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Curly Nikki

Feelings of Resentment- The Straight Hair Standard

By January 27th, 202135 Comments

swoodward writes:

Feelings of Resentment- The Straight Hair Standard
Hi Nikki,

My last relaxer was in June of 2009 and I BC’d in March. I had awful hair when it was relaxed. My daughter summed it up brilliantly – my hair looked good the day of my relaxer and the rest of the time it looked like “dry straw”. At least it did to me. I received my share of compliments, but in the back of my mind I always felt a little like a poser. As though my hair wasn’t real or that I didn’t look like who I really am.

My hair was thin, broken and sad. I hated it in the end or rather I hated what I had done to it and during that transition and well after my big chop I wondered if my hair would ever fill out or if it would ever be beautiful.

I discovered a lot of natural hair sites and of course CN was one of them. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging, especially on CurlyNikki! I found wonderful styles and stories and recipes and I just squared my shoulders and took off. I began the journey of discovering my own hair and what it could do. I learned how to be gentle and started to really take better care of myself overall. Now when I style my hair, I feel a sense of accomplishment and beauty. I’ve been getting a lot of looks too and most of them are admiring. My confidence was way up.

Then today, I was in a natural products store with my best friend. The manager was really sweet. She seemed so helpful and friendly as she showed me all of these fabulous products – all natural massage soaps, shampoo bars, and particularly a hair cream for dry hair. The cream seemed interesting and was very expensive. She offered to put some in my hair, pulled a small curl and worked it in, then said my hair would just get better and better. Then she offered to put some in my girlfriend’s hair. My girlfriend is a tall Chinese woman with a lot of presence and long straight dark hair. Not five seconds after the store manager started touching her hair, she started going on and on about how beautiful it was. I was instantly angry. I mean my hackles rose straight up. She didn’t say anything about my hair and I knew good and well that it looked great. I had extra volume and it was big. My ends are amazing and my curls defined with just the right amount of frizz. It wasn’t greasy… it was soft. Why didn’t she compliment me?

It was really galling because I knew that my girlfriend had permed her hair curly twice, then straight twice with the Japanese perm and had dyed it multiple times in between! It looks great but her latest color covered up a whole mess of damage! It’s not that I want to take away from the smoothness or beauty of her hair but darn it, when are people going to see my hair type as beautiful? Was her hair beautiful automatically because it was straight?

Has anyone ever experienced that feeling of resentment? I know I shouldn’t care but I can’t help it. AND I feel guilty because I admire my friend’s hair (I think her hair is beautiful too). But I don’t want to take away from my own.

Have you ever experienced this? How did you handle it internally?
I don’t want to be a hater.


  • Scylla Charybdis says:

    I agree that it is a shame that your hair texture was not regarded as an "achievement" as I have read it in some of the posts. Of course there is nothing "wrong" with long hair (there IS something wrong with that wording I think); the point as I understood was that healthy natural curly hair did not merit the same reaction as long hair in less healthy condition (though perhaps not obviously so).

    I understand the disappointment. I have locs, and though my hair is longer and healthier than it has ever been, some people still reject it. Some family members and acquaintances have said things like, "I prefer your hair straight. It looked better to me that way." The operative clause being "to me." I used to go into a spiel about how much more healthy my hair is now – yadda, yadda, yadda. Now, I just nod and smile.

    My hair speaks for itself. He who has ears to hear, let him or her hear.

  • Anonymous says:

    I doubt anyone is looking at this topic now but 1. she was white and 2 – no, it was her behavior that pissed me off. she was on a sell mode from the moment we walked in – she didn't compliment my hair but the the way she complimented my friends hair was really obvious. She looked at mine then she went apes*&^t over my friends. she doesn't have to like mine. frankly i don't care if she does or doesn't but little things she said while describing the hair products and the obvious implication about making my hair better and waxing poetic over my friends hair made it crystal clear that she thought straight hair was better. I just get tired of the same old standards – it was though only straight hair was beautiful. it annoys me. swoodward

  • Andrea says:

    I have a question…was the manager white or black? I definitely would notice more if a black person who didn't have long straight hair was gushing over it; and yet I understand how so many minds are programmed a certain way. But truth be told, you'd be surprised how many non-black people love natural black hair (esp. high volume hair). I've gotten compliments from white people, Indian people, and the Korean lady at the beauty supply store. I wouldn't necessarily take it as a slight that the "world" loves straight hair b/c your hair looks lovely but maybe isn't as dramatic as it will be when it's a bigger 'fro. I bet that in a few months, you'll be getting a lot more comments. Not that longer or more hair is better, but I mean, there are lots of times when the person with you might outshine you in the eyes of certain people. It might be a model type friend. It might be someone built like a video girl. Would any of those alternatives caused you as much angst? Something to consider…
    Honestly, at the end of the day, the people who tend to put our stuff down the most (in my experience) are black people. As much as we love to blame it on other people's standards, so many things about us get so many compliments from non-black people; things that we insult among ourselves, like huge wild afros and really dark skin.

