Coping with curls, bane or blessing

Coping with curls – bane or blessing – Oh for straight hair that does as it’s told.  ‘Why? Curls are adorrrable’, you say. Because. The first rule of natural curls is: there IS no rule. No consistency across your scalp, and no two are the same. I get corkscrews framing my face, but at the back I’m blessed with scrub. Nor do my ringlets bond in the same way on any two given days. We live in dread of the humid, just as hayfever sufferers fear pollen; humid means loss of control, and your cat-walk blow-dry lasting all of 10 minutes outside. So your coiff is a surprise pretty much every time you catch sight of yourself, a disappointing surprise.

Caption: manufactured curls at the Mauritshuis, The Hague;

Me au naturel


I ran with curly during my school and university years, mainly because I preferred natural. Friends and family were in two camps, the Pro-Curlies and the Pro-Straights. But the moment I got to Japan I was told the hair had to go straight straight straight. Curls are treasonous. I got a straight perm because with the mugginess over there, just the act of blow-drying would set off a sweat and be self-defeating. From then on, for the next 30 years I fought Frizz. I tried many products and got industrial strength hair dryers. The worst was holidays – hotel hairdryers are about as effective as a granny’s death rattle (credit: Danny Bhoy).  I felt part of the herd though; in all of fashion not a strand pokes up along the parting or hangs off-vertical, ‘cept Dame Viv, the Anti-Hero. There’s definitely a 1984 feeling of ‘Straight-hair-good, Curly-hair-bad’.

Caption: The prevailing look; plastered, straight, with tong flicks

After each cancer, my hair came back thinner on top, and is now see-through but still I continued the punishing daily blow-dry routine, till a friend D, with the same problem, told me she was advised by her hairdresser to dump the hairdryer and go fallow. Quite a generous gesture, given the  inevitable loss of business. I brushed it off as unworkable. Another friend, N, ever encouraging in her understated way, asked why I straighten them so religiously, ‘your curls are also a part of you’. She was right, I was sanitising. So after a few demoralising practice runs where I felt like a bag-lady, I decided to get acquainted with curl-enhancers. It’s clearly big business with DPSs in the Times featuring nothing but.


Caption: The two extremes

I also harvest advice from family and friends. It’s a quest. My cousin, a shoemaker in Adelaide with long loopy curls uses Jessicurl Spirilicious. So I get it shipped in. Yes I do. Mac with tiny tight ringlets, leaves the conditioner in; ‘The silicon bonds them together’. Try it all. The problem is, curly hair is often whispy, so anything you put in it weighs it down, making you look monkish. So I changed my cut; might as well take advantage of the wirey white pubes, so I went shorter and layered on top, to encourage the wave and boost volume.


Caption: Mac and Genie give advice

The best hairdo I’ve ever had was after a swim in the Med off Valencia. The salt water locked the frizz into ringlets not unlike those I admired at the Mauritshuis. I never was able to recreate that effect until N asked if I’d heard of salt hair sprays! Duly added. So now I use these 3 hair products and reapply the salt spray as necessary, accompanied with  scrunchings and rotational flooffings. It’s a faff, but I have embraced the angst and now give joyous compliments to similarly defiant curly strangers.


Caption: Back running with the curls, 2023

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