I AM NOT MY HAIR!
“Your hair is nappy, who’s your pappy? You’re some ugly chile.” ~Johnny Mercer
My Grandmother Hannah’s second husband used to work around the house singing this song. After all these years I can still hear his voice. Mind you; I was always told I had good hair. What the hell is bad hair? How about the fact I have hair? Isn’t having hair considered good? Even if you bought it? I have had a love-hate relationship with my hair.
As a little girl I had so much hair that the only person who really took the time to comb it was my Aunt Winnie. But being tender-headed didn’t help. Winnie would say, “It hurts to be beautiful.” Believe me;she made it hurt! She was too heavy-handed. When she finished I’d have to take an aspirin because she had my ponytails so tight. I think my face looked tighter after she finished.
I used to hate my hair in the summer because it would shrink up due to the humidity. That’s when I decided I wanted a perm. Big mistake! I did more harm than good. Around thirteen or fourteen I went to a salon for the first time. My Mother took me to a European salon that knew nothing about African-American hair. I would always pull my hair back into a bun. Not many people knew how long my hair was. I remember Helmut with his German accent telling my Mother that even though my hair was completely down my back it was damaged and needed to be cut drastically. To be honest, I didn’t even know my hair was that long. I returned to school with my new Farrah Fawcett hairstyle only to be told that people didn’t know my hair was so long.
I’ve never quite figured it out. Even after having a little girl I hadn’t figured it out. My daughter started doing her own hair around eleven or twelve. She quickly figured out that Mommy really didn’t know how to do hair. My daughter believes in natural hair and has never been hung up on the length of her hair. I’m constantly asking her not to cut her hair. About fifteen months ago Courtney convinced me to go natural. She cut my hair to about ear-length. I freaked out after first. For most women our identity lies with our hair. I’m no different. I’ve had those moments before. Once I did a hair show and they not only cut my hair, but tried to bleach my hair in the front to make it blonde. Not a good idea. I’ve had a so called friend try to give me an asymmetrical cut. Picture the singer Cherrelle. One time my play-sister and I bought this “all natural” product that was supposed to be so natural that we saw the guy eat it in the infomercial. Her hair has never been the same. This was going to be the answer to having straight hair without chemicals.
Contrary to what I thought; my hair is thicker and healthier than it’s ever been. I co-wash frequently like my daughter taught me. I’m still not the greatest in taking care of my hair. I rarely wear my real hair out. I use protective styling; which involves wearing pieces to protect my hair. When my hair is flat-ironed it’s halfway down my back. When my daughter cut it so short I wasn’t sure it would grow back.
I talk about this because as women our self-esteem is tied to our looks. Hair is important. This is a multi-billion dollar business. We all know women who would spend their last dime on their hair. The amount of money spent is ridiculous. I hear men say that they don’t care for women wearing weaves and that they prefer natural hair. Sounds good, but men seem to prefer long hair. Women do these things not for other women, not even for themselves, but to attract men. Black men give us this spiel about wanting a naturally beautiful woman, but when we see you with the biracial, Asian, white, or “exotic” woman it makes us wonder. Not all of us are so beautiful that we can go bald like Amber Rose, or short like a Halle Berry.
Whether short or long, natural or weave, braids or dreads, your hair rocks! We are beautiful. I’m happy that my daughter doesn’t let her hair define her. I’m sorry that she didn’t learn it from me and I had to learn it from her.
HAIR by Chaka Khan
I AM NOT MY HAIR! by India Arie