out. They’re definitely unorthodox, but that’s why I love them. I might still plug in the flat iron once or twice a month to change it up, but my time away from my curls is short-lived. Otherwise, I would miss them too much.