Why I’m So Sensitive About My Hair.

I used to absolutely hate my hair. When I was a kid, my mum would chase me around the house and then hold me down to brush my wild hair and wrangle it into a tight ponytail-puff-hybrid while snotty tears slid down my face. I wanted straight hair so badly that I would brush it constantly as it dried, hoping that it would dry flat, only to end up with a frizzy mess.

Sad story time: I distinctly remember my parents taking me to a hairdresser when I was probably around 8 years old for a haircut. I had washed and de-tangled my hair the night before and was super keen for the hairdressers to work their magic. While they sat me in the chair, I watched the all-white hairdresser crew in the mirror behind me argue over which one of them had to “deal with” my hair. My little 8-year-old heart fell.

The one who eventually had to take on the gruelling task of cutting my thick hair rolled her eyes and scowled as she surveyed my hair. “Did you brush your hair? It’s very knotty,” she said as she tried to run a FINE TOOTHED COMB through it. “I’m going to have to wet it and put some conditioner in it”. “Your hair is very dry, do you even use conditioner?” “This is going to take a lot longer than normal…” In the end she charged my parents an extra ‘detangling fee’ and ‘thick hair surcharge’. It may not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but even now as I think back to that day, the same feelings of worthlessness, ugliness and guilt resurface and I feel like crying the same tears that my 8 year old self fought so hard to keep inside.

Yes, it is that deep.

Everyone, from my naturally straight-haired mum to my friends at school seemed to be itching to tell me how I could “solve” my curly hair. Constantly being told that I didn’t brush it enough, that I should use more conditioner or that I should stop eating bread crusts (?) just further reinforced the idea that my natural hair was a curse and I wasn’t enough.

I started regularly straightening my hair when I was around 12. It was just like that scene in the Princess Diaries when the ugly gross normal teenage girl suddenly becomes worthy of her royal title after a makeover which basically consisted of removing her glasses and straightening her unacceptably frizzy hair. (A problematic and honestly lazy trope which is recycled all too often in popular culture).

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Amazing.

When my hair was straight, I finally felt like I fit in with the pretty girls and was one step closer to being accepted into normal human society. Both of my parents (and what felt like the whole world) agreed that I looked better and more presentable with straight hair and had often encouraged me to straighten it, especially for occasions like weddings and birthdays where pictures would be taken.

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A more accurate meme has never existed.

In search of a more permanent solution, I started experimenting with keratin treatments and at-home relaxers (my aunt would get me the extra strength kits from Sudan where they could use higher concentrations of the active ingredient). After a 5-8 hour application process, I’d always wash my hair hoping that it would dry straight, but alas, none of these products seemed to be able to tame my super curly hair.

When I was 16, my dad took me to get my hair chemically straightened using the brand new, super expensive, Japanese Shiseido method as a Christmas present. Now, I didn’t have to spend hours straightening my hair and I honestly felt like my life was complete. I kept on shelling out about $300 every 4-6 months (basically all the money a 16 year old has) to get my curly roots touched up. (If you’re interested, Check out Chris Rock’s comedy/documentary, Good Hair, where he delves into the billion dollar hair relaxer industry.)

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Me circa 2013 “If it’s not straight, I send it back”. Oh also, I used to be a genie.

I kept this up for a few years until I moved overseas for a year and let my natural hair start growing out. Being all alone in a foreign country made it kind of hard to find a salon that offered the Shiseido treatment, let alone explain what I wanted in my broken German. I decided to use this time as an opportunity to start going through the awkward half straight-half curly transition stage (the worst). I was curious, it had been so long (5 years!) since I’d seen my hair in its natural state. My super dry and damaged ends were begging for a haircut but I wasn’t quite ready to part with my length.

While my hair was in this awkward dead/dry/straight on the bottom, frizzy/curly on the top state, I started researching and learning about natural hair ‘transitions’ through blogs and various Youtube channels. I watched as so many gorgeous women told me my exact story back to me- years of straightening, keratin treatments and perming- until they finally decided to give it all up and dare to embrace their natural curls. If you’re considering a “big chop” check this video out. I was amazed at how the simple act of cutting off the dead ends brought her natural hair back to life.

