Day 18: I am not my hair…

Good Evening beautiful friends,

I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within

-India Arie

I warn you tonight’s post is long, as this has been an intense process, but I hope you read and enjoy it.

As a little girl, I had kinky curly hair, and quite honestly I don’t remember a ton about my hair BEFORE my first relaxer, but I do remember it tangled easily and whenever mom said “it’s time to do your hair” whether it was me, or one of my younger sisters, someone always cried.

I may not remember before the relaxer, however, I will NEVER forget the day I got my first relaxer. For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, relaxers are harsh chemicals applied to curly hair to make it straight. I felt like such an adult; I would now have silky hair like Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks from Fresh Prince) instead of this knotted nappy hair I was born with. My joy was short lived and quickly turned to pain, BURNING pain after about 15 minutes. I had scratched my scalp earlier in the day, and anyone who has ever had a relaxer knows the first rule of relaxer is ‘don’t scratch your scalp or it will BURN’. It felt like someone was holding a flame to my head, but I pretended be fine because I wanted straight hair more than anything. After that, I received numerous compliments on my hair and even my mom mentioned multiple times that my hair was now pretty. The pain was justified! At so young, I was willing to sit for 15 minutes with what felt like fire on my scalp for what? So my hair would be pretty?

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My medium length relaxed hair. The last Christmas I had Straight hair…

My middle sister didn’t get a relaxer until she was much older because her hair is much looser curls than mine and I was always so jealous of her hair. Why did she have to get the pretty curls? I remember one Christmas her hair was down and everyone kept stroking her hair and saying “I wish I had good hair like this”. I saw the hours of work black women put into their hair, be it weaves, braids, relaxers, etc. no one had their natural hair and the few who did received comments like “nappy headed” “lazy” etc. All I wanted was ‘good’ hair. There was no way in HELL I was going to have my nappy hair out for the world to see. If only I’d been born with hair that was pretty.

I should also mention, the media played a big role in my continued hair hatred as well. I’d see celebrities and models and they all had this gorgeous waist length silky hair, since I was a child I didn’t realize this hair was a weave most of the time and photo shopped, but I couldn’t understand why mine didn’t look like this. I did, know, that anytime my hair was straightened and silky looking I received compliments and that had to mean long straight hair was pretty, the curly kinky hair was not.

A few years go, Chris Rock’s movie ‘Good Hair’ came out, and I went to see it. I couldn’t believe just how accurate this movie was. Sure he made jokes, but at the core I was a black girl who straightened her hair because I was ashamed of what it would look like without it. I was reliant on this ‘creamy crack’ and it owned me.  One of the problems with relaxers is that they are similar to hair dyes in that, as your hair grows out, so does the relaxer. This meant every 2 months I had to ‘retouch’ the newly grown hair to keep everything smooth and silky. I don’t remember how old I was when I got my first relaxer, but I was probably 10 years old which means I consistently relaxed my hair every 2-4 months for about 17 years. CRAZINESS!!!

It was around this time that I started to wonder what my ‘real’ hair looked like. I mentioned it to my mom a few times and she always discouraged me from finding out claiming that it would be too much work, no one in my job would take me seriously, what would people think, and this one that stood out to me so much “WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO GO BACK TO YOUR KINKY HAIR WHEN YOU ALREADY HAVE THIS LONG BEAUTIFUL STRAIGHT HAIR?”

And there it is ladies and gentlemen, my mother truly believed that kinky hair was unruly and undesirable compared to it’s straight counterpart, so I also believed that. I am not angry with my mother, nor do I blame her for my issues surrounding my hair, but she’s not perfect either. She had her own ideas and beliefs and passed them on to me, and I just blindly took them to be my own.

It is not easy to walk away from this, and it kept bothering me until I finally made the decision to start all over. The day I finally decided to do it, to cut my hair off I was terrified. My mind was racing…

WHAT IF MY HAIR IS UGLY?

What if Andrew doesn’t like it?

What if people judge me?

I looked in the mirror that morning, said “you can do this” and went for it.  I went to the salon (ironically enough on my mom’s birthday) early in the morning, alone, and asked her to cut off all of my relaxer and leave me with only my ‘new growth’. The ladies in the salon thought I was crazy and even begged me not to ‘ruin my beautiful hair’, again just repeating the same things I’d already been hearing, but I stayed strong. I will never forget the moment it happened.

BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

My hair fell to the floor as she buzzed my head. My eyes filled with tears but I contained it, somehow. I felt free. I walked out of the salon that day feeling very self conscious but free in a weird way I can’t explain. I kept my head down as I walked to the bus and panicked that i’d made a terrible mistake. Hell, i’d just shaved my head at 27. On my 4 minute walk to my bus stop, I was stopped by a lady who told me that I was beautiful, and that my short hair really played up my features.

Holy sh*t, I AM NOT MY HAIR.

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It has taken me a long time to learn how to deal with my curls and to this day, they still do their own thing. My hair is frizzy, it’s curly, it’s kinky, but it’s mine. I do not judge women who choose to wear weaves, braids, or relax their hair, I have worn braids since my hair has been natural and I will straighten it from time to time, the difference is I love my hair for what it is– mine. It doesn’t need to look like everyone else, it just needs to look like me.

I won’t get into the fact that my mom was NOT happy with me when I cut my hair, she was angry that I would part with my gorgeous locks not understanding that I needed to do this for me. She has since come around and loves my curly hair, but I love it, so she pretty much has no choice. I have not meant this post to sound negative towards my mother because she is one of my biggest supporters in life and will ALWAYS stand by me, but in this instance we have different opinions and that’s fine. At the end of the day she wants me to be happy, she was just under the impression that I’d be happier with straight hair. She was wrong.

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I have a niece now, who happens to have curly hair. What she decides to do as an adult is up to her, but I want to ensure she loves herself and understands that her hair is beautiful curly. There is nothing wrong with straight hair, or changing up your hair, but the hair you were born with is never inferior to another type of hair. Love yourself. ALL of yourself.

Ultimately your looks, your hair, your body, none of that matters, what truly matters is the person you are inside. If we spent as much time working on our spirit, our personality, our inner selves as we did the outer I feel the world would be a much more beautiful place.

Namaste friends.

 

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4 thoughts on “Day 18: I am not my hair…

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