I’ve hated my hair for years, maybe even forever.
I grew up watching shampoo commercials featuring white women with silky smooth sheets of golden, brunette, and auburn hair, and I had plenty of white friends with hair that looked similar to what I saw on television. They flipped their rippling tresses over their shoulders or giggled as they batted it out of their faces in a high wind. My hair, on the other hand, is a thick and nearly impenetrable afro. Running my hands through it isn’t an option, and in its natural state–the very opposite of silky smooth–even hurricane force winds wouldn’t move it.
As a little kid, I rocked braids. I recall sitting on the ground in front of my mother’s chair every Sunday as she tugged my hair into intricate patterns, the braids so tight, my scalp burned. But they lasted the entire week, and we got to watch the Wonderful World of Disney, which I counted as a win.
For several years in the mid to late 80s, I had a jheri curl, which made my hair manageable, but I hated it. Touching my hair meant coming away with a dripping wet hand that needed to be scrubbed clean with soap. Forget about leaning against a wall or a car window. And it took hours in the salon to achieve the finished product. I still shudder when I see a bottle of curl activator…
When the 80s disaster that was the jheri curl finally went out of fashion, I switched to what us black folks call creamy crack. This product is a tub of white chemicals applied directly to the scalp that literally burns the hair straight. I’m not fucking joking, white readers. You leave it on until your entire scalp is on fire, because the longer you can soldier through, the straighter your hair is at the end, and that is the goal. As you can imagine, this isn’t great for your hair. But I did it anyway because it was easy to take care of, though I hated the 2 to 5 hours spent in the beauty salon every 8 to 12 weeks. This chemical process is expensive, time consuming, and shitty for your hair. It also feeds into the narrative that black hair looks best when it resembles white hair. I bought it, hook, line, sinker…
Then last week, I cut all of my hair off and went natural.
And I absolutely love it.
Okay, maybe this new haircut was born more from laziness and my overall just don’t give a fuck attitude concerning hair and makeup, but I have to admit that I bought into the beauty standards presented to me from cradle to the present day: glossy straight hair that’s manageable and floats on the breeze.
I can love my hair too, even if society says I’m not supposed to.
The narrative is tilting these days, slowly but surely.
Remember the Sesame Street character Segi singing about how much she loves her hair?
Or every black woman in Black Panther?
Absolutely no hate, judgment, or disrespect to those still using chemicals to make their hair bone straight. I’ve done it myself for decades. But since I already love the skin I was born with, why not love the hair I was given, in all its kinky, dense, non-drifting-on-the-breeze glory? Part of doing better and growing as a person involves accepting myself for who and what I am.
I’m bound to stumble into old ways of thinking about standards of beauty, but I think dealing with my hair hatred is a great place to start…