The End of the Hair Bucket & Perm Box: Revealing the Real “Dark and Lovely” No Lye-ing.
It’s crazy how I quickly times just flies by.
On July 8, 2013, I wrote a note on Facebook for all to see. No one really read it because, well, no one ever reads notes on Facebook. Still, I wrote about something extremely important to me: my hair. You see, I just so happened to have two African American parents. As you probably would’ve guessed it, my two beautiful African American parents gave birth to a chocolate little girl and named her Aaricka Danielle Washington. I was born with a unique set of phenotypes that make me have obviously darker melanin and thick, curly/coily hair. Historically, society has seen people that were born this way as problem. They see my skin as a threat and my hair as unkempt. It took me almost two decades to unlearn all of the things that society told me about myself in the media, at school, in politics and every where else. For me, getting a perm was something that all black girls did.
I started getting perms by my mom when I was around the age of 12 years old. As every fierce black woman who has ever sat on a soft pillow in between her mother’s legs, right next to a hair bucket full of barrettes and ball-balls knows, perms equals pain. Especially, if you’ve been scratching your scalp that whole past week.
I started to hate getting perms by the time I was 16 years old. I hated the way the perm used to change my hair from curly, coily to bone straight — even though I’ve always had a lot of hair styles to choose from.
I started to not feel like myself.
By the time I started my second semester of junior year of high school, I told my mom that I wanted to wear my hair in an afro to school. It had been a while since I had gotten a perm and I really wanted to try a more natural style. Just letting you know, my mom is one of those mothers who NEVER let me leave out of the house looking like Buckwheat. She ALWAYS made sure my hair was fried, lye’d, and laid to the side. Okay?
“What do you think, mom? I don’t know how what to do with my hair. What will people think?” — I asked her, nervous about what my AP English Literature classmates would think about me, especially the cute guy that sat right across from me.
“You better rock that ‘fro, Angela Davis!!!” — My mom surprisingly replied.
To be completely honest, her response had such a huge impact on me. You see, my mom didn’t grow up hearing positive things about her blackness at all. And up until that point, I heard very little from her.
Her affirmation of my emerging self-love caused a change in my confidence. After that, I walked with my head held high, went to school and proudly wore my glorious crown. I remember receiving so many compliments that day, especially from my white classmates. For the first time in my life, I was proud to be Black. I loved the feeling of rocking my permed hair in an afro. A few months later, I decided to take an even bigger commitment.
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On July 9, 2013, I wrote about my natural hair anniversary. Here is the post:
No offense to Mr. Garrett Morgan, but it’s been exactly four years since I had my very last perm.
Summer 2009. I was about to go visit family in Cali, so I had to look good!
I remember it like it was yesterday.
I sat in between my mothers feet with the “hair bucket” (which was really just a raggedy old white bucket with products, ponytail holders and grease and rubber bands stuck at the bottom) right by my side…just like the childhood experiences of most African American girls.
My mom and I were watching a repeat of Michael Jackson’s funeral…
Stevie Wonder singing…
“I never dreamed you’d leave in summer…”
John Mayer playing a smooth guitar solo of “Human Nature”.
My mom coaxed a large blob of creamy white substance loaded with sodium hydroxide that formed a familiar bond with my mane — the roots to the ends became processed. The Good ol’ American way!
She made sure she got every single portion of hair…
every single strand that was once a brown, was made ivory white
And it burned.
Oh…how I remember it burned. Especially on the edges.
It felt like my head was in the scorching flames. My hair portrayed a metaphoric example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego…forced in a fiery furnace by the all too powerful king of the land…
The feeling of the fire burning is there, but I remained unscathed.
Sadly, my heart suffered third degree burns.
I knew I was born to always be a natural.
When I was a teenager, I used to rely on Tyra Banks for nearly everything that I needed to survive.
A few months later I vowed to myself to never get a perm EVER again after I watched a few Tyra Banks Show episodes where she talked about loving your natural hair and the dangers of permanent/relaxers (she also had Chris Rock on the show talking about his documentary, “Good Hair”).
So, basically Tyra Banks changed my life, dramatically.
Through the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, the rough edges and the kitchens in the back, I’ve learned to love the beautiful, luscious, curly 4b, thick hair that God naturally gave to me.
It’s been a tough journey…but I’m finally where I want to be. I am my hair.