Love this. This resonated with me a lot. I never fell into the flat-iron trap, thankfully, but I felt insecure about my natural hair texture for a really long time. I was lucky to be in high school right about when Shakira burst onto the crossover scene, and that made me feel like it was “okay” for my hair to look the way it did. But the 90s leading up to that had been a time of flat-ironing, and the 80s had been a time of false curls (which always look even and perfect), so I too had internalized the message that my frizzy hair looked “unkempt” — even though it’s a legitimate natural texture and there’s literally nothing that can keep naturally curly hair entirely and enduringly straight.
I live in Germany, and my understanding from reading about WWII is that the preference for straight hair among Europeans related to anti-Semitism that just sort of got ingrained into beauty ideals; I could be wrong, but I believe that curly hair was (and is) more common among people of Jewish descent or among non-Jewish Europeans with lots of ancestry in Northern Africa and the Middle East (e.g., people of Mediterranean descent). So, part of the anti-curl bias very possibly came from interethnic prejudice among Europeans — historical prejudices we hardly even think about anymore, but which left enduring impacts. Then there are the more common and still-widespread forms of racism, whereby Black women’s features are often discriminated against. So, all in all, I think society’s preference for straight hair came from a blend of prejudices all combined.
In a way, I feel like the natural hair movement among women of color helped to “liberate” everyone with curly hair, and I’m so thankful for that. All sorts of textures are now being embraced, gradually (It bears mention that Black women’s hair is still heavily policed.). The movement made space, too, for us fair-skinned women who were (and still kind of are) expected to have unfailingly sleek, smooth, straight hair, simply by virtue of our skin tone… lest people think we were just “messy” or “lazy” about our grooming.
My hair texture has changed a lot over the years, especially due to an iron deficiency. (Since you say your hair doesn’t grow, maybe check your ferritin levels!) But I’m really thankful to have made peace with my hair’s natural curl sometime during adulthood. Even though I believe that all hair textures are equally beautiful (In other words, I don’t think my texture is “better” than any other kind.), now I wouldn’t change my own texture for anything.
Thank you for sharing!