Saturday, July 17, 2010
My Hair Story....
I was one of those people that were born with a FULL head of hair… It seems like from the very beginning that I was destined to have a life full of hair stories…I am finally beginning to realize that my hair is actually a vehicle for my strength and wisdom today.
My journey begins with the legendary straighten comb and tiny braids and cornrows with beads on the ends… These were my mother’s saving graces…
They seemed to be the only thing to make my hair manageable – or maintained and presentable for a period of time…
BUT… not only did I have a full head of hair – I was tender headed…
I am sure that this was not a place that any mother would want to see their daughter. It was horrible.
No matter what she did – I was either:
- Crying from her futile attempts at combing through my hair.
- Crying from even the thought of the hot comb anywhere near my scalp…
- Crying from the tightness of the braids – I mean, they needed to last as long as possible, right?
She couldn’t take it anymore and eventually I got a Perm.
Needless to say, this brought great friction to the family – especially since I was forever reminded that I should have had hair down my back “by now” (Just like my cousins) – had my mother not given me a perm at such a young age.
- Is her hair falling out?
- Is it breaking off?
At that point those talking points were almost irrelevant because:
- There was no more crying.
During my Elementary school days, I would rock (4) ponytail braids, (1) ponytail in the back – or if my mother was adventurous – I would even have curls from the curling iron.
- Hum… is my hair getting shorter?
Every time I went to the salon to get a “trim” I would go home crying because I felt like what little length of hair I had was just chopped off… I just saw my hair getting shorter and shorter.
In my head… the pretty girls had the long hair…
- AND My hair was no where near being long.
I just felt this in my heart – despite how talented or smart I was… it didn’t matter. I was inferior because of my mane.
But just think about it – how many products are out there promising to be the “miracle” product that will guarantee your hair to grow? And you go out there and buy every single one of them – with the hopes that “This will be the one!”
Hilarious – Clearly all of that faith and energy should have been directed somewhere else.
Now what happened to me in Middle School…..is something that I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy.
((kids can be so cruel))
My mother and my hairdresser came up with this “solution” to my hair breakage problems…
Basically, THEY decided to cut damn near all of my hair off – not to go natural, but to prepare my hair for an alternative chemical process… “The Wave”.
((I think I cried damn near every day after school – just trying to wrap my brain around the ridicule, jokes, and cerebral torture))
It was horrible on so many levels.
- Boys put spitballs in my hair.
- They started to call me “Hairy” – Because NOW I had “Too Much” hair… (wth?)
- It was greasy – and always moist…. That did not help in gym class on the mats.
- I didn’t look like the other girls with straight hair…And at this point it wasn’t even about the length of hair – just was long as it wasn’t the “soul glow”…. So great – now even the girls with no hair whatsoever were able to pick on me.
I was just an easy target.
So I spent years trying to hide my hair (not really possible since it was BIG and growing like crazy – go figure….)… I used all kinds of headbands, ponytails, hats (not in school) – whatever I could find to hide behind.
One day my hairdresser told me that I could actually have that “straight & dry look” if we blow dried it – every once in a while.
Ok – yeah…every once in a while… (I can do that!)
UNTIL – I went to school that first day with my long straight hair - blowing in the wind…
I got so many compliments on my hair it was ridiculous. WTF – go back to “The Wave??!?
And I didn’t. BUT all good things must come to an end – and apparently she was serious about “every once in a while” thing and before I knew it…..
My hair was breaking off and falling out again.
By the time I reached Senior Year in High School I had a perm again – and we were BEST FRIENDS…
- Even though “she” always kept me from running around in gym – or working too hard during cheer leading – since I might “sweat it out”
- Even though “she” always kept me from taking a leisurely stroll in the rain.
- Even though “she” kept me out of pools in the summer.
- Even though “she” kept me out of the ocean down the shore.
- Even though she turned me against the humidity, wind and snow…
WE were BEST FRIENDS… A dysfunctional relationship – but a relationship that every single one of my friends could relate to – so that alone made it OK.
I went to college in a new city.
A new state.
This was my new beginning… None of these people knew me from a can of paint – or have EVER said mean things to me… This was MY time.
I didn’t even know where to start looking for a hair salon… From my first impressions it seemed that everyone either had a weave or wore a wig…Was I really going to be able to find a salon that was dedicated to hair health, growth and maintenance? I didn’t even try – so I ended up just going back to my salon at home for my (5) years in college.
Doing my hair became an everyday challenge. I didn’t have a clue what to do with it.
Side Note: My college experience may have been a little different than most… I majored in Architecture so our studio classes became more of a way of life – rather than just a class…
We spent the nights there – and only really went back home or to the dorm to take a shower. We cooked there. We bonded there. We LIVED there.
Basically, all I could do to “keep it moving” was to wrap it up in a piece of fabric, try to negotiate a ponytail or two, get flat twists – or hide it under a baseball cap.
The flat twists were cool – until they started to itch like a mo-fo.
My first experience with braids was traumatic.
I was headed off to Rome to spend a semester abroad…Exciting – Yes.
But what the Hell was I going to do with my hair??
I knew that I needed something easy…something that I could be in harmony with nature…Something that I could live stress-free.
