Embracing Curls and Curves

I am a proud mixed baby. My mom is Italian, Irish, English, and Danish. My father is Dominican – a mixture of the native Taino, Spaniards, and Africans. I have the tightest ringlet curls, the curviest hips, and the weirdest olive skin tone. I love these things about myself now, but that wasn’t always the case.

To be honest, I hated my curly hair for the longest time. I didn’t like how poofy it was. I didn’t like that whenever I wore it curly, people would pet me like I was an animal in a petting zoo, with a sign on my forehead saying “open for business”. I hated the upkeep that comes with curls, and believe me, it’s a lot. For the life of me, I just wanted sleek straight hair. If my hair was ever down, it was straight. I refused to accept my curly hair and did everything I possibly could to hide it.

I started the journey of self love by first knowing self hate. For the longest time, I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin, both physically and mentally. I hate everything about myself. From how wide my hips were, to how curly my hair was, to the color of my eyes, to the fat on my body. I dreaded the mirror and I would avoid it at all costs.

It started when I was young, as I think it does for most girls. You just see what’s on TV and in the media and the toys we played with, you wanted to look like them. I wanted to be skinny with sleek straight hair, clear skin, and the perfect tan. I wanted bright blue eyes and not the color of poop brown. The last thing I wanted was to be me.

When middle school came, I feel like it only got worse. I questioned every move I made and every decision I made. I tried my best to find what I was comfortable in, but it wasn’t anything. I hated shopping. I always ended up crying in the fitting room because nothing fit. I remember the day I went from a size 3 to a size 5 in jeans and I cried all night. All my friends were a size 1 and I was here, fat at a size 5. I know now that it was my hips but I didn’t know that then. Throughout middle school, I was really struggling with my depression which made loving myself so much harder, but it made hating myself so much easier. I wore pants all the time and long shirts to cover scars and scabs due to self harm. I would sweat profusely before I even thought about taking off my jackets.

When high school started, I was fresh on my own. I had just gotten out of the only serious relationship with a boy that I had ever had and I was so lost in my identity, it wasn’t even funny. At that point in my life, I was really struggling with the fact that my biological father didn’t want me. I didn’t know what was wrong with me or what I did wrong to make him not want me. In my eyes, I wasn’t good enough and that tore me to shreds. Being so disconnected from my biological father, caused me to not know half of my family. I was not only disconnected from half of my genes, but an entire culture. I struggled a lot with that. I didn’t know what it meant to be Latina. But since the day I knew what race was, that’s what I identified as. Rightfully so, I’m predominately Dominican so it only makes sense that that is what I identify as. Freshman year was also the year I started to lose a lot of the tan/brown color I had always had as a kid, and turned more olive-ish, making more people think I’m white, making me more frustrated. At a time where I was struggling with my ethnicity, I knew I wasn’t white but I didn’t know what it meant to be Dominican because I wasn’t raised around the culture. Even though I was identifying as Latina – and still do – I wasn’t embracing the Latina in me.  My hair went from in a tight, tight ballet bun to sleek straight down. I refused to wear my hair curly because I hated it so much.

Because I was so lost in myself as a person, I was drawn to a girl that seemed to know who she was. Someone who carried herself with so much confidence and poise. I wanted that. So we became friends. Like me, she’s gay. Freshman year, unlike me, she was out and proud. She had a serious relationship with a girl and wasn’t afraid to be who she was. I, on the other hand, was struggling so hard to accept myself for who I was. A biracial gay young woman. I was so uncomfortable with every inch of my body and who I was. I remember nasty rumors going around the school about me when I had liked a girl for the first time. The boy I had just gotten out of a relationship with contacted me and asked me about them and yelled at me about it. He went on about how much it hurt him to hear that I liked a girl. At that point, I really retracted into myself and questioned even pursuing this girl. He made me so much more insecure in myself, in a way only he had the power to do. From about seventh grade to this point, I had identified as bisexual. It was my way of slowly accepting myself but not fully. It took me a long time to really accept myself for who I am, in terms of my sexuality. By the end of freshman year, I was just as lost, if not more than I started. I was trying to figure out what it meant to be an ethnic young woman and what it meant to be a gay teen and how those met and meshed to make me. I felt so unlucky. Of course I get to deal with all the hard stuff.

