You’ve probably noticed that I wear wigs in my blog photos. But when I’m not taking pictures for blog posts I strictly wear my hair in it’s natural state. By natural, I mean the way it grows naturally out of my head. These days it seems like #naturalhair (as it pertains to women who can trace their origin to regions of Africa where hair tends to grow with a distinctly coarse texture) has just one general look. That look is thick and curly as in the picture below. Curl looseness can vary but curls must be obviously present.
The woman above has the kind of hair that has seemed to come to define natural hair for women of afro heritage. For some such women, this is the way their hair naturally grows. But for others, there’s quite a lot of work involved in prepping their hair to get it to take on this ‘new natural’ appearance.
As someone who is always seeking out the most fuss-free route to making myself socially presentable, I haven’t gotten on board with the natural hair movement. And this is despite having maintained my hair in its natural state since my last permanent (probably about age 17, but I say I’ve been natural since age 18 because it probably took that amount of time for all traces of the permanent to be gone.)
My hair is natural and has been natural for all of my adult life and most of my non-adult life. Yet, I sometimes feel as if I’m not supposed to love my kind of natural hair, because it isn’t the kind of natural hair that’s so widely and enthusiastically celebrated. In fact, my kind of natural hair remains the kind of natural hair that (it seems) nobody wants.
It’s the kind of natural hair that has universally been considered “bad hair”.
Natural Hair–Good vs Bad…
The natural hair that none of the natural hair lovers love
If my hair was long and thick it wouldn’t matter that it doesn’t have the curly, wavy look that’s so popular. But my hair is not long and thick. And when your hair is not long and thick and it looks like mine, it still gets classified as “kinky” and “nappy” even at this enlightened point in the ‘black hair’ story. Even now while so many are embarking on a natural hair love journey, the old opinions of hair like mine (that it’s ugly and undesirable) remain firmly entrenched. It might not seem to make sense to use these terms to discuss natural hair while at the same time encouraging women to embrace and celebrate the hair with which they were born. But what people are celebrating in these natural hair times is what has come to represent the ideal in natural hair. People are aiming to have a particular type of natural look. And my kind of natural hair doesn’t meet the standard. Mine is still what some call having shit for hair.
So why do I leave my hair in its truly natural condition when it’s possible with practice, the right products and daily commitment, to get it to take the on the appearance of the new natural? The simple answer, I’m fine with my hair the way it is. I’m a fuss-free kind of girl when it comes to my hair. I don’t have time to be twisting and untwisting and applying a million different puddings and sauces, and jumping through the million hoops that it seems one must go through to achieve the look that’s in vogue.
I don’t have fantasies about having a certain type of hair or a certain length of hair. These things simply don’t matter to me the way they used to matter when I was a teenager. All I want at this stage is to be able to comb my hair. I would also like for my hair to not feel like a scouring pad and for my scalp to not be dry and flaked up with dandruff. And that’s it.
I can’t spare time every day for an elaborate hair routine. I’d rather cut my hair off than have to spend hours every day up-keeping it
But there’s probably a more complicated answer to the question that has a lot to do with my experiences with my hair during the first two decades of my life.
My Hair Story…
My hair has always been an “issue”. When I was little people would tease me because I had such short “picky” hair. In the village where I grew up, to have “picky” hair meant you hardly had any hair on your head to speak of. And what hair you did have was a gnarly mess. Even grown-ups had themselves a good laugh at my expense. They probably considered it harmless teasing. But I was a kid so of course it affected my self esteem and contributed to the development of a complex with my hair.
Advance to age 12 going on 13. I moved from the land of my birth to the United States. I started junior high school in Brooklyn New York, and literally from day one I was on the receiving end of bullying. I had several bullies who taunted me daily about various different things. The girls who made it their daily routine to tease me would laugh at my hair. They would mock the short length, the texture, the way I had styled it. They would all but tell me that I had shit for hair. So of course that further compounded my shame about my hair.
In my teens I tried everything under the sun hoping to grow my hair. But my hair just would not grow. Eventually I put braids in my hair to give it the length it didn’t have. And I strictly wore braids until I took them out completely at around age 25. In between starting to wear braids and taking the braids out for the last time I chopped off all of my hair a few times. Then finally at age 25 I found the courage to just completely let my hair be what it naturally was.
I hadn’t permed it since about age 16 or 17 and I stopped putting braid extensions in it at age 25. I basically stopped trying to have acceptable hair as “acceptable hair” is perceived by others. I accepted “my hair” and did my best to take care of it with my limited resources. And I maintain the same attitude today. I don’t take my hair so seriously that taking care of it becomes this huge expense of time and money. All I want for my hair is for it to not be breaking off and falling out due to lack of health and strength. I don’t need my hair to be curly because it isn’t naturally that way. I don’t need it to be wavy because it isn’t naturally that way. I don’t need it to be anything other than what it is. And that goes for the length of it as well. I won’t complain if it grows, but I’m not actively trying to grow it. I don’t need it to reach down to the middle of my back. I don’t need it to look pretty and impressive to other people. I just need it to be healthy because it is a part of me, like my skin. I am trying to have healthy hair and healthy skin as part of an overall goal to be as healthy as I can be both inside and outside.
My mentaility is basically this:
Hair is just hair. If I was bald
I’d still be me. I will not love myself
more or less because of my hair.
My hair does not