I was SO grateful that by the time I got to see Chris Rock’s Documentary Good Hair, I was sporting my natural hair in all it’s curly glory.
But this post is not about Good Hair, it’s about what I realised the day I cut off my relaxed hair.
For the longest time I’d argued that how I decided to wear my hair was just a preference and had absolutely nothing with belief about myself or how I viewed who I was.
Relaxed hair, I reasoned, was easier to maintain- and dare I say, I even thought it far prettier than the tight rough curls of my own natural hair.
While I’d never admired nor wished for lighter skin, I’d always wished my hair were softer, longer, easier to manage and yes of course silkier.
When my kids were born I prayed their hair would stay silky and turn out more like their Dad’s than mine.
When my son’s hair turned coarser as he grew- I grieved.
When my daughter came- my prayers for her hair were more fervent! I felt her life would be oh so difficult if she ended up with hair like her Mommy’s. My poor baby girl I cried.
And then came the time when I realised that so many women around me had ditched relaxers!
Just about every time I went to the hairdresser my fellow clients sported their natural hair: long, strong and so gorgeous. I was jealous! How was it possible that this hair I’d thought a curse all my life was a joyful song these women were not only singing at full blast but dancing to?
And so I started to consider…
But I was resilient. Because in my heart I didn’t want to cave into the movement that made me feel like a sell-out for enjoying (and preferring) my relaxed hair.
Also I wanted my daughter to feel that she had every right to choose what she wanted to do with her hair when she was old enough to make that choice- not based on how her choices defined her but based upon her very own preference of what was easier and better for her.
Anyway the day I decided to cut my relaxed hair was not because of some philosophical enlightenment- something in me just raged against my relaxed hair. For the first time I saw my relaxed hair as weak, pathetic and a distraction from my own real hair growing underneath. It wasn’t a change of heart- it was just this annoying irritation that could no longer stand the state of my hair!
I wanted to start over. I wasn’t sure what that meant. All I knew was that I didn’t want to stay in that valley of indecision.
So I cut it off. And when it was gone I felt ugly- yep I did- but I also felt such relief! And I felt an ability to breathe in a way I didn’t know I’d lost.
A few days into my natural hair I wondered why I wasn’t “bonding” with my little fro.
I expressed my chagrin with others- and one response from my dear friend Lauren Shakantu stood out most for me. She wrote to me saying;
“Let me tell you this Sis, the way you feel about your hair comes from a lot of misconception, a lot of comparison and disillusion about your true hair texture. The hair that you see right now is yours and it was not supposed to look another way. Sis our hair is beautiful but it can take time to really see it that way and appreciate it, because we have been told otherwise and it’s only starting to be represented in the media as fashionable.
“I learned to love my natural hair. I didn’t always feel this way. When I realized that I didn’t think my hair was beautiful and classy enough, I cut the relaxed hair because I knew this was a big issue- not to love your own hair. I started to love natural hair through blogs. I saw what these girls did to their hair and I was amazed. I was particularly amazed to see women with the same texture as mine whose hair looked so beautiful.
“I really want you to fall in love with your hair Sis! Some people say that natural hair is not for everyone. To me that makes no sense because natural hair is what grows out of your scalp, therefore it’s yours, therefore it’s for You!”
After reading that response I had to agree that my hair was as much a part of me as my eyes, my lips, my legs- it was a huge part of who I was. To disconnect from it- to loathe it- to prefer something so contrary to what it really was, was to deny a part of my being that was as intrinsic to my being as my skin and my tribe and my mother tongue, my DNA, and my unique and special giftings. How then, could I deny this part of me that was so deeply woven into who I was?
And. The responsibility was not only for myself, it was for my daughter too. I had to learn how to love and treat my own beautiful hair so I could teach my gorgeous daughter how to treat, manage and LOVE her own natural, splendid, hair. How could I teach her that of her own hair, her own self, if I didn’t believe it of my fro and my own self?
There are many reasons black women around the world are deciding to allow what naturally grows out of their heads to remain as it is.
For me it’s been an awakening of a part of me I’d allowed to die.
It’s been about embracing and falling in love with a part of Hannah I was taught to despise and thus hide.
Will I relax my hair again? Maybe. But if I do, it’ll be because I want a different look and not because I think that look is better than my natural one. I can say truthfully that I far prefer my own natural hair to every artificial treatment and extension I’ve ever had.
Am I saying that relaxed hair, weaves etc are bad? Not at all. I am saying though that for me they’re just another style and not a preference over my own natural hair.
Am I saying that black women who relax their hair don’t love their hair or themselves? Not at all!!!!!!
What I am saying though as a black woman who was raised in an environment that was very Loud about people who looked like me being inferior- as a black woman who was raised in an environment where even some of our (black) teachers told us that people of Caucasian decent were better than us- thought better- were more developed, smarter and more innovative- and having grown up in environments that made me feel that being black and African was rather sad- Embracing my natural hair has been a big BIG deal for me.
Now, I see my influence in my children’s hair and I think it’s a beautiful thing.
I see my kink in their locks and I L.O.V.E it!
This is who my babies are. This is who we are. And my heart is to teach them to honour, love and celebrate their natural hair and their amazing selves in the most glorious way.
P.S. In case you haven’t seen it yet, Here’s a snippet from Chris Rock’s Film Good Hair