I decided this year to grow my hair out of the relaxer. It was a combination of experiencing severe breakage from the hair in the back plus observing my sister’s hair growth albeit as it lay protected under an expensive weave. Plus, I was tired of the fear and anxiety that would accompany me when I went to get my roots touched up at a salon. Would this salon trip leave me bald and in pain? I’m sure many other women with tightly coiled hair have experienced this sentiment. So I chopped it off and hid the kinky roots under an expensive weave myself.
But my desire for going natural took on an evening deeper meaning when I came across an article by a woman describing combing the Afro-textured hair of her daughters. In the article she described the despair her daughter felt when she came to the realization that her hair would never be as long or as flowy as the white model on television. The author goes onto state that of all ethnicities in the world, those us of African descent were the only ones with this type of hair. It seemed almost like a death sentence; a childhood dream bursting and giving way to an unpretty reality. I could relate. As a young child I always believed that my hair would eventually evolve into the relaxed and straightened strands that sat on top my mother’s head. I remember my sister’s obsession with wearing elastic-waisted skirts on top of her head to achieve that long-haired flowy look that most little black girls were denied.
And then came the unanswerable refrain: Why? Why are we so different? Followed by the usual self-pity that accompanies not living up to a beauty ideal that has dominated Western culture.
But then I started to think about how I would raise my own daughters (If I ever have
children). Would they, like that little girl in the article, burst into tears because their hair was coily and not straight? Would I join the reverberating chorus, “Don’t relax your hair “but fail to teach them how to manage and care for their hair because I did not know how? Would they believe the myth that Afro-textured hair is “bad hair” that our hair “ca’ grow long”? I wanted if I ever had girl children to pass on a beauty ethic that was denied my mother. One that would be devoid of pulling and tugging and complaints about how thick and tangling the hair is; one filled with words of beauty and praise.
How? When I still believed that my hair was coarse and unmanageable?