I searched the directories, and finally found a local salon – that I felt comfortable with. Well, not only was my butt hurting from sitting all day – my FACE hurt. I swear that she braided my hair so tight that they gave me an instant face lift.
I think that I kept them in for only about a month and a half before I took them out - in Italy… OMG - they were so tight that they were literally pulling my hair out of my scalp. It was horrible.
So now I am left in Italy with just me and my crappy perm (the last place I wanted to be…) AND…
…no comb. (yeah, I had to go and buy one of those)
…no products (didn’t think I would need them - and they damn sure didn’t sell the pink lotion over there)
…no blow dryer - NOTHING.
I started to experiment with twisting it into Bantu Knots and taking it out…. Then I found a fabric store and I bought some fabric to twist on my head into hair wraps… I mean if it wasn’t going to “behave” I might as well cover it up, right??
It wasn’t until 4 years later (after I met my husband) that I knew it was time to set myself free… He wears his hair a little longer than most men - but does NOT have dreads. He wears it out and it looks awesome…. So of course I was jealous of his easy maintenance “do”… (haha)
PLUS he loves to drive down the highway with ALL of the windows down - and unless I had braids, twists, or a head scarf on - usually I wanted no parts of it…
I was tired of arguing so it was obviously time for a change.
The transitioning stage was quite interesting…
- Braids: Yes - I explored the braided option again - but this time I had them done by my friend back home and I knew she cared enough about me not to rip my scalp out.
- Two Strand Kinky Twists: Looked awesome and were great - if and when I actually found someone to do them at an affordable price… I still don’t understand that. Is it the hair maybe?? In my opinion they seem to start out the same way - and it looks EASIER to twist rather than to braid…
- I started to twist my hair myself with various products - even though I was about half perm and half virgin hair…Anything just so that the two textures would look uniform… typically I just put a head band on it and called it a day.
- After about a year or so, I finally cut all of the perm off….soo… that was it, right??? I was officially FREE!!!!!!!
Or was I?
I used to depend on those awful head scarves to deem myself “acceptable” in society… If it was going to be a bad hair day - which was everyday - I just covered it up and hid it. I had one to match every outfit - so why not?
They were always too tight…
And started to pull my hair out around the edges…
They also gave me headaches…
Which altered my mood…
AND not to mention they were hot as all hell.
BUT NOW………AFTER I SO-CALLED SET MYSELF FREE…….
I found myself hiding behind these stupid (tight) headbands - over my new little natural do. For some reason - I felt like this little piece of whatever was making me “acceptable” in society…It got so bad that one day I couldn’t find my bra strap headband and I even humored using a shoe string… WTH?
Ugh… all for the sake of making MYSELF feel better about my new appearance - that I just worked so hard to attain.
I have been wearing it out naturally kinky for few years now. I get it straightened every now and then when I go to a salon and get trim.
Ironically it seems to rain each and every time I get it done!!
So what does that last?? Like 2 hours at the MOST?!
- Which in retrospect is totally fine because when it gets straightened, I NEVER seem to feel like myself and I am always subconsciously praying that it goes back to its natural kinky state.
Interestingly enough - after a lot of kicking and screaming from me, I actually agreed to have my hair straightened for my wedding.
In my head one of two things were going to happen:
1. It would be a false representation of who I am - at my wedding.
2. It would be a complete disaster if it rained.
My grandmother wanted it straight.
My mother wanted it straight.
My husband wanted it straight.
- For some reason “in their head” it would look ELEGANT. Ok - so what? Natural hair isn’t elegant??
Ugh - I was tired of arguing…
Needless to say it came out beautiful!! My hair stylist “put her foot in it” and it was bullet & water proof!
Seriously - I was going for the outdoor wedding and it ended up being 40 degrees and rainy for the entire day.
Then I just spent some time 2-strand twisting it - with the hopes that it would last for 2 weeks without locking up on me.
The last couple of days in Jamaica I just HAD to take them out and roam freely with my afro. EXTREMELY liberating I assure you!
(So what?! My straw hat didn’t fit on my head anymore (haha))
A lot of people stare…just trying to figure out if it’s a wig or not… Pure flattery.
I am an architect and always within professional and corporate environments - with my hair. (And and eyebrow ring for that matter..)
If I can offer up any piece of wisdom throughout my journey, it is to be true to yourself and listen within.
You are the only person that is going to know what is best fro you - not others. It’s such a shame that perceptions and opinions, have always been able to keep people from being their true selves - just for the sake of sticking with the “in-crowd” or “staying true” to the mold. There are no rules and if there were - they were meant to be broken.
Going natural was the first step to freeing myself from the mainstream mold and all of the associated stress that plagued me.
Sometimes when I walk down the street in the rain - I don’t even use an umbrella. What for? It’s probably shriveled up from the humidity anyway.
(Oh - and that’s usually when I need to give my co-workers a lesson in African American hair and explain to them - no…. I did no get a haircut.)
I must say - I am enjoying this journey of hair and self discovery and I wouldn’t take any of it back…Every step I took, every joke ,ridicule, missed opportunity or tear I shed only made me a stronger person…
Now I just need to work on having more hair styles that do not require a headband.