Growing up my hair was just like this, only short. My older brother had short, curly hair, too. We are 2 years apart, and though my mom denies how often this happened, we were mistaken for brothers on many occasions. Many. Quite naturally, as a young girl I started believing that my curly hair was an unfortunate part of my appearance. Everything else was manageable, but this was...well, hideous. Nobody ever told me my hair was attractive. The kids at school didn't like it. I didn't like it. Hairdressers used to ask me how short I wanted it when I went in for a cut. I thought it was just my bad luck that I had been born this way.
Right before I started high school, my mom made an appointment for me with the hotshot hairdresser in town. When I went in for a consultation with him, we started talking about big changes. He told me that I would be beautiful once my hair was chemically straightened. And you know what? I believed him. Afterwards, everyone told me I looked great. Everybody. I was thrilled that I had found the solution to my problem. My self confidence sky rocketed. I happily went in for straightening every 3 months or so, and I was careful to not talk about my curly hair with people I didn't know well. Only my close friends knew my dark secret.
I continued happily going straight until my early 20's. When I was almost done with grad school I started looking around me and noticing that there were some beautiful curls out there. There seemed to be more options for curls, too. Curls didn't mean you had to wear your hair cut close to the scalp. Curls could be soft and pretty. I was curious.
Then I met a hairdresser near my office who had long, curly hair. She was ready to guide me back to my natural ways. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I decided to do it once and for all. I stopped straightening and started growing out the curls. Straight ends were snipped off as the curls took their place. My new look came into focus gradually, and I became more excited with each inch that grew out of my head. My then boyfriend (now my husband) cheered me on all the way. The transformation took about a year.
Now, as you can see, I'm all about my curls. I still visit the curly haired hairdresser and I buy my shampoo from a famous curly lady in NYC. I get a lot of comments (and truthfully, compliments) on my hair from people when I'm out. Funny, what used to embarrass me now makes me proud. I love being curly, it's a better fit with my personality. Perhaps my 8 year-old self didn't understand that being different was actually a good thing, but I don't hold it against her. Sometimes you have to grow into your skin a little bit before you can appreciate it.