I would laugh at girls in movies who could comb their hair (100 times on each side!) with ease. When my mom pulled out a hairbrush, we both knew we had quite the ordeal ahead of us. An under-layer of ringlets shrouded by a top layer of straighter strands, my mop of hair would elicit compliments from strangers but extreme frustration and self-consciousness from myself. It was when I was encircled by a group of Japanese tourists with gorgeous, thick black hair at Disneyland -- petting my hair as if I were a Bichon Frise puppy rather than an 11-year-old girl -- that I knew I would go straight as soon as possible.
Cue the flat irons, relaxing treatments and chemical straightening styling of high school. It's a familiar, grass-is-always-greener kind of story. I wanted all waves eradicated.
When a formerly big-haired friend came to class one day with bone-straight locks, I got the name of her stylist, went home and begged to get mine professionally straightened.
At 16, I went and got Yuko -- the Japanese chemical hair straightening treatment. Unlike the Brazilian Blowout, the results of which last anywhere from 6-12 weeks, all hair that undergoes Yuko straightening stays straight until it grows out and gets cut off. That was fine by me as I was planning to have straight hair for the rest of my life, but it did call for costly touch-ups to mask the hair that was growing back in curly.
Straight hair was a game changer. Showers took half the time, and my hair dried perfectly. I could even do "Baywatch" or "Little Mermaid" style hair flips in the ocean without fear of knotty repercussions. But apart from logistics, I felt prettier. Much prettier.
When I got to college, friends didn't believe me when I said that my hair used to be curly.
I worried that I had drained all of the life, and me, out of my hair. I might have been out of my league in terms of poofy hair maintenance when I was younger, but I was going to be a "grown up." Surely I'd be able to handle a blow dryer properly.
I supplemented the awkward grow-out phase with a Keratin treatment, carefully steering clear of anything that contained formaldehyde, a drastic haircut and then moved on to blow-drying. Then I'd hide my confusion with a side braid (it looked better than it sounds).
I still didn't want curly (a word that I equated with poofy) hair. I thought it wouldn't look good on me. I just wanted to learn how to manage what I had.
My lack of hair savvy was overwhelmingly evident. "I just have an odd, straight on top curly on the bottom, hair deformity," I told my curly-haired goddess of a college roommate, Dana.
That's when Dana sent me to a hair salon that changed her Botticelli-curled life. In between job interviews in New York, I stopped by DevaChan Salon in SoHo. The first thing they did was hand me "Curly Girl: The Handbook" -- which is kind of funny in its sincere attempt to walk confused, curly-haired girls off a ledge with their curly-is-pretty-so-put-down-that-flat-iron affirmations.
With a simple shampoo using curl-friendly products, I looked into the salon mirror and could hardly recognize myself. My head was covered in beautiful, natural ringlets.
Yeah, that poofy-over pretty-under problem was a symptom of hair brushing. Duh. I had "disrupted" my curl pattern. Another thing that unsettled my curls: shampoo. (It turns out that the necessity of lather-rinse-repeat is a myth and there are no shampoos out there that are better for your curly hair.) Also, towel drying. I now own a frightening, hand-shaped diffuser, although any will do.
With a quick wash -- using my hand as a brush -- and a lot of scrunching, I'm good to go.
When pictures of my new hair made its way to Facebook, I was bombarded with messages from friends who loved my "perm." (Has anyone even gotten one of those since "Clueless" came out?)
I'm not saying that I'm prettier with straight hair or with curly, although my grandma is pleased that her blonde-haired, blue-eyed granddaughter now looks like less of a shiksa, but I love that I have finally embraced my hair in its natural state.
Click here to find out why a "Sesame Street" segment starring a brown Muppet rocking an Afro brought our beauty editor to tears.