Last month I posted this as a note of my Facebook page, and thought I should post to my blog as well! Enjoy!
You know, when I had long, healthy, relaxed hair, no matter how I styled it, no one ever stopped me on the street to compliment me or ask where I got it done. No one ever, while sitting at a stop light, yelled over “who does your hair! I love it!” and if someone ever did give it a second look, it was a woman, perhaps to see if it was real or who knows. However, men rarely looked, at least from what I could tell. And brothas most definitely did not stop me while walking or comment from their car, door or just wherever, to say, “Sis, I love your hair.”
Now of course, all this feels good (the compliments), but it just makes me wonder about this whole natural beauty thing. I’ve read one too many posts and statements on blogs, hair forums, Essence, etc. by women/girls who do the “big chop” or get off the “creamy crack” (i.e. hair relaxers) as one woman called it in Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair (although it was no drug for me) that they NOW embrace themselves, their true “natural” beauty–all because of their hair….??? Really??? Am I the only one who thinks that’s sad?
As someone who often obsesses over her hair–by the way, my hair is no longer chemically relaxed, I cut it all off and practically got a fade a few months ago–and thinks about it quite often, even when I shouldn’t be–and many a day felt some kind of way when it didn’t look, feel or behave right, even going to the point of saying (to myself) “I don’t feel cute today” (notice I didn’t say “I feel ugly today”), I never let it drive or take away how I TRULY felt about my “natural beauty.” I mean sure, I was glad to have MY hair, and thankful that it always grew back no matter what I did to it–whether it be cutting it at about 6 years old when my mom told me I couldn’t have a bang, or shaving my hairline in 5th or 6th grade to get rid of the Eddie Monster peaks I had but shaving a bit too far back and looked crazy, or being excited some years ago when I saw Mizani perm kits, that used to only be available in the salon, at the corner Chinese beauty supply so I bought it, did my own retouch despite the box warning of “for professional use only” and the next month my hair was as good as gone and drastically broke off in areas. And who knows, if I was one of the “have nots” when it came to hair, how I would feel about my hair or myself. But it just seems to me that something is wrong if not having chemicals in your hair these days–not even the long or short or curly or kinky or silky straight or rough as a Brillo pad or wannabe or jiggaboo hair stereotypes, textures and criteria of the past, but just the mere presence of a relaxer in your hair–determines if you’re naturally beautiful or not or whether you feel good about yourself.
And exactly what is “natural”? What good is it to not have chemicals in your hair but they’re everywhere else around you, from what you put in and on your body. Is the woman who has a relaxer but eats and lives a more holistic lifestyle better or worse than the one with the nappy roots? Does she love or embrace herself more or less because of her hairstyle? Or vice versa?
And I wonder: are the men who stop me now to comment on my hair the “conscious brothas” who love the more afrocentric woman or are they just men who admire and appreciate diversity in hair styles– whether it’s the celebs and video vixens with ankle length wet n’ wavy weaves in #2b, or the lawyer with the modest length weave or sister locks, or the chic who likes to switch up her weaves, wigs AND natural unrelaxed hair like she does her jeans everyday, or the teacher with the nice bob or bun, or the stay at home mom who rocks a twa (teeny weeny afro), press ‘n curl or roller wrap blow out?
Regarding the male perspective, I ask because for so long women of all colors have blamed society for creating the standards of beauty that they are measured by, and black women in particular often comment on “European” standards of beauty or that men only like the superficial and “fake” stuff (from hair to boobs and more). But it seems to me that much of this is just self-imposed at the core. I mean really, in this day and age, with all types of images of us (black women) displayed in the media, classroom, courtroom, office, playground, kitchen, church pulpit, just everywhere–both positive and negative, but a lot more positive and diversity than any other time in the past–why is it and how is it that my sistas still feel LESS JUST because of their HAIR!? Not even their WHOLE body image. You know, I guess more understandable yet still outward things, like curves, thickness, thinness, flatness, scars, wide noses, luscious lips, But HAIR. Hair? Why are you on the couch (at the psychologist’s office, well not literally because I KNOW we aint gone that far to the right that we are paying to talk to someone about out locks, but figuratively) about your hair? As our mommas used to say, “There are kids starving in Africa gurl! Eat your food and stop complaining!”
And why is it that when, or after, you cut out that last strand of relaxed hair or it’s been 2 months or a year since you had your last hit of creamy crack, you feel liberated? I mean yes, perhaps liberated from spending all Saturday at the beauty shop, or half your paycheck on Hollywood quality tracks for your sew-in, or worrying about your hair “reverting back to its roots” in the pool or rain, or even lying and calling in sick to work so you can go get your hair did, or planning vacations to the beach around your retouch schedule. But what else was holding you back that you couldn’t feel or BE YOU? I’d beg to argue that it had to be more than just your hair; that it goes deeper than the roots in your head physically, but to the roots in your heart, mind and soul mentally and emotionally. At least I hope so!
I could go on and on but, hey, I’m no expert in body image, self worth, feminism, anthropology and the like. But just from an average, working, been a few places, got friends of all shapes, colors, sizes and hairstyles sistah, I don’t think we should let our hair define us. Audre Lorde once wrote: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” I highly doubt “other” people’s fantasies about black women are based on our hair. At least I hope not!