Monday, March 01, 2010
It's Just Hair
This picture was taken of me years ago at a Halloween party. The flash, the fact that the picture was scanned (not digital) plus major Halloween make-up makes me look pale and vampy. But there's another big difference between my current look at the way I look in that picture. It's my hair. It was natural.
Most people know I'm mixed so many of them assume that my currently loose curls are due to my white mother. Those people clearly haven't met my white mother or seen her rather impress Jewfro. Without product my fair-skinned, hazel eyed mother could compete with any hairstyle Macy Gray has ever come up with. And of course my father was black and had hair typical of his ancestry. So there was very little chance that I was going to have anything but tightly curled hair. A couple of hairstylists have told me that I have "good hair," which is a term used within the black community to describe hair that isn't "nappy." I'm not sure what they're talking about. Like my mother, I can make my curls more defined and rid myself of frizz with the right products but so can pretty much everybody regardless of their race. And like so many other woman with tightly curled hair I wanted to...well, straighten things out. Over the last several years I've been doing that with a relaxer.
But it's time to move on. I want natural, healthy curly hair. I've been growing out the relaxer for a little over three months now and it's time to start cutting off the straight ends.
When I tell women that I'm doing this, particularly black women, the first words that come out of their mouths are almost always "You're so brave!" I have heard those words 18 times in the last three weeks.
I'm getting a haircut. Not going to war. Yet I get what they're talking about. Cutting your hair takes an enormous amount of guts. And in the black community, wearing your hair natural at all is nothing short of a heroic (or for others, disastrous) feat. I can tell by the their tone of voice and the look in their eyes that many of these women would NEVER dare to do such a thing. To quote Tracie Thoms "To keep my hair the same texture as it grows out of my head is looked at as revolutionary -- why is that?"
I have a few ideas as to why that is. Some of it has to do with the fashion industry, some of it has to do with our preconceived perceptions of beauty, some of it has to do with insecurities, some of it has to do with the fact that as humans we always think the grass is greener on the other side. And yes, some of it has to do with racial issues. But I've found that those who have the hardest time wrapping their minds around the idea of a black woman wearing their hair natural are black women. Women of other nationalities rarely see the problem.
Personally I've done just about everything to my hair at one point or another. I've worn it natural, I've worn it incredibly short, I've worn weaves, I've had it relaxed...in other words I've mixed it up. I'm not really sure why it's a little more disconcerting to change course again this time around. Perhaps because I'm not in my 20s anymore. Your 20s are supposed to be about experimentation so why not extend that concept to your hair? Perhaps it's because right now my hair is the longest it's ever been without a weave. It took me YEARS to get it to this length and so cutting it short and starting from scratch again seems a bit more monumental. Maybe it's because people keep telling me how brave I'm being and they're beginning to freak me out!
But my longish hair isn't very healthy right now. That's partially due to stress and partially due to anemia which I was only recently diagnosed with. Stress is temporary and anemia is fixable but in the meantime I have take a deep breath and cut my loses (literally and figuratively) and work with what God gave me.
But no matter how you look at it, cutting my hair and keeping it the same texture as it grows out of my head isn't revolutionary and it shouldn't require a heroic amount of courage. I'm not making a political statement and I'm not getting plastic surgery.
It's just hair.
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