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Happy curls?

I dreaded the passing of the peace each Sunday when I was a little girl. Every week the old church ladies would comment about my hair...
    "Shirley Temple curls!" they cooed; I didn't know who Shirley Temple was.
    "So soft!" they petted; I didn't want their wrinkly, gnarled fingers on my head.
    "I pay a lot of money to have hair like yours!" they exclaimed; I couldn't figure out why anyone would pay money for frizzy, fluffy, brillo-pad hair.

I hated my curls. I felt embarrassed by my hair -- it was short, kinky, cut badly -- quite different from the long straight hair my friends all wore at the time in my life when I just wanted to fit in. Oh, how I wanted a ponytail! Or a braid my hair on a Sunday morning with ribbons hanging down, that was a dream.

Today during the passing of the peace, I found myself next to one of the older ladies in our church. Every week I marvel at her elegance, the way the dresses, the slow and graceful way she moves, her straight white hair meticulously shaped. Today she wore a long flowy black skirt and a flowery blouse. She shook my hand and I immediately noticed how soft her skin felt, papery and smooth. Her blue eyes sparkled up at mine and she said, "Oh, my goodness, your hair...those curls."

My back straightened a bit. I smiled nervously. Here we go, I thought. Shirley Temple time.

"Every curl looks so ... happy," she said.

Happy? My curls look happy? I bite my lip, thinking of how I battled with them this morning -- the t-shirt scrunching and gelling and diffuser-drying. I think of the years I have struggled with this hair, the times people have mocked me, the comments about my 'fro by the girls at summer camp who laughed because even when my hair was wet in the pool, it still looked dry. These curls have been everything but happy. Kinky. Puffy. Fluffy. Bushy. Frizzy. Not happy.

But I thanked her, as my mom would have reminded me: Be gracious.

"May I just touch one of your curls?" she asked. I leaned forward and she reached up with that papery-soft elegant hand. She touched the curl that hangs next to my left eye. It's a particularly springy one, always coiled and ready to strike.

"So beautiful. The most beautiful hair I've ever seen," she whispered.

And for the first time in my life, I believed her.

* * * *

I'm participating in the Slice of Life writing challenge this month, sharing a small piece of each day, in an attempt to restrengthen my writing muscles. Read more about the challenge here and read other Slicers' stories by following #SOL18 on social media. 


  1. As a woman with curly hair I can appreciate your post and your feelings. Sometimes we have a difficult time being gracious but yours paid off as you shared in your last line. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I didn't embrace my curls until after Isabelle was born AND I realized she'd be a curly girl too. We've been going for curly cuts for the past four years and I'll tell you, it feels good to be at peace with my hair!

    1. I've only recently found a hair stylist who specializes in curls. I nearly wept the first time she cut my hair - and showed me how to care for it. I think that's why my curls are "happy" now.

  3. I'm a fellow blogger with curly hair. I cut mine in college and never looked back. Short hair that can curl without any coaxing has been my lifelong gift. At some point, after fighting it all my growing up years, I just embraced it. Glad you believed the beautiful woman at church on Sunday.

    1. Good! Embracing the curls is really the only way. I fought it a long time too - straightened it in high school, ironed it in college. Mine has been short most of my life, as well, but I'm attempting to grow it out. Currently entering the bandana stage - you know, where it's too short to style but too long to stay out of my eyes - and this is when I usually throw in the towel. I'll let you know how it goes!


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