  • curlynattie10 says:

    Looking at the comments, I feel that straight hair is the standard not long. Also, with this story, I felt that like or not, we are in a culture, where they sell products like 'Just for me' or 'Kiddie Perms' to make little girls have their hair straight through burning their scalps! Many commented, 'just ignore it'. I feel that we really can't. I have a 3 year old daughter with beautiful long curly hair and I have gotten comments from people that her hair should be 'trained' or she should get a perm. R U 4 real? A three year old? My daughter's hair is long and down to the middle of her back and I am hearing, 'it is so long' along with 'she should get a perm'. Again, straight is the standard and no matter how we want to sugarcoat it, as curlies we are going to have to be prepared for these moments.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the clarification. If you really look at the situation, the woman's behavior didn't make you angry..It was your expectation of how she should behave and think. Expectations are funny things…Internally they can be the best thing ever(for the most part) yet when projected externally on others you are in for a frustrated emotional ride. Some people will think straight blond hair is the complete standard of beauty. Some will have no problem falling over themselves to praise something they want/approve of. That's fine, that's them and their right (Though? If they push their opinions on me they will be set straight(no pun) and sent on their merry way kicking rocks.)

    What's important to your life is how you choose to react, think and carry yourself(these are the only things you can truly control with the exception of your body which follows nature and time.) I'm not faulting you for your feelings and don't expect you to always brush these situations off your shoulders with perfect emotional control – everyone has different ways of coping. I acknowledge that it's important and real to you yet if you wish to get less angry/cope better..working on your reaction is the way to go.

    *Just my opinion you can think on it, take a small piece that works or trash it all together. It's your life and it's all good. Thanks for taking the time to post on an issue that affects most people. :)

  • Anonymous says:

    Getting insulted is not the same exact thing as not being complimented. Some people ahve a preference for long and/or straight hair. Some people have a preference for short and/or curly/kinky. It's life. Nothing to be mad at or bothered by. Just like some people like pizza with olives and others don't. I think this hair thing is making some of us absolutely crazy. It is a styling option, a way of life (HAIR life). That's it. JEEZ!

  • Anonymous says:

    I know where you're coming from. I had a friend once tell me, "Man I'm glad I don't have your hair!" And granted while this comment came after telling her my hair regimen and such, it stilled bothered me mostly because the person who said it is known for coveting Asian hair (thick strands stick straight). I've come to think of hair that type as not necessarily my polar opposite but a different texture with the same issues.

    Even if it is in a natural goods store, don't expect everyone to see everything…mmm naturally?

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi all, just wanted to clarify. I wasn't annoyed because I didn't get a compliment. I was annoyed because in a store full of all natural products, the woman reacted to my friends hair because it was straight. Not long, straight. She made a fuss about the texture. Not the length. And my friend's texture was chemically achieved. I was annoyed because the first assumption about beauty was straight hair. And her comment and actions were immediately after she had touched my hair. I realized from my reaction that I was expecting things to be different so I wrote about it. In that moment, my friend's hair represented the standard of straight hair and mine the standard of curly. Just a quick moment in time. Clearly, I didn't express myself well.swoodward

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm short (5'0") and I have short legs. I used to hate standing next to my (many) tall, long-legged friends who were always complimented about how they could be runway models…blah, blah while I was always referred to as "cute."
    But you know what – this cutie met her husband in college during my first BC (1998) when I didn't know what I was doing with my hair.

