For as long as I can remember my scalp has been a battleground. One of my earliest hair memories is of my mother bribing me with a trip to the park if I would cooperate (re: not bawl my eyes out) when hair washing and styling time came that night. I have the type of hair that is most feared: Black hair.
My hair is a revolutionary that refuses to be colonized. In its natural state it is thick beyond belief, difficult to comb and even more difficult to style. While my hair can withstand anything (over the years it has been subjected to bleaching, extreme dyeing, extreme heat and even more extreme hairstyles) it takes a lot of patience, hair products and upper body strength to mold it into something other than an untamed Afro.
When I was about eight-years-old my mother threw in the towel and relaxed my hair because she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) deal with my thick hair anymore. That practice of chemically straightening my hair continued for nearly two decades. I rocked my “white girl flow” with pride and whenever my natural hair reared its “ugly” head every five weeks I would make my way to the hair salon for a reapplication of creamy crack.
I know that over my lifetime many aspects of my mind have been colonized and I am studiously working towards a state of decolonization. That is to say, I know that I have been brainwashed by the media (I blame you teenage addiction to MuchMusic and BET), society and the people around me into thinking that Black isn’t beautiful and that my natural hair is ugly. Almost twelve months ago, with that thought in mind, I decided to say no to relaxer and embrace my hair in its natural state.
And the road to self-love has been a very rocky one.
I have looked in the mirror and cried, thought about relaxing my hair more times than I can count, coveted other women’s heads full of soft, shiny, loose curls and said quite a few negative things about my hair that I’m too embarrassed to admit to.
Learning to love my natural hair and adjust to seeing myself with anything other than “news reporter hair” has been extremely difficult. And, luckily or unfortunately, I’m not the only one.
The online natural hair community is full of ladies just like me who are saying no to relaxers and weaves and doing their darndest to embrace their natural hair. Celebrities like Esperanza Spalding, Solange Knowles, June Ambrose and Corinne Bailey Rae are serving as our hair-spirations when our resolve gets a little weak. Also, movies like Chris Rock’s Good Hair and the recently released In Our Heads About Our Hair by Hemamset Angaza address the issues surrounding Black hair including the ingrained self-hate and internalization of racism and herald a new era of acceptance.
So I’m slowly learning to love my hair and to accept that everyone (and their hair) is different and perfectly imperfect just the way they are. And the natural hair saga continues…
This is part of the Ethnic Aisle, a blog about race and culture in the GTA. Visit the website for more on hair and other issues from a diverse perspective.