Natural Hair: My Road to Acceptance



I have made a couple of post about African-American women and our hair issues, but I have yet to share my own journey regarding how I have come to feel the way I do about my hair. My relationship with my hair has taught me many valuable lessons but one that I shall share here is: do not fit a square peg into a round hole.

When I Hated my Hair
My hair has never been permed or straightened at any point in my life, so during my childhood I always felt that my natural hair, in its pigtails, was a curse. The highest point in my elementary school career, during the third grade, was when I got braids for the first time. I was so proud that my hair could swig like "it should." However, my elation didn't last. My hair wasn't long enough. I knew that I couldn't get a relaxer because I had been told that they fry hair to death, and I definitely didn't want to look like the scores of girls I'd seen with relaxers so bad that it looked like their hair had been set on fire. The only option left for me was to get long braid extensions. Those were great to me. I had the long flowing hair without the pain of a relaxer. But they didn't appeal to me completely because I knew they were not equal to the Standard. So when I got older I was determined to get a weave (although I had no idea how weaves actually worked). I thought my natural hair was too long to wear a weave and wanted to cut it short. My mom thought I was crazy, but my reasoning was if you never wear natural hair out what is the use of it anyway? Besides that, I felt painfully embarrassed by hair. I could not go outside with it loose without my head being covered with a scarf or a hooded jacket. The only time I thought you were supposed to see it was when it was being "done" between extensions. (Looking back I think it is so sad that I thought that Black hair was so worthless that I was willing to cut it.) But back to the point, the extensions I had at this time looked too natural (everyone thought I had really long dreadlocks). Subconsciously, I knew I wasn't close enough to the Standard so I took the final step that would bring me closer to perfection. I got a sew-in, which was an ego boost for me (everyone would fawn over "my" hair). I finally had the hair that I'd ask God to miraculously change in elementary school. At the time, I did not make any connection between my relationship with my hair and any biases or prejudices I had against African features. If I heard anyone questioning why African-American women perm/press/weave our hair, I joined in with the scores of women saying it was because of convenience or citing that white women wear weaves too. However, even though my European-styled hair made me feel complete, I still felt uncomfortable. My mind was always on whether my tracks were showing and the like. Even though I felt pretty, I never felt right.

Turning Point
I realized that I was on a spiraling down on a path to no where when I heard a question by Malcolm X , "Who taught you to hate yourself?"



My initial reaction to this and of all of the others who had suggested that Black women who perm/press/weave had a problem was to reject the suggestion altogether. After all hair was just hair. White women style it however they want to, so why couldn't Black women? However, after examining the relationship I had with my hair I realized that it was never the case. From the moment that I became aware of its distinctiveness, I wanted to change it to something straighter or longer. If it was just hair, why did I try to hide it so much? In short, this question caused me to reexamine not only my views on my hair but society as a whole, but at this point, I will expound upon a single lesson that I gained from accepting my natural hair:

Black women as a group are like square pegs created in a society that is designed for round ones. We spend the majority of our lives chipping ourselves down, damaging ourselves mentally and physically, trying to make ourselves fit into a standard that wasn't set for us. I never was happy with my hair because I could was never equal to the Standard. I finally became content when I understood that my hair isn't supposed to look long and straight--that the rules for straight hair were completely different than those for mine. When I stopped seeing myself by how well I fit into European views, my eyes opened to how beautiful natural hair was. When I looked in the mirror, I stopped worrying "How can I get this straighter" or "How can I get my curls more defined." I realized that this is the way my coils are supposed to look and I will never be content if I try to make my it anything less than it is.

We cannot be truly happy or content with our lives until we come to the realization that there is a hole designed specifically for us to fit. When we chip ourselves down to fit the standard for someone else, we are only damaging ourselves.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen.

Lee said...

Yes, Let the Truth be Told !!!

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