    I get the most compliments about my confidence, positive attitude, and smile. That's the stuff that matters to me. Not that there still aren't days/moments when I'm not buying into my own propaganda ;)

  • Anonymous says:

    Very interesting. I can't fault you for being you, human and feeling what you feel. At the end of the day, sometimes compliments can add something to your ego(mind you I'm not talking about conceit but the needs of the inner self). We all have those days when we like to be recognized and validated(some more, some less. Nothing wrong with either way if it's not taken to extreme) I think the point here is to work on changing and buffering your reactions/point of view to these experiences that rob you of your flow(People will think, say or do what they wish. You have no control over this but you can definitely have a say on what makes you happy.) Helpful things I do for me:Complimenting myself daily by recognizing my attributes(if I'm looking really good that day. I'll look at the mirror and say something nice."Looking good, Miss Thing!" Sounds silly to others but who cares. If I do it right I can have a mona lisa smile for the rest of the day.) Also giving silent gratitude at the day's end for what I have at the moment puts things into perspective. Let yourself know that there is room for you..your beauty in this world. Someone can compliment your friend but keep in mind that you are a beauty yourself – The fact will always be there even if the words are not expressed. Do whatever it takes to make yourself recognize this – meditate, pray, talk to someone, write affirmations, exercise,journal, be creative etc.

  • Trina says:

    On certain profiles on here that get less comments or such, often times it's because they didn't like what they saw. Sometimes it's better to not say something then to say it at all and then have people go off on you for being mean with the comments. Sometimes you can't relate to the topic of hair or product, so then you reallay can't say anything. This is my response back to anon: at 5:40pm and 7:08pm

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm sorry but what is wrong with long hair?

    Long hair denotes an definite achievement in my book. Good health and/or effective techniques are required to achieve long hair, and even more so when it's of the delicate curly/coily/kinky variety. And the effort and skill involved is something to admire.

    I want to know if all the commenters protesting about the long hair beauty standard feel the same way about long natural nails when they see them. If long nails (made out of similar keratin material as hair )and good skin can be admired and aspired to, then what's your problem with hair?

    In my opinion it comes down to the long standing beliefs that many black women have about not being able to grow afro textured hair long. Thus leading to deep seated resentment of those women who are seen to have that elusive 'long hair gene'.

    Thank god we are slowely going through a profound reeducation in the black community as people start to realise that long hair is actually all about retention and patience. Check out kimmaytube on youtube if you have any doubts.

  • Unknown says:

    I've experienced something similar. This came from older women that I worked with. They would complement each other on a new haircut or the new wig they used to over up the fact that their relaxed hair had taken as much abuse as it could take and they had no hair to work with, but then say to me "when youare ready to do something with your hair, let me know….I do hair"
    I can tell she does hair, and by the looks of she did hers to death. It took me over a year to figure out how to keep my hair properly moisturized and supp breaking off so much and she thinks I'm going to let her hands on my hard work…..must have lost her mind!

    I'm sorry……went on a little bit of a rant. Still touchy about that subject. Can u tell ? Lol!

  • Anonymous says:

    I do understand how you feel. How I've dealt with myself when this has happened to me was to remind myself that society still has the mindset to put long hair on a pedestal. So, just continue to be the "beauty" that you are (and know it within you) so rather people say it or not, you can move on with confidence.
    Allnatural1 (Michelle in TX)

  • Nique1076 says:

    Wow! Interesing article..I have not experienced this particular situation, but I would not like to come off self righteous in telling you to just ignore it or not feel that way,and I do believe that many women have felt hair envy. I also agree with some of the comments that mention that 'long hair' is the standard of beauty..I too, have noticed that the naturals on this site,with long hair, receive more comments than the ones who have BC'd. From the time that we can speak we are constantly shown images of beauty that resemble long hair, so it is understood why people, including naturals, comment and compliment more on long hair as a symbol of beauty or an deem it an 'accomplishment'. The deprogramming does not stop just because someone has chosen to go natural. But I must say, your curls are luscious!!

  • Mel D says:

    I have been told I would look prettier with straight hair…I wanted to have a "What did you say?" *eye roll, neck roll* moment so bad but instead it just made me realize that I did not need that person in my life. Stay true to yourself and know that you are SO beautiful the way you are. I do agree that every woman likes a compliment here and there (I know I do), but these compliments are much more meaningful when they are from sincere people :-)
    Stay Natural

  • Unknown says:

    I completely understand where you're coming from! But to counteract that, any natural sister I encounter I make it a point to compliment them! We have to support eachother. I think long, straight hair is just the prototype for "pretty hair". But it doesn't reflect anything about your hair, just the person. I think resentment is naturally and as long as you can admit it and understand where it's coming from, its a health emotion to experience! Stay strong : ))

  • Anonymous says:

    The Anonymous who mentioned single digit comments; I've noticed the same thing. I've found that when you get more compliments(for whatever reason) it is easy to tell someone else just to "ignore" the negative comments. I also still believe among "naturals" there are hierachies of beauty(conscious or unconscious) We are a long way from "slavery" but yet so close as well.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with the poster who stated that long hair is admired first.

