I am not my hair.

I went natural because I was curious to see what my hair looked like without heat, perm-creamy crack, basically with no manipulation whatsoever: left to it’s own devices. I had spent my teens with short hair as required by boarding school and once out for the summer, we could not wait to get the creamy crack on the nubs we had managed to sneak past the leading class. We had no regard for our natural hair as very few of us left our hair untouched during the summer and once we were done with school, it was extensions and more creamy crack for pretty much of our lives. I remember one of my aunt’s from my childhood standing out so much because she kept her hair short and natural. My natural hair was a mystery to me. for most of my life and eventhough I remember being told in boarding school that I had curly hair, I never paid it any mind: we were in boarding school, I had to cut my hair, so what was I supposed to do with short curly hair? A few years back, I moved, had to cut back on spending and bi-monthly hair appointments had to go. Around this time, I realised that everytime I ran my fingers through my hair, it felt soft and wavy. I became intrigued by this texture and decided I wanted to see more of it. And so whenever I got the opportunity to get my hair done, I would pass it up in favour of new growth. Pretty soon I was so enaomoured by the new growth that I decided I was not going to straighten my hair again. As my hair grew, I was amazed at the qualities of my virgin hair. It was so soft and curly. Pretty soon I started getting tons of compliments and here is where the phrase “good hair” began surfacing. I remember hearing people say I had good hair after it had just been done but I assumed that everyone’s hair had to look good just out of the chair. I had had people question the authenticity of my hair and even ask to run their fingers through my hair to check for tracks. Now I had people asking if I had had a straw set or a jheri curl. As if! This is 2011!! All these comments had me examining my hair closely. Before then, I assumed my hair was pretty run of the mill. Had I missed something? Upon seeing a picture I had taken of the top of my hair, a friend nicknamed me “sea sick” because of all the waves in my hair she said. About 3 weeks ago, I got my hair straightened for a length check. Most of my co-workers had never seen my hair straight as I do this about once a year. I was absolutely amazed at the length but not so much the texture. The reactions I got when I walked into work the first day were priceless. Much like your first hit of an illicit drug; never to be replicated. Most people were amazed at how long it looked straight but the most confusing and shocking reaction came mostly from males who seemed to think I looked better with straight hair. I even had an older guy ask me why I was hiding such beautiful grade of hair and did I not know that my “good” hair was my crowning jewel.

Which brings me to the “good” hair debate. As mentioned before, with short hair in boarding school no one really placed any importance on texture or grade or hair; we all had short hair. But once I was out and my hair started growing out, I would hear the phrase “good” hair every now and then. I believe that this is just another way for people of colour to create superiority complexes among people with different hair textures. This is the hair I have had all my life and I have never for one second thought that  my hair was better than anyone elses’. In college, I once heard a guy say he was lucky he did not have n@#$er-negro hair and I was surprised at how offended I felt.  I have always felt that the colonial white man created shadeism among people of African descent and it’s effects have lasted hundreds of years after it was instituted. I am a little skeptical about this hair issue. I am believe it is a concept perpetrated within our community by our community. We tell little girls they have good hair because it has loose curls and grows long and ignore the impact such a statement might have on the little girl whose curls are tighter and whose hair may not grow as long. I may change my mind someday but as of now, I am very much anti-perm. While some people applaud it’s ability to make hair more manageable, I think it prevents us from loving not just out hair but ourselves. It also creates uniformity  so that we find it almost impossible to embrace the beautiful differences that exist our heads.  I am nothing but a minnow in the vast ocean of life, but every time I go into the world and someone asks me if I have a straw set or if I am wearing a weave or wig, I smile and say – you too can have beautiful hair like this if you would just put down the creamy crack!!

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2 thoughts on “I am not my hair.

  1. Pingback: natural me… « Haight68Ashbury

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