Content warning: depression
For a long time, I didn’t quite understand the term “natural.”
See, I knew that curls grew from my scalp naturally and I also understood that I could see my curls intertwine and loc beautifully — if I ever stop tryna cop Britney’s ’07 hairdo every time I have a breakdown.
But what I didn’t get was how we could name our curls — something so deeply personal and meaningful — “natural,” as if to make them sound normal, plain, ordinary.
See, I don’t want my curls to be something you can stomach, another ethnic dish for white eyes and mouths to consume.
My curls are something your combs cannot tame, your brushes cannot beat back, your razors cannot cut down.
My curls are twisted and kinky and they like to play rough.
Relaxers hide their faces in shame when they see my curls, gettin’ clowned on in their workplaces for lack of game, their own failure to play aces, ultimately to blame for their inability to run bases and tame my militant curls.
Relaxers are like men to me, capitalizing on my curls’ labor and my curls’ abuse, suitors that preach and preen over how faithful they’ll be, only to treat our “unruliness” as a liability. They invite my curls in with promises of beauty and a future, but leave them desolate and lifeless after extracting every ounce of magic and joy from their being. Slinking down the drain, they take my curls’ hopes and dreams and parts of themselves with them.
White cream slathered on black curls, like white men slobbering over black girls, suffocating us with their emotional unavailability, then leaving us a little more broken than we were found, even though it’s been years since we were chained and bound to Eurocentricity’s straight and narrow Middle Passage.
Postcolonial as in post relaxer as in post heart break post break up postmodernism, this is a poem posted like a notice on every door and Facebook wall saying that I’m better off without them. And so are my curls.
My beauty is achieved, not defaulted. My strength is earned, but not exalted unless it can be used to turn a profit.
My pretty smells of hard work and healthy routines learned from unhealthy habits and a history of hurt. My curls shine with a radiance not natural nor innate but learned from every trial that turned out to be a mistake. She must learn to love themself, because others don’t care to take the time to learn how to love me.
My curls have got it on loc coz when I unlocked my heart for you, instead of with it you ran away with the key and so now only rage spills out, with no kiss to fix it or stop it up.
With each beat of my thoroughly disappointed heart, the rage rushes to my ears, breaking every part of myself I I thought I curated like fine art. As I crumble into sadness, the blood pounds with the barking madness of hell hounds bounding after their-query for you: “did it feel good to waste my time?” Before the answer can be found, my innocence dies like the Virgin Hairy, killed by sounds in my head of “you’re undesirable,” and “you’ll never marry,” and I am left limp and wet and barely recognizable.
Solange wrote a catchy song about it, so y’all get it already, right?
But you don’t. Coz my curls are not just the feelings I wear, but the product of the pain I bear and the parts of myself I refuse to share and the things that I talk about in prayer.
I am not natural. Neither are my curls. We are more than you could ever hope to call natural — after all, what is natural about a body ravaged by the politics of this world? A vessel desecrated by desirability, invaded by white supremacy?
See, love is a battlefield and my body is the site of war. Y’all come into my life, fuck shit up, then call me whore so now I can’t sleep. I can’t rest or lay down and neither can my curls, and girls, that’s how we all got our razor-sharp edges-from pain so intense, we can’t even weep. That’s why I shave my head like I’m shearing a goddamn sheep, so if you want my curls, know that the price is steep. Don’t hurt me so deep that I can’t keep myself together.
If you can avoid that and ease my bleeding heart, help me heal from the times I fell apart, then and only then do you deserve to look at my curls.