Monday, June 23, 2008

in the beginning...pt. 3

In Dec. 2007, I had synthetic hair added to my head for the last time. I went to Nairobi, Kenya and was determined to have my hair braided while I was there. I opted to get microtwists and let a local woman pick out the hair for me. She chose wavy dark brown hair with red ends, which gave me a cute and curly, shoulder-length style. (I was nervous at first about the kool-aid red hair - I don't do red - but the result was beautiful!) I loved my hair, but I was also conflicted. My Kenyan friend smiled wide as she told me that wearing my hair that way showed that I had status. The thought floored me...Twisted up with curly straight hair, somehow my hair was transformed from being nappy to a symbol of wealth and upward mobility....are we Black Americans so different from our Kenyan counterparts?



The words of my Kenyan friend really struck me, and I began to think deeply about why so many Black women worldwide have the hardest time loving and appreciating and wanting their own hair. I myself struggled with my own kinky hair. I was never directly told that my hair was a horrid thing to be hated, but the silent sentiment was evident as my mother, my aunts, my sister, my friends, and every other Black woman around me was permed up, fried, dyed, and laid to the side. new growth was a big no-no, and the straighter one could get their hair, the better. (sisters who had gone natural have generally been looked at as the exception to the rule, as neo-soul sistas down for the struggle, but definitely not mainstream. salami and ham.)

video

as much as i've always hated the "good hair, bad hair" debate of School Daze, i realized just how deeply ingrained that struggle is within us. Within me. I had to make a change.



In March 2008, after spending almost a week to take down the microtwists that only took 4-5 hours to put in, I decided that I would only wear my own hair...well, sort of. i still had an emergency wig reserved for bad hair days, but I took pride in wearing my hair 'fro-ed out in its nappy glory. A few times I used a flat iron, but it reminded me too much of my hot comb, curling iron horror days and i mostly opted for my blow out.














in the beginning...pt. 2


In 2005, I decided to stop the madness (or so i thought). For 2 years, I refused to my perm my hair and switched exclusively to braids, twists, and wigs....using mostly synthetic hair. I thought I had found freedom then, being able to wake up and go and not having to comb my own hair. I even enjoyed playing around with different colors, textures, and styles of quick weaves and interlocked braids....

I was content for a time with my extensions (for the longest, people didn't even know how long my real hair was!), but as my own natural texture grew out, I was filled with mixed emotions. I was happy that my own hair was growing like weeds, but I was also fed up with buying and putting in fake hair. I was weary of the hours and hours it took to do microbraids and other styles. I was scared of "the big chop," and even more fearful of maintaining my hair in its awkward, in-between stage of growth. it was too short to be long, too long to be short with my "revolution-will-not-be-televised" 'fro quickly emerging from beneath the surface of straight, over-processed ends....


By June 2007, my defiant hair had made a true comeback and i have several inches of new growth under my old perm. Blind-sighted by its shear boldness, I didn't know what to do with my hair. I always admired women who could rock the TWA, but knew in my heart that my forehead was wayyyy to big for that. others suggested i try a "shake-n-go," but my texture was not trying to shake and go anywhere anytime soon. I liked the option of changing my hairstyle on a whim, and traditional locks seemed too permanent, too much of a commitment...in the distance, the creamy crack was calling me - and I almost gave into its promises of straight, manageable hair - but i held fast. in the meantime, i continued on with my braids and wigs...

in the beginning...

...there was nappy hair....

...coarse, dense, tightly coiled, springy, rebellious, unruly nappy hair....

...countless hours of sitting between my mother's knees while she fought to tame my thick, spongy mane....fire-hot pressing combs from the stove that burned my forehead and ears when i jumped from the heat and wouldn't sit still....the smell of singed hair and smoke swirled in the air....freshly done wave nouveau curls that made me think i was isht (remember the not-so-wet, drip-drip cousin of the carefree curl? PLEASE forgive me - it was the '80s)....my first perm....and chemical burns from scratching....creamy crack touch ups every 4-6 weeks mixed in with occasional individual braid extensions and corn rows....being tortured and held hostage at the beauty shop all day while the stylist tended to 4 other heads in addition to my own....do-it-yourself crotched and interlocked styles.....more dark n' lovely fire cream home applications....glued-in pieces....sewn-in weaves....pinned-in wigs....and other unnatural wonders....

i've been in a love-hate relationship with my hair for a very long time....