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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Hair Story

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…And I’m feeling good!—Nina Simone

Twas much shorter but blogger lost the original picture :-(

Last month I cut most of my hair off. Okay let me back up and give you the full story before you think Imustajuslostmamind! My hair journey has been an interesting one. July of last year my hair stylist and I had a falling out. She was an excellent stylist, but her personality was less than palatable. Now I should tell you that I was one of those sistahs with a chemical dependency. Every 6 to 8 weeks without delay I got a relaxer touch up. I brought the lie that my natural hair was ugly and only European-straight hair was attractive. I subscribed to this maladaptive thinking for almost 19 years!! I still struggle with it! Yes, I have been a slave to chemicals for 19 years.

Anyway, because of zillions of bad hair experiences (I could write a separate blog on those alone), I am very very sensitive about who does my hair. So for months I was without a stylist. Then another thing happened. I got BROKE. I was spending 45 to 80 dollars a week to keep my hair looking good and then one fateful day my wallet just couldn’t take the strain anymore. Over the weeks of not going to a stylist my own wonderfully nappy hair began to grow. A sudden curiosity sparked inside of me: What if I stopped perming my hair? This definitive moment was contrary to everything I had been taught! (I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in a family that was color struck.) So, I started reading and empowering myself about my African-textured hair. I started really considering and appreciating African hairstyles.

In all honesty, I ALWAYS hated the process of getting a perm. No matter who applied the perm, my scalp always ended up burning. Not to mention, the over processing of the hair had led to shedding—A LOT of shedding. I knew that the only way I was going to have a head full of healthy hair was to give up my chemical dependency. I started off wearing hairpieces and then wigs. Many of my family members and those in my social network (who suffer from the horrible affliction of colorism) thought I was just going through a phase or that I had temporarily misplaced my sanity. Still the months went by and my perm slowly began to break off.

At around November, I met a new stylist who has a lot of experience with styling and treating natural hair. A few weeks later, I let her trim some of the perm off. Last month, as I promised myself, I had my cosmetologist cut the remaining perm off of my head. I remember sitting in that chair so uncertain as pieces of my beloved perm fell to the floor. Will I have any hair left, I thought. Maybe I should just perm it again said my inner brainwashed Eurocentrist. But deep inside I have always like the feel and texture of my own hair. I like to coil and uncoil the little curls and twist them around my finger. I actually felt a little sad when I would get a perm and had no more curls to play with. An interesting thing happened when my stylist handed me a mirror and I look at myself—my real self without that poison in my hair. Instead of feeling insecure, I felt liberated. I felt me. For one of the first times ever I looked at my hair and LOVED it. I have a full head of kinky curly naps and I LOVE them. But another question hit the back of my brain…

How would everyone else react?

I came home with natural twist a few weeks ago and to my surprise most of my family liked it. I mean I got the occasional “Look at all that Nappy hair!* I ignore it. I think we have all been miseducated to some extent, but I don’t always feel like being the one who elucidates the misconceptions. The truth is that some people WANT to remain miseducated. In those cases, I must respectfully agree to disagree.

I went to church that same Sabbath and a sistah with beautiful natural hair came up to me and took my hands. “You look so pretty.” She beamed. She looked at me intently, in away that said “I know being natural isn’t easy and not everyone will like it, but this is who you are!” “Not to say you weren’t pretty before, but I just love you hair now.” She said. I gave that sistah I nice tight hug. Her words, carefully chosen, were affirming. They said I accept you at a point where I was feeling insecure about my short little twists.

My biggest problem with my hair thus far has been the length. I’ve had shoulder length hair most of my life, so it was a real transition getting used to it being so short. But, because my hair is completely healthy it is growing rapidly.

It took me darn near 23 years to figure out that my hair IS beautiful, contrary to what we have been programmed to think. So like Nina Simone, it’s a new day for me and my hair… and I’m feeling GOOD!

*When I use the word nappy, I don’t mean it in a pejorative way. Unfortunately, many people, black and white, use it as an insult. These are the one’s who were socialized to believe that Black hair is inferior to white and other textures of hair and who, despite the facts, refuse to become enlighten.


Angela said...

You're hair is beautiful. Don't change.

Crystal Clear said...

Thank you angela, I don't intend to change it either.