Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Hair Story

Natural is cool enough is a reality that took me 25 years to reach. I always knew it, intuitively, deep down inside, when I sat down next to the stove, lifting my little shoulders up, for fear of being burned when my mother straightened my hair, coming very close to my forehead as she tried to make every strand of my naturally kinky hair straight. I remember how pretty I felt after she would wash my hair and twist it so that it could dry before she called me in for straightening. I recall looking in the mirror and not being certain about the straightened change that had taken place, which had transferred me from my natural appearance to a modified version in terms of my hair. This went on until I was bout 12 when my mother told me it was time for me to get a perm. I didn't know exactly what this meant for me but I knew that my mother's hair had a straight texture and she would say that she was going to the beauty parlor to get a touch up. On the day of my first trip to the beauty parlor, I sat in the chair watching the beautician mix a creamy solution. I felt trepidation. My mother had washed my hair about three days before and put it in neatly parted twists. The beautician took out a twist, and with a fine tooth comb that she had dipped in the creamy solution, she combed the solution through my hair. She did this repeatedly until my hair was completely saturated. I felt a warm sensation on my head and then she said "let me know when it is burning." A few minutes later, I looked at her with fear in my eyes and said "it's burning." "Let it stay on a little longer," my mother said to her. "I want it good and straight." Tears began to surface and finally my mother nodded to the beautician who rushed me over to the sink and quickly started rinsing. The burning sensation ceased and I could feel my hair dangling in the sink. When she finished rinsing, I touched it. It felt different...soft and silky...not like my natural hair texture. The beautician rolled my hair with curlers and put me under the dryer. After what seemed a long time, she brought me back to the orignial chair and took out the rollers. She did not comb out the curls. I looked like a black Shirley Temple! My mother was thrilled but I just stared at the girl in the mirror, who seemed unrecognizable to me. This perming went on until my last year of Junior High/Middle school when I rebelled by refusing to go to the beauty parlor and began to wear a full-blown afro. My mother hated it, but I loved it. I ultimately advanced to braids, reverted back to perms, then braided extensions and ulimately locks which I have now had for over 18 years. It has truly been a journey for me to realize and stand firmly in th fact that for me, Natural Is Cool Enough. I have decided that I am no longer that Black woman who considered perms and weaves because I thought natural was not enough. Natural is Cool Enough. Now that is N.I.C.E.!


Godsanointed said...

Hi Dr. Rose,

I am so happy that you decided to share your hair story. I think it's so important for all women to realize that "Natural is Cool Enough," even if they don't decide to maintain their natural hair texture. All women should feel beautiful and comfortable in their own skin. I'm new to blogging but once I get the hang of it, I'll post more pics :)

udee said...

My hair story was less traumatic, I believe. My family is Nigerian and although that does not necessarily mean much in terms of how the straight, so-called professional look is coveted over the natural tresses, my hair was worn in its natural state until I moved to the United States. Unless the times have changed, in Nigeria never before permed hair is called Virgin Hair (interesting, don't you think?)

Now that I think about it, I had somehow convinced myself that relaxing my hair was the best option for me as a freshman in college. I thought I would be able to better manage my hair. You see, it really does depend on where you live when it comes to how often and how well you can take care of your hair, as well as how much you know. At any rate, living in Miami (despite the large minority community) disallowed me the chance to discover my natural hair for myself. Throughout my life, my hair had always been worn in braids or cornrows. And, as a grade schooler, whenever I did wear my hair in its afro, I would feel ashamed that my hair was so different from everyone else's. You really have to understand my life story to fully appreciate my hair journey. Schooling in international schools where you were the only African child can be a little daunting when it comes to physical beauty and appreciation.


So throughout college, I went from one relaxer to another, from texturiser to a big chop to another texturiser. You can only imagine how much my hair was screaming at me! Finally, after a relaxer, my hair had had enough. My scalp burned like fingers over a flame and the white paste was washed off my hair with the suggestion "You should really just cut it and not with chemicals anymore. Your hair is too sensitive."

Heaven sent words I tell you! In April/May 2009, a few weeks before my college graduation, I did my second big chop by a Jamaican lady at JC Pennys in Dadeland Mall in Miami FL (shameless plug, she was such a sweetheart!). The liberation I have felt since then has been nothing I'd ever want to exchange. Nothing can ever make me put anything more than shea butter and coconut oil into my hair!

My hair journey has been an excellent growing up experience. I don't think Black women give their hair enough of a chance to really be appreciated. I mean if we think about it, no other race of women have the privilege of such diversity and strength in their hair. We can go from completely bone-Asian woman straight to 360 degree curls.

So. I love my hair daily - unconditionally! And thank you for a space like this to talk about cultural experiences

Dr. Patti Rose said...

Thanks for your thoughts...It is nice to know that "Natural is Cool Enough" no matter what choices are made about our hair. Being comfortable and happy with who we are should always be the goal....

razzy87 said...

Dear N.I.C.E SiStars*

If I knew that I was a creation of beauty. Therefore, why in the world was I trying to change? Was I waiting for some miracle hair product to alter my hair texture? Well, that is exactly what I had attempted over and over again for years. Whatever it was that hit the markets or the images that projected from the media as to what their perception of beauty was, I was willing to try it; and if that meant a long day at the hair salon or damaging chemicals I did it..……….i.e. (press and curls, weaves, extensions and jheri curls). The hair styles would look nice for a while, but because my hair is fine and accompanied by a sensitive scalp there would always be some issues in the near future regarding the ill effects of the hair style, which always lead to hair damage and ultimately hair breakage.

