Friday, March 18, 2011

Keepin' It Real

As virtually everyone knows, I have been heads-down getting Live Curly Live Free the Salon ready for opening day on April 5. Having chosen to do the majority of the renovation work myself (I wield a mean drill), that has meant more than a few days of a less-than-glamorous Curl Whisperer: no make-up, paint-smeared clothes and curls that are--to put it kindly--a little less than pristine. Something that I wouldn't have given more than a passing thought if not for an incident that inspired a deeper look.

Live Curly Live Free will be located in the Art Village Courtyard in Gulfport, a charming cluster of Key West-style bungalows that house approximately 10 merchants, including The Perfect Ten, the nail salon where I have my nails done. Linda Craig, owner and nail tech extraordinaire, was the driving force in bringing LCLF to the Courtyard and has been going gangbusters telling everyone about our opening and our natural approach to curly hair.

Last week, I ran into her while going to check my mail and she proceeded to grab me and drag me all over the Courtyard, introducing me to a pile of people. "This is the new curly hair expert coming to the Courtyard in April," she kept repeating, pulling me from person to person like the world's most expert PR advance team. Now, you need to understand I was looking about as ratty as I possibly could, frizzy curls scraped back into a scrunchie bun and paint speckles adorning the top of my head. Which, of course, meant the first thing these people did was raise their eyes and look right at my hair.

What threw me in hindsight was how I automatically felt the need to make an excuse about how my hair was looking to these people I didn't even know. Here, clearly, was my thought process: if I carry the label of curly hair expert, people will expect to see my hair looking a certain way 24/7. If I fall short of that expectation, then excuses or explanations are owed no matter what the circumstances.

That got me to thinking: how many of us fall into that trap?

Having curly hair is a challenge, there is no getting around it. For most of us, unless you are willing to devote serious time on a daily basis, your hair is not going to be perfect and pristine every minute and every hour of the day. (And even if you do, there is no guarantee your curls will feel like behaving themselves that day). How many times, then, do we feel the need to explain a less-than-perfect appearance of our curls: "I overslept and didn't have time to do my hair", "I ran out of my regular gel and had to use a backup that doesn't work as well"; "I was up all night with the baby and I was just too tired to take a shower"? Excuses we owe no one but, for some strange reason, we feel obligated to give so those around us won't criticize our choice to live naturally or perceive curly-haired women as "less than."

I say the excuses stop. Right now. Starting with me.

I am a proud girl with curls. I can rock my hair with the best of them. I am also a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend with a tremendously busy life. I don't have the time nor, frankly, the inclination to rock them 24/7. Some things in my life are a higher priority at certain times and the hair takes a back seat. When it comes down to it, I shouldn't owe anyone anything when it comes to my curls and how they look, even when they are not at their most glorious.

Perhaps, most importantly, is that no one's opinion of me should be of more value to my self-esteem and my soul than my own opinion of myself. In anything.

To truly live curly and free, we need to embrace the notion that someone else's definition of perfection is not something we need to own. It is time the world around us understands we not only rock our curls, but we roll with them too. We are real. And if the curls on our head are perfect enough for us, in any way they choose to display themselves, then they certainly should be good enough for everyone else.

Grab a paint brush and let's get busy.

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