So about 7 years ago, I decided to stop perming my hair. It was a very interesting process that started out as a solution to repairing my very damaged hair and led me on a journey to self-acceptance. One day I realized that my hair would stay straight with a simple flat iron. It was cheaper for my wallet and healthier for my hair. My edges grew back thicker than I can ever remember them being, my hair grew longer, thicker, and looked healthier. Then…I went to a party. NO sooner than I hit the door I could feel my hair rising. I tried to play it off for as long as I could, but after about 10 minutes I found myself pushing my way through the crowd and into the bathroom to assess the massive afro my hair had conformed into. To my surprise only the front of my hair and the roots had went back home. The rest of my hair was still straight, making me look like some sort of little troll doll. I desperately searched my purse for pony tail holder or large enough rubber to try to contain the mess that was now my hair. A young lady tapped me on the shoulder and with her hand extended, a rubber band dangling from her index finger, said “I’m already knowing girl.” We laughed, I thanked her, made a feeble attempt to contain the madness, and after about 10 minutes, returned to the party. When I returned home I vowed never to wear my hair straight to another party…ever. Then Friday rolled around. Looking in the mirror at my bouncy bob, so shiny and feather light, I wondered what I was going to do to counter my previous hair disaster. I began to have the following conversation with myself:
Taliah1: Just wear a ponytail.
Taliah 2: Won’t go with my outfit and hair’s not long enough to be cute for anything but going for a run, not to mention the edges with still snatch back and you’ll still look a mess.
T1: Wear a hat.
T2: Then ill have to find something else to wear, AND if my hat falls off ill have hat hair AND when my hair begins to snatch back its gonna get shorter and shrink up into the hat.
T1: As soon as you get in the spot, say your hellos, then find the air conditioner and stay there…ALL NIGHT!!!!!
T2: You’re a genius!
So for about a month this was my routine when I would go out. Say hi to all my friends, dance to MAYBE one song depending on how well ventilated the club was, then sit as close to the air conditioner as possible, very boring as you can imagine. I decided to go back to my high school days and rock a fro. Since I had been straightening my hair for some time, the wash and go was not gonna work. Some parts…the roots mainly…would go back to their natural kinky-curly state, but the ends, oh those ends…they just stayed straight…creating a very…unusual look. So I sat for about two hours, creating about 20-25 bantu knots on my head. The following morning (after a most uncomfortable sleep) I undid the knows, fluffed my hair out, and low and behold…a fro! Yes! I had done it! I had found a hairstyle that not only complimented me physically, but also would withstand any and all weather God saw fit to throw my way! Bring it on humidity! Bring it on rain! Bring it on gym! I was ready for the world!
Then I went to school and work where comments from peers and co-workers began to slowly chip away at my confidence. Many of my friends responses were along the lines of ‘Oh, that’s cute, what made you do that?’, or ‘Its cute, but you are so pretty with straight hair’. With my friends giving me this much criticism and they look like me I could only imagine what my coworkers would say. I worked in an office consisting of three Black women (including myself), one Latino woman, one white woman, four asian women, and two white men. Out of all 11 of my co-workers, only the older Black woman complimented my hair. She said I reminded her of a younger Angela Davis. The other Black woman stopped dead in her tracks, stared at me for a minute, head slightly tilted, eyes squinting as if trying to figure out the foreign mass replacing what used to be silky straightness, then said ‘Oh, that’s different, what made you do that?’ My remaining co-workers just gave awkward stares and side glances. I had never felt SO uncomfortable in my life. Had it not been for the Angela Davis compliment, I would have probably went in the bathroom and cried. I was not ready for the reaction of my peers nor my co-workers. That night I went home and played India.Aries’ “I am not my hair” until I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning, looked in the mirror at my hair, looked at the face staring back at me, and realized that it wasn’t pretty…it was BEAUTIFUL. I was beautiful.
It really didn’t matter if my hair was straight or nappy or if I had no hair at all…I was beautiful. No matter what anyone said. In my brief moment of weakness I had let other people dictate how I felt about myself and the decision I had made with my own hair. No mas. I reclaimed my self confidence and picked my afro out as big as I could get it. As I looked in the mirror I felt a sense of pride I had never felt. A sense of royalty. My glowing afro had a regal air to it and it made me proud. I left the house with a certain pep in my step that I had not had before. I had made the decision to break away from carbon copy straight haired girls and decided to be among the few proud to rock their natural naps.
Eventually my co-workers came around, but even now I have people in my peer group telling me I’m prettier with straight hair. Now I just laugh to myself and respond by telling them that I am beautiful no matter how I wear my hair, and I shall not be confined to a european sense of beauty. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with wearing your hair straight, just so long as you know that your beauty does not come from a box or hot comb or flat iron. Beauty comes from inside, how you feel about yourself. And so long as you remember that, embellish that in your soul, you will be beautiful with any hairstyle you choose to wear. I was so proud of Solange Knowles for cutting out the weave and making the decision to rock a close cut fro. Many people have and continue to ridicule her, call her ugly, say she should ‘holler at her sisters hairstylist’, but she has stuck with her decision. Sistas need to embrace one another’s unique beauty and not try to force conformity on one another. Never will you catch me trying to force another sista to stop perming her hair and rock a natural. I may suggest it if they mention damaged hair, but I believe we should do what makes us comfortable. The problem comes when we feel the pressure from others to conform to what society deems as beautiful, so even if we do feel more comfortable with a natural ‘do, we run back to the perm and stove at the first negative comment made about our nappy hair.
Discover your inner beauty and the rest shall follow. Yes, you will lose certain suiters because they are judging by whats on the outside and NOT whats on the inside. You may even lose out on job opportunities. However, in the end, would you REALLY want to be with or work for someone who judged you solely on your hair? A person who engages in such behavior has a very closed mind and would always find fault in how you lived your life if it were outside of their little box. You should never have to feel scared or worried that your man will leave you if you don’t look a certain way, nor should you feel your job is at jeopardy simply because you decide to change hairstyles (with some exceptions of course; if the job calls for you to maintain a professional demeanor, don’t come to work with a mo-hawk!)
So I say, do you boo! Whatever makes YOU happy and feel most beautiful…do it girlfriend! And be proud of who YOU are…not who others think you should be! Break free from societies box of standardized beauty and shape your own reality. Beauty comes in all shapes, shades, and hair textures. Love yourself first and be confident in your decisions…then others will follow…if not…oh well…who cares? Work on being beautiful inside out…and your beauty with radiate from within. Remember, God made NO mistakes when he created you, so those naps that grow from your scalp…realize they were put there by the Creator and that they are apart of the unique set of gifts and blessings He wanted you to have. In the words of Ms. India.Arie ‘I am not my hair’…I am SO much more…and so are you my lovely!
Straight hair…curly hair…don’t care! Lol!