This Is Not An Ode to India Arie, But It Is…
Oh, you thought it was a drought? Nah, I’m back but with all of this change, I’ve been one busy woman. There are a host of topics I could touch on this morning but we’ll start with the most important first: hair.
Now, I can’t start this conversation with the assumption that you all are coming to the table with the same amount of hair knowledge I have so let’s define a few terms first, shall we?
- Perm/Relaxer — Yes, for my sisters who have straight hair, this is the product you all use to make your hair curly but for my sisters with a touch of melanin and kink to their hair, this is the product we use to make our hair straight. I tend to stay away from the term “relaxer” which can also be used in place of this word simply because it’s three syllables instead of one (lazy, I know). If you want to know how powerful the chemicals in a perm are, watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSoiHTRS0lo
- New Growth — This refers to the hair that grows back in between perm treatments. It makes the scalp itch (if you ever see a woman patting her head she’s scratching it, not beating herself) and curly.
- Natural — This is term is used to refer to women who have decided to go without putting any chemical treatments (save for deep conditioning, coloring, etc.) in their hair. More than likely, this woman has a head of curls.
- Big Chop — A haircut in which all of your permed/relaxed hair is cut off and you’re left with only the curly hair.
If you’ve never seen the movie “Good Hair” with Chris Rock, I suggest you take a look (it’s on Netflix I believe) because not only is it entertaining but it also gives you some interesting insight on the important issue of hair within the minority community (SURPRISE! This issue isn’t mutually exclusive to the Black community).
In October 2015 I stopped perming my hair. I’m not quite sure what made me do it but I think it was a mix of being too broke to afford to buy a perm or go to the salon and not wanting to go through the hassle. I did the treatments myself for a while and even though I did a relatively good job — in my humble opinion of course — my blood pressure would rise about 70 points every time I did them. I was so worried that I would never completely wash the product out that I would pray (I’m serious I’d get on my knees) while in the shower asking God to not make me bald . Naturally, (haha!) my hair grew out and I would manage the new growth by straightening my hair and was content with the growth but still unhappy with how it looked. Even though my hair was long, it was DEAD. I mean, my ends were growing about 56 different directions and were crunchy (ew). I remember asking my roommate earlier this year how much hair I should trim given how dead my ends were and she basically told me to start over because you could even see them at the top of my head.
I was conflicted. I was frustrated that my hair wasn’t growing because of my split ends but I most certainly wasn’t going to rock a bob or put product in my hair (it hurts to kneel on porcelain). The only other option I had was to go natural. But, my goodness, I hadn’t seen my hair natural since I was like 10! I remember hating my hair back then because I thought it was so difficult to manage. I had to moisturize it, sit for hours while it was either braided or dreaded (yes, I had dreads and no, you cannot see pictures), and grin and bear it while my mom fought to comb it out. When I turned 13 my mom let me make the decision to perm my hair again and I remember it being so curly that it took the lady TWO treatments before it was completely straight (this hair is thick, big, and curly). After that, I loved how I looked with a perm. I was always complimented and told that I had that “good hair”. My mixed race was personified through my hair because, in the words of one observer, it wasn’t “stick straight, flat, or stagnant when I moved my head” and I was proud. So why would I want to give all of that up by cutting it off and going natural?!
After seeking the advice from others, I made the decision to do the big chop when I moved to Tampa (I put it off like 5 times while in NC). When I walked into the salon, neither my stylist nor my cousin believed that I would do it because it was so long and I had never had my hair this short before in my life. I reassured both of them that I was serious and he proceeded to cut. When he finished and I saw myself in the mirror, I cried…and screamed (my stylist was so scared that he actually put my hand over my mouth lol). Not out of anger or loss but out of sheer joy. The only thing that could come out of my mouth was “OH MY GOD!!!!” (sorry Lord) because it was like looking at a completely different person. In the mirror I saw a woman who was regal, self-assured, confident, and most of all, beautiful.
Yes, I have two different textures in my head and yes, my hair is shorter than normal but I love it. I feel free, not bound by society’s standard of beauty or fetishes that some men have regarding hair. I’m still a mixed race woman with natural hair and can personify my cultures in other ways. My hair is neither good nor bad but mine making it unique and unable to be defined by anyone but me. My beauty is dependent on so much more than my hair and I realized that my personality and ambition is what sets me apart in the dating world. My lack of hair shouldn’t deter a man from finding me attractive (a huge fear of mine) and if it does then clearly he doesn’t need to be with me. Besides, if he’s not around to love at my Nina Simone then he definitely doesn’t deserve me at my Tracee Ellis Ross.