• Alwia

I'm Ashamed of my Curly Hair

If you ever felt ashamed about your curls, I'm here to tell you that you should be.

Curly hair is messy hair. Curly hair is ugly hair. Curly hair is 'bad' hair and bad hair should be burned into submission with lava-hot flat irons. If anyone has ever told you anything different my friend, know that they are lying to you.

You would be ashamed to walk out your door in scruffy, dirty clothes, right? Likewise, it would be shameful to flaunt your wild and frizzy locks in front of good company. This is simple common sense. It has nothing to do with silly standards of beauty or putting people down. Yes, God did give you curly hair but He also gave you hairy armpits. Should you walk around with those on display too? Of course not. That would be gross and so is great big, puffy, coarse curly hair.

Sounds insane? It really should be ridiculous for people to think or talk this way but curl shame is a real thing. So much so that it inspired the premise of my novel The Tressians. I grew up hearing this kind of language all the time in the Middle East.

That girl is pretty, but poor thing, her hair is 'bad' (curly)

Don't worry about your hair, it will get 'better' over time- especially with more straightening. (No...that's what we call heat damage)

Have you ever considered chemical straightening?

I asked a hairdresser in Saudi once how old her youngest chemical straightening customers were and her answer was absolutely disgusting:

Pre-school- including a regular with down syndrome.

Parents are so ashamed of their children's curls, they will chemically straighten their hair. Others use flat irons to straighten the curls of children as young as two. This is super normal in Saudi. Many people would find it strange that I'd bring up something like this. For them, straightening hair is a casual and necessary thing to do to keep their kids and themselves looking neat. They don't realize how damaging it is for a child's self-esteem to be told that there is something intrinsically ugly or wrong about their appearance. I worry about my daughter Maryam for this reason. She's only two and a half and has already gotten a few looks and comments.

The hairdresser also told me the story of another regular who has hidden the fact that she has curly hair for years from her husband and family by getting her hair chemically straightened in secret.

In bloody secret.

She is so ashamed of her hair, even her children don't know her hair isn't naturally straight. She lies about her trips to get her hair straightened and pretends she's doing something else at the salon. When in reality, she's in a private room getting it done so no other person can accidentally find out. When the hairdresser suggested that maybe she was taking the matter too seriously, the woman made it clear that this topic was a red line that shouldn't be crossed. Her in laws all have 'nice' hair (nice always means soft and straight with Arabs) and she doesn't want to feel like the ugly duckling.

What madness is this!!

We really have a responsibility to teach our children to love themselves and see beauty everywhere. To be proud of the way they look and not use language that implicitly brainwashes them into believing that they are less over something stupid like hair type. Healthy hair is 'good' hair whether it is straight, curly, coarse, soft, kinky or puffy. More importantly, beauty doesn't only belong to those with straight hair thank you very much.

Anyway, some food for thought in this week's post. Let me know all your thought in the comments section and see you all next Tuesday! But before you go, let's end this post with a joke my curly sisters can appreciate:

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