Tag Archives: Black Hair

Black Beauty

Hope was home for the recent holiday, and while she was here, she decided to cut her hair. Hope had decided some time ago that she regretted relaxing her hair and wanted to “go natural” again. After about 7 months of growing it out, we snipped off the relaxed ends and basked in the glory that is now her little Afro.

Ok, so maybe I basked; Hope seemed beside herself with shock, anxiety and the ever present teen worries about how others would see her.

When Hope came to home nearly 5 years ago, she had a lot of hair that I lovingly nurtured right on down to her shoulders. It was not chemically treated. I twisted it, coiled it, braided it, did all kinds of things with it. Hope was really proud of her hair; she got a lot of compliments. She learned to really embrace how her naturally curly, coily hair looked.

Hope has thick hair. It’s not just that each strand is thick; there are also a lot of strands. I swear when I first started doing her hair, I thought I was wrestling a carpet!

As she got older, and I shifted more of the burden of doing her hair to her, things got…difficult. My daughter’s care-taking abilities didn’t produce the same results, and eventually she decided that she wanted to relax it.

I hated the idea. I wanted her to love her hair and to learn to properly care for it. It had been years since I’d given up relaxing my own hair, and there was a part of me that took it really personally that my daughter wanted to relax her hair.

I had failed to promote the beauty of our hair.

I had failed to foster a sense of pride in our hair in its natural state.

I had failed to cultivate a sense of beauty that didn’t adhere to Euro-centric beauty norms.

I had failed to get her to love herself.

In spite of these failures, I also support one’s ability to wear their hair however they please. So, I asked her hair dresser to relax her hair.

Oh there was lots of hair swinging. There were smiles. There was hair flipping. Hope’s hair grew and then…all the things that happened before the relaxer happened. Poor maintenance; lazy care, heat damage, split ends and breakage. There were a couple of heavy “trims” that took inches off.

And I was spending a small fortune getting her hair done.

We ended up in the same place as before, which made me feel as though my prior failures had been confirmed in this hair relaxing exercise.

Then one night I was watching hair videos on YouTube when Hope said she regretted relaxing her hair. She thought it would be easier, but it wasn’t.

I still have teeth marks on my tongue from where I nearly bit it off so as not to say, “I told you so!”

So she begin the journey to grow her hair out with the first major development happening during her fall break.

I’m delighted that she grew her hair out and that she wants to embrace the fullness and textures of her natural hair. That said, I know that rocking a teeny weeny Afro (TWA) is a shock at first. You see all your other features and you can feel weird about them.

Is my forehead really that big?

Were my ears so noticeable when my hair was longer?

I swear my acne was not this noticeable with bangs.

My nose is big.

My skin is so dark.

My teeth are big.

I need earrings to distract from this.

I don’t like the way I look.

People will make fun of me.

I’m never going to look like Becky (No, you’re right and you’re not supposed to.)

It’s all so loaded. Helping her reframe her thoughts about beauty is hard. Helping her think about the fact that six months from now she will have a lot more hair is hard. Helping her believe that she doesn’t need to “fix” anything is hard.

Self-acceptance is hard at almost any age; it’s especially hard at 17.

I think she’s stunning. Her chocolate skin is dark and creamy. Her almond shaped eyes sparkle. With the hair away from her face, her acne quickly faded. I finally was able to coax a pair of small, classy earrings on her. With her militaristic posture and figure I’d kill for, I think she’s an 18 out of 10.

But to hear her tell it, I’m mom so none that counts.

Understanding how oppression shapes even the way we see our beauty is exhausting; really, it is. Teaching that…it’s not only exhausting but also infuriating. I silently rage thinking about the fact that my daughter questions her beauty because kinky coily hair isn’t universally seen as gorgeous. I cut my eyes at the folks at her school who looked perplexed like they weren’t sure to compliment Hope when she returned rocking her afro. I nearly cried when she cast her eyes down when she saw folks see her hair for the first time.

Hope is gloriously gorgeous. She already doesn’t know how lovely she is; the short hair is a radical change that makes her glow. She doesn’t believe that though.

That’s not my fault even though I feel like I failed in instilling that.

It’s all of our faults. That nearly exclusive white standard of beauty is so embedded in our psyche that our brown and black kids hardly know and appreciate African diasporic beauty when they see it. And that makes me sad and mad, really mad.

I look forward to the day when my daughter looks in the mirror, smiles at her reflection and turns on her heels to go knowingly, purposefully slay us all.

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Easter Weave

Back in January, one of Hope’s monthly “Try’s” was to do her own hair. Well, she has done her hair ever since, pretty much.

Her hair has broken about two inches since she started doing it. Over-manipulation, lacking moisturizing routine, too much heat and pulling and tugging from blow drying in an attempt to get her hair “straight.”

I try to gently coach her. I sent her YouTube videos that she never watched (maybe if they had been in Vine form…). I talked to her about products. I also encouraged her to be sure to wrap her hair at night so that it didn’t dry out.

I tried not to nag as I saw Hope’s beautiful hair lying around in tufts in her room.

It was like talking to a wall.

Last week, I sat Hope down and really talked to her about her routine after she complained that her hair seemed so much shorter than it was before. I tried to be supportive and encouraging.

Last week, I put crochet braids in (not the first time); she decided that she didn’t like them and took them out after two days.

Sigh. Ok.

Yesterday, I put crochet braids in again, with bouncy, curly weave.  It took 7 hours—SEVEN HOURS!!!  (Did I mention my left wrist has severe carpal tunnel syndrome and I’ve battling tendonitis in this hand for 2 months???)

