Monday, June 23, 2008

in the 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.)

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.

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