Spoiler: It's not.
My hair has been a major struggle my entire life.
Having a mother who, to her credit, had absolutely no need to know how to tame a head full of curls until the year 1995 and a father who was (maybe?) good at pulling them back into a ponytail didn't get me off to a good start.
Then, after being surrounded by people had beautiful, straight hair that didn't get all frizzy after being wet, I wanted that for myself. My hair was big and noticeable — exactly what I didn't want in my awkward middle school phase. Their's was sleek and actually moved in the wind (A real concern of mine). Little things like lice checks in elementary school were humiliating — the poor parent volunteers didn't know what to do with my frizzy mess. I desperately wanted to wear my hair down like everyone else, but that meant finding a way to make it more manageable.
Manageable meant straight, so in late elementary school, I told my mom that I wanted to get my hair permed. I thought all my hair issues would finally be solved, but alas, they were not. As it turns out, chemicals just kill your hair and make it easily breakable. Plus, the second my hair got even a little wet, it reverted to a weird half-curl that just looked dry and dead.
Seeing as I was really into swimming during the summers, this was not going to last. So at the beginning of each summer, I would have someone come to my house, yank my hair mixed with fake hair into tiny cornrows for eight hours while I cried in front of the TV, and then melt the ends of the fake hair in boiling water to seal the deal. (I made none of that up.) I just had so much hair and I wanted to hide it as best as I could in order to fit in.
Since then, I've experimented with a lot of products and I've come a long way. I've tried every shampoo, conditioner, co-wash, leave in conditioner, moisturizer and detangler spray on the market. I've gotten braids many more times. I've grown out the chemicals in my hair and finally gone natural. I've cried too many times over a small comment someone made or just after having a bad hair day.
But most importantly, I've finally found a style that I love. So maybe you'll understand why after 19 years of pain, heartache and, finally, a breakthrough in my confidence, asking if my hair is fake is a little insulting to me.
I've gotten some pretty interesting comments about my hair over my lifetime, but that one takes the cake. I understand that maybe you've never seen hair as curly as mine or seen curls styled this way, but you, a stranger, assuming that my hair couldn't look this way unless it was fake is insulting. It reminds me of those days when I thought to myself that I'd never have hair that I or anyone else would like. It makes me think that you don't believe I'm capable of having hair that looks nice. (Also, even if it was, why would I tell you that?)
Luckily, I've finally come to a place where I embrace my hair and love it the way that it is. Which gives me the ability to brush off your comment and leave it behind with all the other weird ones I've gotten. But some girls haven't reached that place in their hair journey yet and I would hate for you to stunt them as they're trying to become comfortable with their own hair.
I'm more than happy to answer your thoughtful questions and I've become much more open in talking about my hair recently. All I ask is that you be aware of what you're saying and realize that your comments hold weight, whether good or bad.
Originally published on The Odyssey Online.