A Black woman’s hair is much more than just hair. It can be a source of pride, a source of frustration, a political statement, or a fashion statement. Sometimes it is all of these things at once. From spending weekend mornings at our mothers knees getting pressed, braided, plaited and greased to all day jaunts to the beauty salon, our hair’s importance is instilled in us at an early age. Most Black women work meticulously to maintain their hair, whether it is bone-straight, wavy, curly, kinky, platinum blond, bubblegum pink, or jet black. Some of us have tested every serum, oil and cream in stock at our local beauty supply stores, drugstores and our favorite online boutiques.
From a young age, our tresses are pressed, pulled, slicked and relaxed into submission. These practices are damaging, and not just to our hair but to our psyches. Our hair is taught to suffer in silence, and in a way, so are we. The idea that straight is good is burned into most young black girls from the start. I can’t count the number of times my mother, grandmother or aunt said, “Girl, come here let me do something to that nappy hair” or the number of times I was told how pretty my hair was once it was properly straightened.
The message was clear, straight hair was pretty hair and “nappy” hair was…bad hair.
I got my first relaxer at a very young age and spent the majority of my teen years alternating between hairstyles that I hated (braids and cornrows) and styles that I loathed (weaves and other styles with a swooped bang). A constant refrain during those hours I spent in the beauty salon was: I can’t wait until I can take care of my own hair. I’m never getting a relaxer again.
I stuck with it until one day in college when I finally decided enough was enough. I went to the salon and got it all cut off and styled in the most beautiful coils. Everyone loved it. Then I saw my grandmother and she went from questioning my sexuality (yes, seriously) to threatening me with a relaxer whenever I walked into her house with my new afro.
Not even my grandmother’s (or anyone else’s) disapproval has been a deterrent to me because for every negative comment I receive, there are two women who stop me in a grocery store or on the street to ask what I use on my hair. Beyond that, there’s the quiet confidence that comes with knowing my hair is beautiful just the way it comes out of my head. And the best part is that I don’t have to say a word. People recognize my pride from a mile away because I wear it on my head.