By the time sophomore year started, I was okay with being gay, I was out to my direct family and my close friends. That was good enough for me for the time being. After that point, I didn’t have many problems with being gay. However, I was still hating my body, my hair, myself and I was still struggling with my father not wanting me. As the year passed by, I made a new friend to go with my best friend from freshman year. It was the 3 of us against the world, I was the happiest to have such great friends. But I had spoken too soon. My first friend, from freshman year, and I had a falling out. In all fairness, we were incredibly toxic to each other and we deserved more in friends than we were giving each other. My new friend, though, I loved. We had so much in common. We saw the world in the same way, we were each others support. She really encouraged me to find who I was and love that person, whomever she was. She was the person I called when I needed someone to talk to. If anyone knew sophomore Veronica the best, it is probably her. Then I met a girl and fell in love. This girl made me feel like the only girl in the world and like I was the most important person in her life. I felt like I could do anything. I had so much more confidence, I was so much happier. I was starting to “love” myself because she loved me. Then my friend and the girl I was head over heels for got closer and my girlfriend fell for her. My heart was torn out of my chest and I was so lost. All the confidence I had was because someone else loved me. I lost the girl that I loved, I lost my best friend that I honestly thought was going to be in my life for a long time, and once again, I lost myself. After that I put up my walls. I built them high, thick, and indestructible. Nobody was going to break me again because I wouldn’t ever let anyone close enough. I was so tired of getting hurt, I never gave anyone a chance.

My life as I knew it fell apart about this time last year – end of February, beginning of March. I lost the people closest to me and just became such a loner. I didn’t have any friends, I ate lunch in the library by myself. I became this zombie of numbness. I was depressed, I was alone, and I didn’t know what to do. I spent the last 2 months of my sophomore year alone.

My 16th birthday was horrible. I had this great day planned, this great party and I invited all my friends weeks before hand and made sure everyone got their invitations and 3 of my friends came to my actual party. The rest was just family and I was just sad. I was so excited to have all the people I loved together and in one place and a day that was just about me and the majority of the day, I just wanted to go to my room and be alone. I felt like the people that didn’t come, didn’t have time for me, like I they didn’t care about me enough to show up. Looking back now, that wasn’t the case, but in that moment, that’s what it felt like. I felt like I didn’t matter to those people and it really sucked.

By the end of sophomore year, I was drained. I was a mess of sadness and loneliness and I was lost all over again, struggling now more than ever. I had pushed so many people away and reverted into my own shell, disconnecting myself from everyone. I just gave up on my relationships with my friends and hid out in my room most nights. Thinking about it now, I think that’s where my love of TV and movies comes from. At a time when I was lost and alone, I would watch a bunch of shows and everything would just fade to the background.

The one thing that really got me through the end of sophomore year was the fact that my family was taking our first ever vacation together to the west coast state of California. I was so excited. I had been dying to go to California for the longest time and it was happening. I couldn’t believe it. About a week or 2 before we left for California, I decided that I was just going to focus on me. I was going to kind of disconnect from the people at home and just be in my own element in the state that I had been dying to see.

This is where my journey to self love really begins. In California, I felt so at home, so in my element. I was mesmerized by the state and the beauty and the adventure. I was so happy that there was a 0 percent chance of me running into anyone I knew. I was free to be myself and be happy. While in California, I really just focused on me and took care of myself and did a lot of soul searching, in the sense that I found what I want to do for a chunk of my life, I danced in Los Angeles in one of the most iconic studios and my heart was just so happy. I was loving the touristy things like the Chinese Mann Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood sign, everything. I loved the atmosphere and the fact that we almost hit Luke Kleintank with our car, still one of the highlights of my trip as he is one of my favorite actors.

Coming back to Colorado after 10 days in California was like coming down off the best rollercoaster that you just want to keep riding. It sucked, but at the same time, it allowed me to find myself and love myself the way I did in California. And with the head start I had in California, coming home and falling in love with who I am, was so much easier. While in California, I more fell in love with who I was as a person and what I have to offer and less with my body. My goal when coming home was to really embrace my curls, my curves, and as I put it earlier, my weird olive skin tone.

After coming home, I came across a Tumblr post written by Amandla Stenberg. She was asked a question about cultural appropriation but it was her response that really got me. She said, “I’m 16 years old and just asserting my own identity – which because of my race, I’ve struggled with since I was 5. I always attempted to make myself appear more white and rejected my culture.” As I have really started to embrace my curls and curves, I’ve thought about this quote a lot. I relate so much to it because throughout my journey of self love/hate, I did exactly this. I refused to accept my curly hair and wore it sleek straight whenever I wore in down. Until I read this response, I didn’t know that I attempted to make myself appear more white, but I did.

Which brings us to today. After this long journey of obstacles and struggling to find myself, I finally did. I found who I am, I am loving who I am and these days, I’m working on loving my body. I am working on learning what it means to be a young biracial gay woman and what I can bring to this world. I am learning that my curls are so fun and cute, my curves are so beautiful and that my skin tone is still a pain in the butt. I am learning about my heritage and what it really means to be Dominican. I am learning how to present myself to people who aren’t going to like me solely because I was born the way I am. A good friend told me though, “You do not exist in this world to validate other people.” And I don’t.

I exist in this world to be me. To unapologetically live my life and be my true self while doing it. I will not compromise who I am or what I believe for someone else. I am who I am, take it or leave it. I’m embracing my curls and my curves, you have to too.

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