“You know you’re burning your hair?”

It was more of a statement than a question, and yes, I did know the answer to the question that my husband had just asked me. I sat on the floor in front of the mirrored bedroom closet door flat-ironing my hair and watching the steam come off it with each pass of the wand. I had just finished blow drying my hair, which was also part of my hair care routine.

How had I come to this point? I had spent most of my life trying to make my curls into something totally different than what they wanted to be. I didn’t always have waves/curls, my hair was pretty “normal” up to about my preteen years — you know, when I started to actually care what my hair looked like.

Picture of my hair at 4 years of age

The only salon experience I’d had up until that point was when my brother was about six years old and asked if I wanted to play barbershop. I’d said “okay,” and the next thing I remember is my mother looking at me while yelling at my brother about scissors and then taking me to the salon to see how it could be fixed. I remember sitting in a booster seat and the stylist wasn’t quite sure how she was going to do that as she picked up different pieces of my hair and shook her head. Not a great introduction into the world of beauty at the age of four.

Picture of my hair in my pre-teenage years

During my teenage years, my hair texture really changed, and that included curls and frizz (but mostly frizz). I felt so out of place compared to what was considered pretty and popular, so when blow dryers and hot rollers were available to buy, I had to try them. This would fix my hair and then I could look like everyone else, which mostly worked until I went outside. This is where I tell you that I grew up in South Florida, which generally has humidity in the ’80s and has to be one of the most humid states in the US! The next logical step I thought was something that would be less work and not blow up the moment I stepped out of the air-conditioned house.

I had seen the commercials on TV showing African-American women with perfectly stick straight hair flipping it from side to side and I thought that could be me! And it almost was except for the EXTREMELY curly spot on the crown of my head that said: “No, not happening.”

Picture of me and my hair as a teen

After a few more attempts of using the relaxer, and really disliking the smell, I had come to the conclusion that chemicals were not the way to go. I used to love having my hair blown out at the salon, it never looked so good as that day and the next. I hated to wash it because I could not achieve the same look no matter what brush, hairdryer, or shampoo and conditioner I used.

My Graduation Picture

Then the flat-iron appeared and that was a game-changer for the most part, although I still had to deal with rain and humidity. There is a very small window in “winter” where there’s less of it and those are the best hair days. This brings me back to the question at the beginning – yes, I did know what I was doing to my hair, but, at the time, it didn’t matter. It gave me the hair I wanted.

Me and my hair first time going natural in color

But after that, I really started thinking, why was I doing this to my hair? I was truly tired of fighting with it because I finally came to the realization it would win. After all, it always did. I had tried every so often to go natural but without the proper knowledge and tools, it didn’t last long. Now I wanted to change that and see what my hair would do, did I ruin it by doing all those things? Would it curl? Would it be pretty? But most of all, would I like it?

I have to interject with a hair fact – my hair had gotten fairly long, mid-back after growing out from a short haircut and I wanted to cut it again the same style as before. So I went to my regular stylist and showed him a picture of me with the cut that he did the last time I had been there. It must have been an off day for him because it was not the same and I was really upset. It coincided with the beginning of my hair journey so it was kind of appropriate that I started out with short hair not too long after this. So once I decided to go natural I needed to do it properly. I researched what information was out there for curly hair and to my surprise, I discovered there was an incredible amount, almost overwhelming… okay, it was overwhelming! But what a time to be curly!

Picture of me and my curly hair

As I became familiar with terms and methods, the more comfortable I felt and was ready to make the change. So now that I have looked back, I really need to thank my husband for stopping and asking me that question and I am so glad he did because it changed me for the better. I was able to embrace something that I loathed and wished I never had and turn it into something I am proud of.

Picture of my Curly Hair