Do I Have To Worry About My Daughter’s Curly Hair?

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I have two daughters. One has straight hair. The other has curly hair. They’re both precious but certainly little Miss Curly Hair gets all the comments about her hair. I understand. My sister has this gorgeous strawberry-blonde curly hair. I am a slightly wavy brunette who was mistaken for Albert from the Little House on the Prairie series. That’s what my hair looked like. So every time we’d encounter someone, it would go like this. “Oh, K! What gorgeous hair you have! Hi, Mollie.” I mean, for years and years.

So I assumed that curly hair was where it’s at while boring, slightly wavy hair was not to be desired. But after reading this essay from Megan McArdle, I’m wondering if my assumptions were wrong.

In “Girl Talk: Can a Professional Woman Go Curly?,” the Atlantic senior editor explains how she recently got her hair cut at Devachan, a salon that specializes in curly hair:

Devachan isn’t so much a hair salon as a cult, whose bible is Curly Girl, the how-to book written by salon owner Lorraine Massey.

As the journalistic cliche goes, I went in a skeptic, and came out a believer. My hair felt amazing. My curls were bouncy, and lasted for days. It was hands down the best curly cut I’ve ever had.

But, she adds, the requirements are daunting. She can’t shampoo, only conditioner. She can’t brush her hair. And she can’t straighten:

There’s no question that straightening your hair is bad for it–they cut off three or four inches of basically fried ends. However, it’s also very useful for a professional woman. Straightened curly hair can go for days without much maintenance; curly hair always looks best on the day you wash it. Ever since the widespread dissemination of flatirons, I’ve been in the habit of straightening my hair for events at least a few times a month, and frequently every week.

Moreover, for better or worse, smooth straight hair has become synonymous with “professional” in America. Show up with curly hair, and you might as well show up with waist-length beads and an incense burner.

I would like to fight this, especially since it smacks so much of ethnic prejudice. Why on earth have we defined the hair type that most Irish, Jewish, and black women have as less professional than fine straight hair that can be blow-dried in 10 minutes? I know it’s close to my brains and all, but they’re not actually connected.

But I do not want to be a curly-haired revolutionary at the cost of my career. As one black female journalist said to me, “You don’t want TV bookers referring to you as ‘the curly haired one’.” I want to be “the one who can talk about taxes”.

Is this true? I’m blissfully ignorant about most girl stuff. I mean, I can’t even tell most days if someone is or is not wearing makeup. I’ve just never been that interested in grooming or discussions of same at any point beyond “she smells clean.” Cleanliness I really care about. The rest? Not so sure.

But do women with curly hair face professional challenges? I suspect it’s true. I remember reading Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robin Givhan attack curly hair as “unprofessional” and “distracting.” Also “unwise” and “ballsy.”

This anti-curly hair bias is ridiculous. I can’t think of something less important to how we judge women than whether their hair looks like it’s not the “wrong” kind of ethnic. It’s also insulting. Please tell me this is a trend that is dying out.