    Long hair is an accomplishment, whether it's naturally coily or naturally straight.

    Funny story for you- I was still in my TWA phase wearing KCCC when another sister passed me in the cafeteria and commented on my coily 4b springs, "these are so cute – I could pull one and it goes sproingggg".

    SO MANY WOMEN have told me they wish they could go natural like me, but are afraid to do it because of this or that reason. They remind me of that Lee Ann Womack song "I Hope You Dance".

    I'm so happy I didn't choose to sit it out – and I'm dancing!

  • Anonymous says:

    This is an interesting topic. And I don't know if it's ever been addressed here, but I've also noticed that some (non-celebrity)curlies profiled on this blog get way more gushing comments/compliments than others. For the record, I haven't been profiled here, but I wonder if those who received single digits comments feel "funny" when their profile is not met with double digit comments/compliments as some others here have been. The level of enthusiasm does vary–markedly so in some cases. I've wondered if it was more about the info/comments or personality that comes through in the Q&A. Or if it's something innocuous like say, people are just lazier about posting in some instances. Or is something else going on? (Celebrities are not included. I know why they get more comments. They're celebs. LOL) Maybe someone can weigh in on this. What moves you to post on some profiles and not post on others?

  • Anonymous says:

    I hate to be the devil's advocate on this one but the truth is to those blogger's who tell this woman why do you care? please! Most of us care, most of us like compliments no one's head is that high in the clouds to not want a compliment especially when a good friend of there's gets one too. So in my opnion by the way the story was laid out yes I do think that woman noticed your hair did not like the texture and saw your friend's hair but likes hers so she complimented her's instead maybe it was like a nudge of see if you had hair like this you would get compliments… Since we are all curlies on this site I can admit I am sensitive to your issue because I have had them before I am not going to pretend like I haven't. I have 2 scenarios you can use next time your with your friend, when someone goes over to the both of you and they embellish your friend's hair my trick is to mimick tone for tone and action for action infact over embellish (twirl your friend's hair between your fingers) I find that when some people see their MIRROR!! they begin to realize how silly they sound, or allow your friend to have her compliment but have an internal laugh because you know what your friend had to go through to achieve this bone straight hair (unrealistic beauty that is why it is pushed on us as women)and if she continues with her regimen she will permanenetly have bone straight hair (yeah it's called wig because her hair will fall out) lol. Any scenario you decide your going to get a great laugh because people really are funny!

  • Anonymous says:

    I am sorry that this happened to you. My philosphy is that the only person who you can control is yourself. If I see value in what others say about me, I let it in, if not, I keep it moving.

  • Anonymous says:

    I can honestly say that I got just as many compliments (from all races and both genders)while I had TWA as I do now – with BSL natural hair). Perhaps it was BECAUSE I DID NOT seek out or care about acceptance from others and I exude selfconfidence and happiness. Who the heck cares about who gets a hair compliment from a total stranger (or anyone else for that matter) in your presence? JUST DO YOU! and be happy that you are healthy and alive enough to enjoy living and loving (self love included). If not, seek therapy. You can't go wrong with that. LOL

  • Anonymous says:

    I have to say I was shocked at my own reaction. I hope it's just a phase. I know better, but I reacted poorly (in my head only, thank goodness) when she turned to me and asked me to reaffirm her comment. I still feel annoyed when I think about it. The more curly hair I see, the more I appreciate it. I shouldn't expect others to agree with me though. I have a very wide standard of beauty and keep thinking everyone should too. For the most part, I consider myself a standard but as a social creature I do react to what happens around me occasionally. And as a black woman my social memory is long. So I am going to take everyone's advice and keep affirming my own beauty. Thanks!!!! swoodward

  • Anonymous says:

    I read a members entry on LHCF this weekend who was miffed because a white guy told her she would be so much hotter with straight hair. She proceeded to try to explain to him why her hair is natural and why it is beautiful. My question to her and to you, is why do you care? If you are truly happy with the way you look, why are you seeking accalades from someone else? Sure, I understand everyone likes compliments, as do I, but if someone doesn't comment on the bad new shoes I have on today or the fierce new hair style I wore on Tuesday, it doesnt matter, because the shoes are still bad and my hair still fierce. I think the store owner commenting on your friends straight hair may have been just her preference for straight(maybe not, don't really know) hair or something about it struck her. I don't think that means that she didn't like your hair. But if she didn't… what.

