I remember it like it was yesterday. The heat off the hot comb making my eyes squint in fear, the delicious smell of Dax-pressed hair.
“Hold your ear tightly so you don’t get burned.”
And no matter how closely I folded my ear into my head, I still cringed as I could feel the heat so close. And dare I not flinch, because I would always end up with a self-inflicted brown mark on the tip.
How many of you can relate?
This was my memory of almost every other Sunday from the age of eight to ten. And then when I entered high school, I graduated to a perm…and Warwick Academy expected us Black girls to swim in that dreaded pool how many times per six-day cycle?!
Ahh..the adventures of the 4c girl. Except my hair type didn’t have a category back then. It was simply called ‘knotty’, ‘picky’ and ‘thick’. While the descriptions may seem harsh, they were reality, especially if you were born in the 70s.
‘Pretty hair’ was better. You know the hair that all the bi-racial and white kids had, and the light-skinned girls. When I look back at the stereotypes which were perpetuated, I laugh at the lunacy, but then it was the TRUTH.
I remember using gel like a food group; wanted my hair slicked as close to my head as possible—God forbid a kink popped through! If I could get a perm every week back then, I would have!!
In 1994, while working at the The Hair Studio, I met a stylist named Kenny May. He was tall and dark and outspoken. He dressed with a flair and carried himself like a king.
I’d been pondering cutting my hair off. All of it. I’d seen a beautiful caramel-hued woman who rocked a short natural with pride. I wanted it for myself. So I wore a ponytail every day, trying to envision myself with no hair. I would keep glancing at myself in the mirror, saying, ‘Should I?’
One day Kenny asked me what was I afraid of. I told him I felt I didn’t have good hair. He told me emphatically, “As long as you are not bald, all hair is good hair.”
And so the revolution began. Besides a few month-long relapses with perm. Literally. I would have a long stint of natural; then wake up and want a perm. And within two days regret it.
My favourite stint as a natural was my seven years with locs. I never knew my hair could grow so long!! And the styles were endless! But one emotional moment caused me to cut them off.
While I’ve contemplated growing them again, I love the flexibility of having an afro affords me. I love my hair very short but I’ve promised my daughter that I will not cut it for at least a year. It’s soooo hard.
Whether fully Black or bi-racial, no woman’s hair journey is alike. There are struggles along the way and, of course, each of us wishing we had hair like (insert your hair crush here).
However, we have come a long way! Being natural is embraced like never before and women are not afraid to express their natural selves in the workplace.
'Nappiness' has become a movement and there are messages of self-love everywhere! While I wish these messages were as strong when I was a teenager, I am estatic that today’s young girls are getting the memo: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!
In our first Natural Hair feature, over the next month, we will highlight the natural journeys of women, talk to a natural hair care aficionado, a loctician, and all of our Island Treats for the next month will be women who love their naturals…and more.
Ladeej Friday, 21 July 2017 12:13 Comment Link
Thanks for the article. We as Black people have to move away from the "good hair" or "pretty hair" versus "knotty hair" foolishness as it still is perpetuated today. I wear my hair natural and I am loving it. All my life I was told that my hair was "too hard". Too hard for what? We just need to stop categorizing people's hair as anything other than hair. I am looking forward to more articles on this subject. Well done!Report