However, as I matured and became more conscious of my “Special Self” I no longer desired to change my hair texture, but I craved “Authenticity”. It was truly a growth process. First, I worked on the inside reaffirming my greatness, noting that I am worthy of the beauty that had already been bestowed upon me. Then I allowed the world to witness the growth of my beautiful locs as my spirit also grew in alignment with the Authentic Self. I can honestly say that my locs are one of my best hair styles for me, along with my fondness of the Afro. My locs allows me to express to the world exactly who I am “Spiritual, Special, Intelligent, Beautiful and Sexy”. I am in “Love” with “Me” and to be perfectly honest isn’t that where it all begins --- with “Self”.

I would like to express special Love to my husband Gary Moore, he encouraged me to loc my hair. I would also like to give a special thanks to my hair mentor and hair advisor Diane Bailey, President/Owner Tendrils Hair Spa.


The Butterfly

Dr. Patti Rose said...

Thank you so much for sharing Butterfly. A wonderful and inspiring hair story. Your authentic self is shining through and bright light for us all! Fabulous!

Wanda said...

I know people are going to think that I am crazy but I have loved locs ever since I have discovered Whoopie Goldberg. I have vivid memories of her in the Jumpin Jack Flash movie where she pretended to brush her hair. I laughed so hard. Because of corporate America, I was always reluctant to get locs. They barely tolerated braids, imagine how they would have acted if I came in with locs. I permed my hair for years and I have tried every product for hair to make it as straight and natural as possible. An oxymoron, Which proved itself true when I bought that Rio hair crap. I went natural and wore wigs and braids for nine years because perms just did not like me. My scalp would get irritated and it just wasn’t worth all the trouble to go to the salon and the next morning to not look like I have been any where at all. When I first went natural I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I would wash my hair and it would take three hours just to comb out the knots. I have had my locs for a little over a year. I was fortunate enough to go to a wonderful loctician with my shoulder length hair and she has maintained my hair ever since. I wish I had found her sooner. I would have had my hair in locs a long time ago. I see myself in the future with very long locs. I even have a dream board with a picture of a loc hairstyle that I hope to get in the near future when my hair grows just a little longer. By the way my hair looks and feels so healthy now that I KNOW that I have Good Hair, now. ;)

Dr. Patti Rose said...

Thank you Wanda for sharing your wonderful story. You have won the third and final t-shirt of the giveaway! Congratulations! Please send your size and address to me at your e-mail address.

Midian A. said...

Natural, 19 yrs and counting

I have always worn my natural hair, but that doesn’t mean I have always been happy with it. Although I have never endured the painful experience of getting a perm, I have endured the pain of having my hair washed, detangled, and combed. At a young age, the most dreadful words to me were, “It’s time to wash your hair!” or “Go get the comb and hair grease to comb your hair!” During my middle school years, many of my peers began getting perms and talking about their new smooth, silky, long hair. I never felt pressured to get a perm; however, I wanted one. I felt that getting a perm was an inevitable step for every young black girl, and so I decided that for me that inevitable step would take place before high school.

My unrealistic perception of a public high school led me to believe that I would be teased because I was younger than my peers, and having natural hair would only accentuate that fact. A few weeks before starting high school, my cousin came to visit. She agreed to braid my hair with extensions, which I was very happy about, so instead of starting high school with my hair perm, I started with braids. After a month or two when I removed the braids, I wore my natural hair without any reservation. I felt comfortable in my new surrounding, and the initial concerns I had about wearing my natural hair were the least of my concerns.

Washing and combing my hair was still a routine I dreaded, and as a result, I was motive to learning how to do my own hair. I thought that if anyone was going to inflict pain on me by washing and combing my hair, then that it would be me. I watched my mom, aunties, cousins, and friends when they braided other people’s hair then I practiced on dolls and on friends’ hair. Pretty soon I began combing, braiding, and twisting my own. My decision to get a perm never faded away because I still felt that wearing your natural hair was juvenile and eventually I would still need to get a perm. I just thought that I would push it off until my high school graduation.

Towards the end of my high school years, I grew to love my natural hair and the whole afrocentric look. I also began to realize that perming my hair doesn’t have to be mandatory thing and that Natural Is Cool Enough (pretty N.I.C.E, huh?). I am proud of my natural hair and I’m constantly looking for new ways to style it. I try to alternate between twists, twist outs, braids, and braids with extensions. So far that combination is working for me, but I’m considering doing sista locs in the near future.

I’m also looking for new ways to style my niece’s hair. She is currently 2 years old, but around 1 yrs when her hair started to grow out, no one knew for certain how to comb it. I started experimenting with different styles while she slept. At first, I did little china bumps then, as her hair grew, I began braiding it. My wish is that she grows up knowing that natural is cool enough, and that her aunt is right here supporting her all the way.

SN: I absolutely love this blog because I love seeing others celebrate their natural beauty!!!!

Dr. Patti Rose said...

Thank you Midian. Your story is excellent and enlightening. It's such a comfort to know that this Blog is useful to you and others. I'm glad you love it. Having a place to share our hair stories is simply wonderful. Thank you for sharing with all of us.