The rest of the story is fairly simple: I spent a few days looking for a hairdresser in Sydney who specialises in cutting curly hair. I cannot emphasise this enough, the right haircut is more than half the battle. I went to Kamil’s Hairdressing in Town Hall where the amazing Lena skillfully chopped off my dead ends, shaped my hair (so it doesn’t dry into a triangle), and recommended products just for my hair type.

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The day I finally chopped all my hair off!

It’s still hard for me to let go of the deeply ingrained idea that straight hair is the ideal and that natural curly hair= lazy, messy, even a little bit crazy. It’s all over pop culture if you open your eyes to it. But diverse representation is on the rise too. Through user driven content platforms like Instagram and Youtube, curly girls everywhere are now able to share their experiences and swap styling tips. Even in big time TV shows and movies, curly-haired girls are no longer only confined to the “quirky best friend” or “desperate new girl in need of a makeover” roles. 

Nowadays, I love my curly hair. I’ve found a good hairdresser, the right products, a routine that works for me and I get compliments on it all the time.

Sometimes, when people make comments like “you are so lucky to have hair like that!” I want to shake them and scream “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’VE BEEN THROUGH”, but I normally just smile and say “thanks” instead.

If you want to learn more, check out https://www.naturallycurly.com/ or follow these curly youtube channels that I love:

Joy Before Her

Ayesha Malik

Curly Penny

Have you got curly hair? Do you love it or hate it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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7 Honest Truths I Will Probably Never Tell My Little Sister.

I have a little sister, Olivia. She is small and very funny (Charlie and Lola, anyone?). Actually, my little sister is thirteen, and not so small. Precisely nine and a half years younger than me.

We talk a lot. We are sisters after all. But, like any close relationship, there’s a lot that is left unsaid.

Here are 7 honest truths I’m too nice (and too awkward) to tell my little sister.  

Dear Olivia,

  1. We Were Fine Before You Came Along

Kicking this off with nice warm and fuzzy feels, I’d just like to remind you that our family was doing just fine without you. Before you came along, we were the perfect nuclear family. Mum and dad, a brother and a sister, a tabby cat named Tiger. I had my swing set in the backyard and a cubby house and, when Josef wasn’t causing trouble and breaking all the things, basically the undivided attention of mum and dad. It was a great time. I was the youngest and enjoyed all the benefits that come along with that. That is, until you decided to be born.

It all started with Tiger. Mum was scared that our crazy cat would scratch The Baby like he had scratched all of our furniture and family members by this point, and decided he had to go (he was here first so…?). From that point on, I knew. Everything had to be about The Baby, (oh btw, I called you “The Baby” or “It” up until about a week after you were born).

While it was the tiniest bit exciting to be getting a new baby sister, I’ll still never forgive you for coming in and turning everything upside-down.

2. You Were The Most Annoying Baby

I don’t know who you thought you were, but you came in like a wrecking ball. Firstly, the crying. You did not stop crying. But it wasn’t just crying, it was screaming. Constantly.

I thought maybe we could be friends and I would rock your crib and sing lullabies to you, but I guess the demons within you just couldn’t be quieted. There was one particularly memorable car trip where all five of us were driving to a far-away baby store to buy a fancy three-wheeler pram for you and your ungrateful baby butt did not stop screaming on the forty minute drive there, nor the forty minute drive back.

Then there was the constant maintenance. Who would have known that babies need to be watched all the time, fed, changed, bathed, dressed, burped, walked. And when mum and dad had a bit too much on their plates, guess who the responsibility fell to? (We both know our brother was useless). No Year 5 kid should have to come home, finish their marine life diorama, write out their spelling words (look, cover, write, check), and then change a dirty nappy and run a lukewarm bath.

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Me. (via pinterest)

3. You’ll Never Know The Struggle

Mum and dad came to Australia with two kids and $50 in their pocket (ok I’m exaggerating here but you get the gist).

We used to have one car, a 1987 Toyota Corolla. We would each get one present for Christmas, plus a chocolate Santa (I would, without fail, trade my toy for Josef’s chocolate). Our pocket money was $1 a week. We went on holidays once a year to some sleepy coastal town and stayed in MOTELS, Olivia! Do you even know what those are??