  • aJwitaFrO says:


    I totally understand how you feel "hair envy" is pretty common even when you compare yourself to other naturals. First of all, I think your hair is beautiful.

    At the end of the day, the majority of people are "programed" to think straight, long hair is beautiful. Don't take offense to this type of behavious because in my opinion people don't even realize what they're doing. I had a similar situation when I went bathing suit shopping with a friend one time ( I thought I looked bangin in my bikini but the sales lady was only complimenting my friend lol).

    But anyways, keep rockin your hair and wearing it proud, people are attracted to that positive energy so I garantee when you feel great about your hair people will notice and they will compliment you! :-)

  • Anonymous says:

    Pretty much co-sign with everyone! When I had a TWA I did not receive many compliments now that my hair is getting longer those who use to pick on me all of a sudden do not have much to say and I am getting more compliments as well. There is nothing like being a trend setter it's not always easy. Most people prefer LONG first and then STRAIGHT!! That's how it is but the funny part is most people do not have bone straight hair, lol! Including as we noticed your friend and thank you for telling us the lengths other women go as well with their hair, people tend to only put black women down when it comes to their hair. But didn't India Aire have lyrics that said confusion is the name of the game MIS deception/MASS deception something has to change.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with others on this board and it's good that Kimmy said to remember what others think isn't important in this case.

    That said YES I have felt this way. And I believe it is because there are instances of folks who don't like our hair in its natural state.

    I have a hair raising issue when I hear people refer to "good hair" as if it is anything but natural hair.

    I also have issues with family members who make nasty comments and or are passive aggressive towards natural hair.

    Here is what I do: I take time and visit websites and places which are self affirming. It seems you do this too. But in addition I take time and journal, collect pictures and images for my home which is self affirming. I also read books, articles that are self affirming and only have friends and associates who are positive.

    I've found that the negative folks who "hate" natural hair have moved out of my energy space. And the folks(who by the way have natural or straightened hair) who respect ALL HAIR equally are now in my space.

    Relatives keep comments to themselves. If by chance they something which makes no sense, I call them out.

    I think once you claim your space and your own energy and power you will find what is natural is to move on.

    I had a similar situation to you once and I later discussed my feelings with the person as an aside and at least made them aware the consequences and power of their words and actions.

    Good luck on this long but challenging journey.

  • Erika says:

    Yeah just think of all the good compliments that you have received so far and try not to let this one bother you as much. You know that you have good hair and that it's taken care of, however some people have their preference of straight, some natural, some very wavy. You just do you and keep it going and don't worry about no one else, they don't pay your bills. So as long as you look good and your close friends or families think it looks good on you then go with the flow. Keep up the natural flow and wear your head high.

  • Kimmy says:

    Just remember – Hair is hair, and what others think don't you even care :-) It took my going natural to not worry about what others thought. I will agree with the others that long hair will be glorified whether it's straight, curly, or coily. As long as she wasn't rude or disrespectful to you, I wouldn't let it bother me.

  • SPstyles says:

    I understand what you mean and i think what krys315 said was true, a lot of people do love LONG hair so if your hair was longer she probably would have had a different reaction. I've noticed from experience and even from a hairstylists point of view that many people love long hair and will always think it looks better than short hair, even if it is ratty, damaged, and thin.

  • Anonymous says:

    I wouldn't take someone else's preference personal. She likes what she likes and you like what you like. You know your hair is gorg and you feel good about it so don't let someone else get in the way of that.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello Curly Sistah:

    I think that different people have different opinions about what beautiful hair is, regardless of texture or length. And my opinion is that your hair is Beautiful and it's Natural.

    Be you.


  • Jenell : BlakIzBeautyful says:

    Really sorry that this happened to you.

    That woman just had her own preference of what hair she liked, as we all do.

    Come up here to Brooklyn NewYork and you will find men and women that are in LOVE with your hair and your curls!

    You are gorgeous and your hair is gorgeous and she "ain't nobody!" LOL

  • krys315 says:

    I have felt this too. But I'm not sure if it's teh texture of your hair that she did not compliment, but I think LONG hair is usually seen as beautiful. I think if your hair was long then she would have complimented as well.

    So don't assume people don't like your hair texture. i feel this way too, but try to ignore it. i honestly love long hair and am trying to grow mine out day by day.

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