When I was younger I would hear people say ” I wish I had good hair.” I asked my mother what they meant and she told me that some people believed that “good hair” was hair that was straight. She told me my hair was beautiful and not to listen to that nonsense. Some people thought that if you were multi-racial you automatically had “good hair”. The opposite of good hair was kinky, curly, nappy hair, natural hair. Well, that is what I had. I loved my hair as a child. It wasn’t until I was older that I admit I wanted “good hair”.
My mother was a pro at combing my hair. She would have the straightest parts, cute barrettes and the perfect braided pigtails. On special occasions my mom would straighten my hair. This was for Easter, weddings, and school pictures. She would always do my hair in the kitchen. It was a long process and because I was “tender headed” it took her longer with my hair. I would cry, and not sit still. Sometimes I would cry before she even touched my hair. I loved getting my hair straightened but it was stressful. My mom would put a straightening comb on the hot stove to heat it up. She would test the comb on a white piece of paper towel. We knew the comb was hot enough when smoke was coming off of it and when she wiped it on the paper towel it would leave a black mark. Crazy right? She would take sections of my hair and pull the straightening comb through my hair. My puffy afro was being transformed into straight hair, “good hair”. From start to finish I think it was a two and a half hour process. The worst part was when she had to straighten my hair behind my ears. I would have to hold my ear down and remain very still. If I flinched I would get burned. It happened once and never again.
Growing up my friends all had long blond hair. I thought it was pretty but I never wanted it. I admit I did wish I could swim and my hair not return to an afro. But I loved my hair. As I grew older I remember getting a relaxer. A relaxer to a black woman was golden. This would allow my hair to remain straight for two months and then I would go back again for another “touch up” relaxer. After college I continued with the relaxer but heard how the chemicals were damaging my hair. Going natural was the new thing, embracing our natural, ethnic hair was the way to go.
I can remember when my hair, that was once so thick and long began to fall out. I think it was due to stress and worry. My stylist said it was time to cut it all off and start over. I was so delirious at the time from my marriage, working and autism that I said sure go for it. After she cut it all off , I felt terrible. When I looked in the mirror I was in total shock. This was going to take some getting used to. I wore my short natural hair for a while. People loved it. It was low maintenance but I missed my hair.
I decided to get my hair braided. The braids would last for at least three months and I could create different styles. African women are known for their braiding expertise. I would have three women braiding my hair in the tiniest braids, speaking in their native tongue for ten hours to get the style I desired. Every time I would leave their salon, I would say I am never doing that again. But three months later I was back for more torture, just to have a low maintenance hairstyle. When they were finished my head would be pounding, but I was home free for the next three months. I wore the braids for three years.
When I moved to Delaware I started wearing weaves and wigs because it was easier. This was out of my comfort zone because I always thought the wig would come off or that I would have to answer twenty questions about my hair. I didn’t have the time or the patience to flat-iron and style my hair every morning and get the children ready for school. Now you might be thinking that what is the big deal about black women and their hair. Our hair is our crown and glory. No matter how down you feel, when you have a trip to salon, you walk out feeling like a new woman ready to take on the world.
I came to a point in my life when I released the shackles off of many things in my life and my hair was one of them. I was ready to rock my natural curls. And I did just that. I felt free, and beautiful. I wasn’t really good at all of the styling techniques for natural hair. So I would watch YouTube videos. In March, I had the pleasure of meeting illustrator E. B. Lewis. He signed a copy of his book I Love My Hair for Sydney. After reading that book I had such a respect for the many ways that little black girls could wear their hair. I wanted Sydney to embrace her curls, afro puffs or her straightened hair.
My message to the young girls is to embrace your locs, braids, long hair or short hair be proud of your hair. Your hair doesn’t have to be straight to make you beautiful. Wear your hair in a style that represents you. It might be wearing extensions, wearing it natural or getting a relaxer. Just do you! Before I wrap up this blog. I want to leave you with some humor. These are three things that you should never ask a black woman about her hair.
- Never ask a black woman if you can touch her hair as you are running your hands through it. I am not sure why that is such a sensitive topic. The only people who I want running their fingers through my hair are my stylist and my man!
- Never ask a black woman is that all of your hair or a weave. The answer will always be yes because we paid for the hair!
- Never ask a black woman what will happen if her hair gets wet. My coworkers laugh at me but I tell them all the time. I can’t get my hair wet because I’m like brown sugar and I will melt, plus it will take too long for me redo my hair when I get home and I don’t have time for that.
Remember wear the look that represents you best!