For most of my life, I’ve wanted my hair to be different than what it is. When I was a little girl, my mom styled my hair in two “pom poms,” and then two plaits as my hair grew. Here I am in all my little girl cuteness (bottom right) with my older brother (top left) and two cousins:
But it didn’t take long for me to want straight hair like the little white girls at my prep school. And it didn’t matter how many times my mom said, “Why would you want hair like that? It’s like a horse’s mane!” I still wanted it. I felt so special getting the rare press and curl. My mom finally let me get a relaxer when I was a teenager; and while I knew my hair still wasn’t exactly like theirs, at least it was closer.
Next came the rise in popularity of curly biracial hair. Then I wanted curls like theirs. (Since there seems to be confusion about this, I’m not biracial. Both of my parents are black.) Yes, I was one of the misguided people who got a curly perm back in the day but refused to load it down with products; so it never looked quite right.
I tried to go natural for a second when I was in my 30’s but just couldn’t figure out how to deal with my hair. So I went back to the creamy crack. Then I grew out the relaxer and let a stylist flat iron my hair thinking that would give me the flexibility to wear my hair natural if I wanted to. Here’s a photo of how my hair has looked for most of my life:
In my mid-40’s I decided to move to Seattle and didn’t think it would be wise to try to keep my hair straight in this drizzly climate. I decided to go natural again but figured I’d need to cut off some of my hair, knowing it might be heat-damaged. Lo and behold, I had to cut most of it off because almost all of it was heat-damaged. But that was the beginning of me learning to appreciate my natural texture.
It’s a shame that a lot of us—black women—feel this way, that we have to do something to our hair, that we have to change our texture, in order to like it, in order for it to be acceptable. But what would you expect when you’re inundated with images that don’t look like you from your earliest age? And why do I feel that no matter what I do with my hair, I’m being judged by everyone, including other black folks? I read this article that made me realize why: black women’s hair is politicized.
I want to learn to appreciate my hair in all of its glory. Only 6 days to go to me being Sisterlocked!