*When I say natural hair, I use that term in quotes, because all black women do not have naturally coarse hair. It ranges. Natural to me is what grows out of your head. But I generally mean coarse, non-chemically straightened hair. I have friends who get their hair blown out and pressed straight and they are still considered natural, because they didn’t use chemicals to straighten it.
One of my favorite singer/songwriters India. Arie has a popular and lovely song called, “I Am Not My Hair.”
It was an anthem for black women encouraging them to stop obsessing over our hair, although the connection to our hair and what it means in terms of beauty and self-esteem is very real and it’s serious.
*I don’t even feel like going into the history of black women their hair and their psyche. Chris Rock did a decent job in the movie “Good Hair.” Just know it’s deep. It’s not just hair. It is beauty, it’s how others see us and how we see ourselves. We are affected and we are working on it.
Since the age of 12, I have been putting a chemical relaxer in my hair. My mother fought against it for as long as possible. I could see why.
Because since then, there’s been battles with breakage, regrowth, dramatic cuts, and a little color, more breakage, ruined in the rain, comb-breaking, burnt… I could go on for days.
But fortunately times have changed. Somehow in recent times, “natural” hair (not chemically straightened) has finally been more widely accepted as beautiful. I think this is great for younger black girls because it is way more visible in the media than when I was a kid. Basically it was straight is great, and natural hair and fros and such needed to stay in the 70s.
So now, I want both passionate factions to declare peace. We all have choices, and grown women especially have figured out what works best for their lifestyle and what’s most flattering to them, so let’s let each other be.
If you are “natural”, don’t look down on your chemically straight-haired sister, assuming she wants to look European (a “wannabe” as Spike Lee nailed it in his classic “School Daze”) or is trying to fit into a certain culture or attract “shallow” men who prefer that look.
Straight-haired sister, please, stop calling your more kinky-coiffed sister nappy headed, mother Africa and all of that other stuff.
I feel like as women we need to lift one another up. Whether it’s straight or kinky, if you have gorgeous hair, I compliment it. I think women with natural hair are almost shocked if another black woman with straight hair gives them an honest compliment. It often seems like you can’t cross that line and give one another props. How you wear your hair seems like an unspoken declaration that you clearly approve one choice over the other. It’s terribly wrong.
Even if I go to a poetry event or something where it is stereotypical for people with “natural” hair to go to, I get looks sometimes like I don’t belong there. Get real. What does poetry or positive hip hop have to do with the texture of my hair?? I like what I like.
We are now in an era of choice. I do not think women with “natural” hair these days face the same amount of hostility they did 20 years ago. So I’m glad we’ve all evolved.
A number of artists and celebrities that I love go back and forth and they look amazing whether weaved out, with a fro or damn near bald (shout out to the lovely Chrisette Michele who did rock a near baldy).
Right now, I’m someplace in the middle. I don’t really like wearing my hair completely bone straight anymore. I like more body and fluff. I’ve been spacing out my chemical relaxers longer and longer because I hate how straight it is the first week or so now.
I do think with the success of hair care brands like Miss Jessie’s and others, women of color have become way more comfortable wearing their hair all kinds of ways.
I used to hate on women who wore weaves and called them fake. I don’t any more.
I have friends who love them, who may have difficulty maintaining their own hair and they feel good about how their weave makes them look. So it’s silly and stupid for me to look at another woman on the street and take her choice so personally. Now if it’s a bad weave, that’s another story!
Men were another problem. The men I liked and loved (including my father), liked seeing my straight, long hair blowing in the wind. It was the ultimate sign of beauty.
Occasionally to give my hair a break, I would wear it in tight curls a few times a year. My ex wasn’t a fan. Before we went out for a major occasion, I’d calm him down and say, “I’m getting my relaxer this week, don’t worry, it will be straight.” And then his face would relax.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I may want to only relax my hair twice a year and then get a really good blow out and press in between.
I tried out my “Leela James” when I went on vacation alone, because no one knew me there and I loved it. After being on the beach and in the water, I didn’t feel like straightening my hair after I washed and blow dried it. So I didn’t. My hair was huge, and I thought I looked quite exotic. My father and my ex would have probably said I looked like I had my finger in a socket, but I was on vacation and I didn’t care. It was cute. I may have the courage to do it again in my own back yard.
I won’t abandon straight styles altogether, but I won’t wear it that way all the time anymore either.