There remains a near-extinct species within the South Asian diaspora, one whose plight is rarely championed in the world forums of… wherever such plights are usually championed. Nary a petition, protest, or celebrity-heavy concert exists in its honor; social activists have long neglected this woeful cause. As you sit there reading mindless blogs, this dying breed is gradually being wiped out thanks to the introduction of humidity, Bollywood actresses, and blow dryers.
We are the few. The proud. The curly-haired.
People tend to associate me with a variety of attributes — some favorable, others not so much. My friends will tell you I’m a fast-talking, sarcasm-spewing, NYC-loving, car-dancing, fob-tastic, junk-food devouring magazine addict. Or they’ll just tell you I’m “that girl with the curly hair.”
But here’s a little secret: I’m actually a relatively recent inductee to the Curly Girls Club. I spent the first 19 years of my life in far-from-blissful coiffure oblivion, glumly resigning myself to the fact that all that lay north of my forehead was a landscape of dry, frizzy, untamed black wilderness. There was no shape, no style, no control — and certainly no indication of the signature spiral ringlets that would eventually become an intrinsic part of my identity.
I didn’t even know I had curls until someone told me I did.
How is that possible, you ask? With me, anything is possible. Refusing to allow it to command free reign over my crown, I confined my unwieldy mane to a ponytail for years. Then one Sunday afternoon during my freshman year of college, I stepped out of the shower and my life changed forever. My curly-haired roommate Mel glanced over her shoulder at my wet mop and remarked casually, “Why don’t you put some gel in it and see what it does?”
What “it” did, to my amazement, was reveal a mass of thick, glossy curls. I’d spent so much time willing my hair to be Pantene-Pro-V straight that this other alternative had never occurred to me. Suddenly my hair had personality — and I had to keep up.
As much as I loved my newfound crowning glory, however, it was hard not to be seduced by the straightening iron. I hit up the local Asian salon every few weeks to have my wild tresses coerced into sleek Aishwarya-like glossiness, and I walk the streets feeling, well, kinda hot. I stand a little taller. I toss my shiny new locks over my shoulders. I run my fingers through my mane — something I dare not do when curly. And the response is overwhelming: “Wow, you look so great!” “I didn’t even recognize you!” “Oh my God, why don’t you do this more often?” Apparently I develop a “straight-hair” persona — OK, fine, an attitude. During these identity crises, I often consider getting it done permanently, swallowing my curly-haired pride to admit that perhaps God intended for me to be the straight-haired version, and the curls were just a big cosmic joke.
But at the end of the day, I like that my hair makes me unique. In a desi-girl lineup, these inimitable ringlets make sure I stand out — something to keep in mind before I commit any crimes, I suppose. And while curly girls can go straight, the reverse isn’t quite as simple. There’s something to be said for the dramatic effect of my curly-straight duality.
So it looks like my tribe of curly girls isn’t going to die out anytime soon. We’re just adapting to our surroundings.