Josef and I slept in a bunk bed. We only had one bathroom in the house back then. All of our clothes were hand-me-downs from our older cousins. Name brand food was not a thing in our household. And McDonald’s? Nah fam, there’s food at home.

The one computer in our house was a cube. So was our TV. We had five channels to choose from, and whatever mum picked was what we all had to watch (actually nothing much has changed there). There was none of the Foxtel, Youtube, or Netflix choice of today. And if I wanted to talk to my friends after school, I’d have to wait until whoever was using the dial-up internet to be done, only to not be able to reach my friend because HER dad was using the internet.

These days, as hard as mum and dad try not to spoil you, you still live in a world where you have significantly more choice, not just in which Youtube channel you’ll waste your time on tonight, but even in what you choose to pursue. Mum and dad worked their butts off, day in and day out, so that Josef and I could have piano lessons and play soccer on the weekends. For you though, it’s not such a big deal.

4. You’ll Never Be Me, So Don’t Even Try

I know you look up to me. You include it in every one of those exercises at school where they make you write about someone you look up to (or maybe you’re just trying to play the system and get extra points by writing this mushy stuff). I know you come and hang out in my room when I’m not around (weird much?). I know you steal my expensive hair products and play with my makeup (at least you used to a couple of years back). I’m glad you see me as a positive role model, but it’s also a bit scary because it’s a huge responsibility.

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“She is kind and takes time to help people while working really hard” Hehe, nice lies Olivia, they’ll never know the truth.

The fact is, you’ll never be me. But you know what, you’re you, and that’s infinitely better in my opinion. You have your own unique gifts- natural confidence, musical talent, quick wit, determination and the crazy ability to make friends everywhere you go.

When you were a toddler, this old lady on a bench at Parramatta station told Dad and me that you would one day be a famous speaker. You were constantly talking, asking questions and had no problem walking up to strangers and delivering earnest lectures on what you had for breakfast that day. When I was a kid, I was super shy and preferred to watch the world go by from the comfort of my pram.

You’ll never be me, you’ll be better.

5. When I’m Mean To You, I Really Don’t Mean it

You will have noticed by now, Olivia, that “I love you” isn’t really in our family’s vocabulary. Instead, we say things like “your nose is a bit flat, but nothing surgery can’t fix” (Dad), or “You’ll never get a husband” (Mum), or “Why is one of your eyes bigger than the other?” (Josef) and “You’re literally the most annoying person I know” (Me).

When I tease you endlessly for mispronouncing one word, or make quality memes out of that picture where you’re only blinking with one eye, when I tell you to get out of my room and roast the fact that you’re still too uncoordinated to spread nutella on your toast, please believe that it’s the unhealthy way I’ve learned to say “I love you”.

When you get 98% on your science test and I ask about the other 2%, I hope you can see that I’m really, really proud of you. When you come first in the 100m sprint and I tell you that no one cares, what I’m really saying is, get out of my room so I can text my friends about how awesome my sister is in peace. I just can’t bring myself to say the words because… ew.

You just have to read between the lines around here. Sorry.

6. You’re Actually A Really Talented And Cool Individual

High school is a weird time. Cliques and stereotypes abound and before you know it, you’re in the Popular Girls or the Band Nerds or the Sporty Group or The Couples That Spend All Of Lunch Time Cuddling And Staring Into Each Other’s Eyes Only To Break Up The Next Week Club.

Everyone is insecure, trying to forge their unique identities, going through puberty at varying speeds and desperate to fit in. It’s easy to find a group that accepts you and then assume the ‘role’ that you feel you have to play.

What’s more, the whole school system is in on it. When you get your report at the end of the term and it says A for English and C for maths, you start to put yourself into a box and limit yourself to what your teachers and your marks determine is true about you.

Don’t let anyone else decide who you are except you. You’re not just “The Pretty One”, “The Nice One”, “The Funny One” or “The Smart One”, you can literally be anything you want to be.

7. And The Seventh Thing, I’ll Probably Never Tell You, You Make Me Love You ❤

Yup. It’s true.

No matter what you do, and where you go, I’ll always be there for you.

Always trying to convince you you’re adopted.

Signed,

Your big sister Layla.

Do you relate to my family’s dysfunctional communication style? I want to hear about it in the comments!