Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Thought: "Hair Like Yours"

Disclaimer: I try to keep it light and fun when talking about hair. But sometimes, it's simply hard to avoid the pathology that plagues us black women when it comes to our tresses.

My girlfriends are beautiful. Smart, educated, and good-hearted, they're some of the lovliest ladies I know. And they're fully aware of it -- high self-esteem runs rampant in my sister circle.

We can talk about anything and end up having either a good debate or a good laugh. But when we talk about hair, I always find myself cringing.

I'm the only one in the group who wears her hair in its unaltered state, so the subject of going natural inevitably comes up. And then someone says it -- "Well, I'd go natural, but only if I had hair like yours."

I wince. My face turns up. And I get this sad feeling inside. I never really know what to say. It's the one statement that bothers me more than anything else, because in those few words, I hear so many things -- a rejection of one's own natural texture, a belief that some hair is "better" or more wearable than others, and a flat out refusal -- or fear -- of exploring own's on hair in its natural state.

Basically, I hear my beautiful girlfriends saying that their God-given texture is something to hide, alter and be ashamed of -- and that if they wear it the way it was made, they won't be beautiful anymore.

Cringe-worthy indeed.

So what's a girl to say? Whenever that conversation comes up, a million thoughts and frustrations run through my head. I want to say, "You haven't even gotten to know your hair!" And I want to tell them that natural hair isn't impossible to care for... you just have to relearn how to care for it. And I want to get militant, go back in history and remind them that just like our ancestors were stripped of their language, religion and culture in the years of slavery, they were stripped of their grooming rituals too. So of course we'd be clueless about caring for our natural texture. But it doesn't mean we can't learn.

But then I realize I'm only one in a minority, and that they're already set in their ways. They'll likely have a counter-argument to every argument I make.

So I just keep it all in, and wait for our conversation to move on to something else other than hair.

For the record, I don't have an issue with those who choose to relax their hair. I'm not here to try to convert people, and I don't have a problem with women exploring their styling options. But I DO have a serious problem with many women believing that chemically alteration is the ONLY option for their hair; that there's no other way around it; that their natural, God-given texture is something to conceal and be afraid of; and that altering it is the only way they'll ever look attractive.

I adore my hair, but I really wish folks would stop telling me they wish they had hair like it. I want them to love their own coils, just as much as I love mine.


Bronze Trinity said...

Well it took years and years for Black people to think this way. It might take a while to reverse. I think they are afraid that they won't like their hair once they take the plunge to go natural. Its like some people don't think their bodies look good enough to wear certain clothes, or they don't think they are talented enough to speak in front of people. They are afraid that they will not be approved of and they will not look the way they want. You are right, they don't have any idea of what their hair will look like. Plus, unlike doing a speech or wearing clothes for one day, it is a long process to go natural and they won't even know what they will get in the end. I just hope with time this will change when they see more and more different styles and textures.

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