Hope has been begging for weave since she moved in because, of course, she’s been brainwashed into thinking that she will be beautiful only if she has long, bouncy, loose waved hair.

Right.

I have been resistant to the whole weave thing. No shade to folks who wear it; I just don’t. I don’t care for it myself, and I really wanted Hope to embrace her natural hair.  But since we really needed to give her hair a rest with a protective style, I rounded up some weave and put it in.

Moments after finishing, she started complaining.

She decided she didn’t like the curl pattern. She didn’t like the length. She was “stuck” with this hair. She went on and on with some pretty nasty comments.

I was slathering on a topical pain medication while grimacing.

I replied with encouraging statements. Yes, it’s different, but she looks lovely. Yes, it’s different, but it’s pretty sophisticated. And on and on.

She replied that she really didn’t like “different.”

Sigh. Here we go.

She got up this morning complaining again.

I took a deep breath and just said, fine. After church we can take it out. I won’t do it again. I will provide her with the products and the tools to be successful. I am exhausted balancing my physical sacrifice to meet her hair needs.

Hair is such an important part of an individual’s identity. I get it. I really do. I want Hope to feel beautiful; I want her to have healthy hair. I occasionally want the intimacy that comes with doing her hair. But I am going to step back from this as well and let the natural consequences play out.

If she ends up with short hair, she ends up with short hair.

If she ends up with long healthy hair, she ends up with long healthy hair.

Today hair will be a parking lot battle (as opposed to a mountain battle).  I don’t bother dying in parking lot battles.

I’ll help her take the hair out this afternoon, and then I will take some pain meds for my hand and be done with it.

OverIt

 

 


Living Rooms, Kinky Coils & Mama/Daughter Bonding

So, I’ve made an appointment for Hope to get her hair braided this weekend, but first we had to take out her current braids, wash, condition and blow out her hair to prep it.  I’ve been eager to do this since she got here.  I wear my hair in its natural state: curly, kinky, coily; so does Hope, but most of the time her hair is hidden away in braids.  I wanted to learn more about Hope by doing her hair.  I also wanted to have the little girl/mommy time that comes with doing hair.

When I was a child, my mom washed my hair in the kitchen sink while I stood on a small chair.  Then she painstakingly blew out my hair with a hair dryer, followed by getting it straight using a comb heated on an eye of the stove.  She would then either braid our hair or put it up in ponies.  The whole process took about 2 hours—I had a lot of hair.  Then she’d tackle my two younger sisters’ heads, both of whom, at various times, had hair down to their waists.  Grammy was tired after it was all over, but she loved to see us with our hair all fresh and styled up.

There was an intimacy in those moments that I now more deeply appreciate.  I always trusted Grammy to make me pretty.  We would sometimes talk or even sit in silence, but getting my hair done on that small chair in the kitchen with Grammy was my time with her during hectic weekends.  I had her undivided attention.  She would fret over the health of my scalp and hair.  She would cluck if she used too much heat on my hair or nicked my ear with the hot comb (long before flat irons).  She would wail when I took scissors to it mid-week to cut crooked, too short bangs because she had to figure out how to help me hide them until they grew out.  Even though it was a chore, it was something so selfless that Grammy did to care for me and to make me pretty.  Looking back it was a special thing we shared.

I wanted to share that with Hope.  I had to use a dining room chair in the living room instead of a tiny kiddie chair in the kitchen, but I got it done.

It took an hour to take Hope’s braids out, and more than 30 minutes to detangle it and get all the shed hair out (which incidentally was a lot, like think yeti).

I explained why I don’t use shampoo to cleanse (I find it too drying for my curly tresses), and yes, Hope, I go through large quantities of conditioner.

I explained that I don’t use towels on my hair because my hair can catch in the terry loops and break; instead I buy t-shirt fabric since the nap is gentler on my hair.

Yes, Hope, I use olive oil and coconut oil at various stages of the ‘hair-doing’ process.  No, coconut oil does not smell like a pina colada, like you might think; it used to though.  No, I don’t know why that old coconut oil grease used to smell like that.

I listen when she says she has “bad” hair (meaning it’s very kinky or coily, not straight), and I try to educate her that there is no such thing as “bad” hair.   Her dark brown and black curly hair is lovely.  And it’s so very thick.  It lies down at the first sign of heat, though.

I listen when she feeds me the line, “When my hair is blown out, it’s down my back.”  She has a lot of shrinkage, but it is not down her back.  It takes me back to the short haired girls who used to tell me that same line, when I arrived at school on Mondays with my long ponies swinging.  I remember how I couldn’t understand that science of how their hair could be longer than mine.  It wasn’t.   It never really mattered, but I see it for the self-esteem/self-identity issue it really is now.  I see Hope struggling with long hair desires, too.  She asked me for a weave earlier this week.  I said no. I’m not anti-weave, I just don’t think she needs a weave at 12.

Yes, you need to try to learn what your hair likes and what it needs to make it thrive.   I have gone through many products; we’ll figure out what your hair likes.

‘Oh, so the scalp massage feels good?”

She almost fell asleep, cooing how good it felt.

“Oh you like the paddle brush too?”

Hope begs me to keep brushing her strands after her blowout.

I explain why I need to trim her broken ends.   I don’t have to cut as much as I thought.

I explain what a twist out is, and how it’s usually how I style my hair.  I set her hair similarly.

Please, hold your head up. #phraseinheavyrotation

I am sad that her lovely tresses will be hidden in braids again by this time tomorrow.  She can keep them for 3 weeks, but then I want to have this experience again.  I need to  experience this with her again.

I want to coach my little naturalista to love herself and her hair.

That was five hours (yes, Lawd—FIVE!!!) of near bliss.


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