Love Aaj Curl: The Beautiful Bond Between Curly-Haired Girls

First Person

Love Aaj Curl: The Beautiful Bond Between Curly-Haired Girls

Illustration: Aishwarya Nayak

The first question most people are asked when visiting the salon is what kind of haircut they want, but not me. A life with a head full of curly, springy hair has prepared me to always expect the question “Aap apne baal permanently straight kyun nahi karwa lete?” I’d pay for a trim and end up with eroded self-esteem every time, because it would appear that curly hair is the fashion equivalent of elaichi in biryani – we all appreciate its presence, except when we have first-hand experience of it.

Pop culture has inflicted deep wounds on my psyche, teaching me that not all curls are created equal. Although most of Bollywood’s leading ladies seem to have lucked out with straight hair, they are often given the perfect set of curls, achieved with the magic of an entire make-up department and Photoshop, for their shoots. Meanwhile, apart from Kangana Ranaut, Tapsee Pannu, Parvarthy (and the OG curl queen Juhi Chawla), us naturally curly-haired girls have had little representation. Even today, it’s not likely that a girl with poker-straight hair will point to a curly-haired model’s head and say “I want that”.

The opinion that curly hair is undesirable has been advertised as a fact for so long that it trickles down into our daily lives, something that made my teenage years quite miserable. From time to time, I found myself being mocked as Jesus (“With your hair untied you look like his EXACT replica!”). Other days it was Michael Jackson, which had nothing to do with talent but rather the curls framing my face. I’ve also learned that my curly hair gave out “sincere Catholic girl” vibes, which I later found out was just a euphemism for prudish. All these “fun” labels had me ironing my hair every chance I got.

Some people cry over bad hair days. But when you have curls like mine, you sullenly resign yourself to the prospect of bad hair years. An endless succession of bandanas, scarves, and snapbacks became my best friends as I sought to cover up my curls. If couldn’t tame this untameable frizz, at least I could hide it. And hide it I did, until a kindred spirit at my college’s freshers’ party gave me the validation I had been seeking for years.

I was getting ready for the event alongside some girls in the spacious ladies room. Opposite a mirror, I realised my hair, which had flattened out from sweat, was well on its way to reverting to humidity-activated frizz. The party hadn’t even begun yet. I was about to approach one of the other girls for their straightener, when one of my new classmates placed her hands firmly on my shoulder. She looked me straight in the eyes, her hair a crown of beautiful, messy curls, and said, “Always remember: Curly hair is sexy.” She made me chant the mantra along with her, and that was the first social event since I reached my teens where I didn’t try to hide my curls.

My hair decided for me that messy is my brand, so I might as well own it.

Ever since, I’ve realised that curly-haired girls are a curly-haired girl’s best friend. Human beings are social animals after all. We are meant to form relationships based on commonality, and nothing gets curly-haired people vibin’ like their curls.

In office, my colleague was quick to drop me her hairstylist’s number without being asked for it after I pointed out how similar our hair was. If we hadn’t been seated for lunch, I would have probably whipped out a notepad to jot down her daily hair routine too. At home, my bhabhi and I built our relationship on a foundation of cribbing about our unmanageable curls and our shared philosophy of “say yes to sulphate-free shampoo”.

But the bonding hasn’t been limited only to people I know.

In the Mumbai local, the lady next to me was frantically searching through her handbag for something, but then sighed in frustration as she put the bag aside and tried to miserably get her curls into a bun. I hesitated only for a second before offering her the extra hair tie I kept in my bag. She didn’t stop thanking me until she had to get off. “Curls,” she said as her station approached, “are a nightmare.” #Mood.

While I still have my days where I wish that my hair would blow beautifully in the wind, a loosely spiralled curl will always smack into my face as a reminder of how that is not my lot in life. On such days, and on every other, validation from curly-haired girls is my tonic. My hair decided for me that messy is my brand, so I might as well own it. I no longer wish for straight hair, or for the approval of my salon aunty. I’ve got the love of my girls with curls.