Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Hair...Don't Care!

To relax or not to relax? To loc or not to loc? To fro or not to fro? Once upon a time, in a little world called Conventional, I never considered any of these questions. Straight meant great, and life was simple. As soon as my mother allowed me, with no ifs ands or buts, I relaxed, fried, straightened and spritzed my hair into forced cooperation to achieve the shiny, frizz-free look that I desired. How I loved the sizzle sound that the curling iron made on my freshly spritzed hair! Me, not relax? Absurd.

I have always loved hair and paid more attention to it than clothes, shoes or makeup. In the 80s, I loved shiny, tight freeze curls and fingerwaves and ponytails shaped like fans on top of my head. In the 90s, I sweated asymmetrical haircuts, more frozen spiral curls and fierce swoops in the front that covered one eye like Aaliyah. I tried it all. I posted pics of my favorite artists all over my wall from Word Up and Right On magazine, and these were the images that I emulated.

When I entered college in the mid 90s, I remember thinking that natural hair was only for women with naturally silky hair that didn't "require" a relaxer to be manageable, and "african pride" women who were channeling their ancestors through their hairstyle as a show of rebellion and nonconformity. In my mind, I never considered myself to fit into either of these categories, so as if I didn't have a choice, I relaxed my hair all through college.

It's now been 10 years since college graduation, and I'm finally noticing the ongoing discussion and controversy around Black hair. Wow. Where the heck have I been?? To relax or not to relax? It is a big, fat, hairy deal to some - and to others, not so much. After all, it really is just hair. But just like light skin vs dark skin, skinny vs full-figured, and the haves vs the have nots, we always find a way to let the hate creep in and distract us from loving and supporting each other.

At one extreme, you have those natural hair advocates that have obvious disdain for Black women with relaxed hair. From comments I've read on blogs, they believe that if you relax your hair, you are denying your true self i.e. trying to be something you are not. At the other extreme, you have relaxed Black women who view natural hair and the women who rock it as unsophisticated and unkempt. School Daze, anyone?

Isn't there always going to be someone who doesn't appreciate your beauty? Do I need to fulfill one definition of beauty in order to feel worthy and appreciated? Is it my duty as a Black woman to wear my hair a certain way? Can I explore myself without my relaxed or coily sister making sweeping assumptions about my identity? Can I live????

You know what? It's my hair and I don't care. I don't care about the people at work who stare at my hair and ask why my hair is poofy and big on some days and straight and subdued on other days. I'm happy to educate them...or not. On the other hand, I didn't go natural to join a club of women who sit high and look down low on those who still relax. It's my hair - my choice. Your hair - your choice. Why anyone would feel threatened, angry or unhappy about how someone else chooses to wear their hair escapes me.

Trust me, I'm not trying to play down the significant impact of hair on women in the black community. I am aware of the controversy and the implications. I, too, want my daughter to feel beautiful with her hair in its natural state. I, too, see the need for discussion and education abuot the cultural stereotypes and pigeon holes. But with all that said, it's still JUST hair. I DON'T want my daughter to define herself by anything other than her character. All tangible things like hair, clothes, skin, shape - the things that define beauty for most people - are guaranteed to pass away. We should enjoy what we've been blessed with and have fun with it while we have it. Our preoccupation with the physical will only lead us into jealousy and egotistical thinking which are counterintuitive to inner beauty.

I feel that God gave me this head of hair to explore my creativity and express myself. I see the warmth and quiet abandon that are characteristic of my spirit reflected in my hair. For me, it's part of the adventure of my life. From fried, dyed and laid to the side to twists, braids and unruly curls who knows what I will try next. Learn. Create. Unlearn. Recreate. Relearn. Do it all and do it YOUR way.


Vonnie said...

Amen to that! Very well said.

Chic Mommy, Cool Kid said...

Love the School Daze reference! It is definitely a long running conversation, but I agree with you 100%! You just do you and imma do me!!!!!! Our society is too wrapped up in creating blanket stereotypes.

Reggie said...

Nice post.

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