When you’re a little black girl, you get put into one of two groups: those with “good” hair and those with, well, bad hair. As you grow up, the hair issue becomes more nefarious as those with “bad” hair learn to distinguish themselves as being the proud owners of Natural hair, nappy hair or dreadlocks. Some even make it seem like having anything other than Natural hair is a denial of one’s race. Others just get weaves. Occasionally, the good hair girls get castigated for trying to pass as white, while in reality many of them are of mixed heritage and have their genes, not conscious choice, to thank for their lustrous locks.
Being of mixed descent myself, I’ve watched the hair debate from the sidelines. I never needed to defend my choice of hairstyle to anyone as a teenager or young woman because there were no other black people around. And that there was the problem with my hair: There were NO black people around.
Growing up, I was more sensitive about my hair than I imagine most little black girls would be. My Mom hacked off half of it at random when I was seven, and then I moved to a middle-class suburban white neighborhood where my grandparents knew fuck all what to do with my nappy, lopsided hair. My uncle, a successful hairdresser with his own salon in Sarasota, Fla., took a stab at relaxing it into submission and chemically burned off everything longer than my ears.
After that, no more white people were allowed to touch my hair for about 15 or 16 years.
After moving to New Hampshire at 13 to live with my aunt (herself a white woman married to a mixed man), I had the luck of having a couple of black women in my church congregation who had mercy on my hair. They showed me how to chemically relax it without making it fall out of my head. When I went to college, I started relaxing it myself.
I still wouldn’t let anyone cut it. That didn’t happen until my senior year of college.
Since then, my hair has grown in fits and starts, never making it past the finish line of my shoulders. I have wanted long hair more than anything – more than being a certain clothing size or having a bigger salary. I just want long hair. Call me crazy, but I guess I’ve always thought shiny, healthy, long hair is a woman’s crowning glory.
Must go back to all those Biblical ideals I grew up with. I had a Jewish teacher in fourth grade who wore her long, dark hair up in an elaborate bun every day. She explained to me that her tradition dictated that her husband was the only one permitted to see it cascade over her shoulders. I always thought there was something sweet in keeping something that beautiful so private.
Black female hair politics be damned, I wear my hair straight. I never learned how to deal with it curly and I like it straight. I don’t care how other women style their hair – whatever makes them feel beautiful is fine with me. I just wanted to find one black woman with long hair who could tell me how I could get mine to make me feel beautiful, too.
Enter my Black Hair Mommy.
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