I’m an Algerian immigrant who was raised in America. Having to live and adapt to both worlds was not as challenging as I expected. I adapted to the difference in food, clothing, and language easily but there remains one variety I can not acclimate: beauty. Specifically my hair.
I cherish my curly long thick hair, although I was obsessed with silky straight hair.
In Algeria, the ideal hairstyle was straight hair, but my hair, on the other hand, was the complete opposite.
I can vividly remember the struggle getting ready for school every morning.
I remember stretching loose the bones in my body. I lazily threw on some clothes as I dragged myself over to the bathroom sink. Carefully and slowly I took my time brushing my teeth, so I could postpone hair time.
My mom would peek her head into the bathroom, and ask, ”you ready?”
I nodded in response.
She reached for my hair. I tightly gripped the edge of the sink and the towel in my hand, I shut my eyes, scrunched my face, and waited for the explosion of pain. She shoved her fingers inside the big ball of hair. The search of the hair tie has begun.
When she would finally get a hold of it, she’d hold my hair close to my scalp with one hand and with the other, pulled the hair band with all of her might.
Tears gliding down my face was the only type of soothing I felt at the time. I loosened the sweaty grip of the towel and sink.
Years have passed with the same struggles, but I feel more comfortable about it. I’ve accepted that yes this is my hair. This is me.
Until one summer day in Algeria. My cousins and I told stories, talked and laughed.
“Oh yeah Assirem, let me see the pictures from the party last night!” Yasmina my cousin says.
Proudly, I scrolled through my camera roll, quickly searching for the best picture before handing her the phone.
I sat patiently waiting to be bombarded with compliments, my chest raised high, big smile across my face.
“You went to the party with your hair like this?”, She disgustingly murmured out.
She quickly hands me the phone back as if it was a dirty diaper.
I chuckled awkwardly, my heart stood stiff as a rock. I can feel the redness arising under my skin. I looked over to the rest of my cousins for some comfort but they all agreed
“What do you mean? I like the way my hair looked.”
“Well I just thought you would straighten it, the fact that it was a party and all.” she rolled her eyes looking at her fingernails.
I got up and walked out.
Many experiences such as these happened in Algeria, this caused me to be more aware of how my hair looks.
Until I came to America. I've been to many parties. I would be shocked seeing girls coming in with hair curly, poofy straight hair! These observations made me appreciate the difference in my beauty, that sets me apart from others.
At school one evening , exhaustion ran from my scalp through my body to the tip of my toes.
3:05, finally time to go home. I unlocked my locker as a fast as possible, hoping to not mess up. My three best friends surrounded me impatiently, ready to go home.
Suddenly, a shiver ran down my back. I jerked my head back quickly.
“Of course,” I thought to myself with relief.
Two girls were wrapping and brushing their fingers through my hair. In the least awkward way, I gently began to loosen my hair out through their finger.
“Assirem, so do you like braid it or put twists in it for it to come out this way.” One of them stated reaching back for my hair.
“No, it’s natural,” I chuckled.
They both took a step back.
The other girl followed up by, “so then what products do you put in it for it to curl like this.”
I looked up to the top of my locker.
“water,” I stated jokingly as I inserted my notebook into my book bag.
Now I think to myself alone in the quietly bathroom. Watching the steam rise from the straightener sitting patiently on the marable. I divide my hair into two sections, it is easier that way.. I run the last strand tightly through the iron from root to the tip. I stand back. One side was big volumized curls, the other was flat straighten hair.
I bend down gently to pull the plug out of the outlet. With a smile of satisfaction and accomplishment, I walk out.
Straight or curly?
I am both.