Sunday, September 1, 2013

On My Inability To Grow A Real Afro

Ever since I was young, my hair has been very long, straight and curly.
Notice my long curly hair at such a young age. I was about 3 years old.
Growing up in a perdominately white school district, it never occurred to me that my hair was any different from other little black girls... at least until I hit middle school. That is when the taunting started.
I was called oreo and white girl.
Girls would pull on my long hair and call it a weave.
I began noticing that my hair was not as kinky as others nor was it as kinky as my own mothers.
I began noticing these differences, and did not like them.
I knew I didn't need to get a relaxer for my hair to be straight. But wanting to fit in, I started to and continually begged my mother to get one. Citing reasons such as my frustration with not being able to keep my hair straight when I got in the pool, when it rained, when it was muggy outside and when I sweated. Under any of theose conditions, my hair would explode into a wavy mess....
Finally after a year of begging my mother relented and let me get my first relaxer.
Before Relaxer
I was so excited. I thought my hair would miraculously be the same texture as other black girls, that when. It rained, or when I got out of the pool it would stay bone straight.  I was denying my curls, but I didn't care.
The relaxer HURT!! No matter what type of relaxer they put in my hair, my scalp ALWAYS burned and I walked away with my hair stuck to my scalp with dried pus. It was disgusting, but my desire to be like everyone else stronger than my disgust at this self-harming beauty routine.
Eventually, I just stopped getting relaxers, and since my hair was falling out due to the excessive new growth, I decided one day in 8th grade to just walk into a beauty salon, sit down in the stylist chair and say "cut it off, cut it ALL of".
I was going throw a phase of black empowerment. These were the days of cross colors, def comedy jam, living single, a different world, FUBU, etc. It was the second black renassance and I was all the way into it. I didn't want anything to do with relaxed hair. I wanted an AFRO!
For some reason, I forgot what my hair texture was like. When I told her to cut it off it never occured to me that my new growth was just as straight as the relaxed portion of my hair. For some reason, I expected to get a small afro puff out of the whole thing...
I rememebr the whole salon stopping and staring at me, with my long wavy hair (the relaxer never worked as my curl patter was too strong, so all it did was make my hair wavy. Instead of curly).
Everyone, including the beautician kept asking me if I was sure. If this was something I really wanted to do. Why did I want to cut my hair "it's so beautiful" they all agreed.
But I was deadset on getting that afro I always wanted. So eventually she cut off most of my hair. When she turned me around in the chair to look at it. I was devestated. In place of an afro was bone straight hair laying against my scalp.
"Where was my Afro?" "Why is my hair doing this to me?" I wanted to cry. But I didn't. I just stared at the hair on my head, and the long straight pony tail of hair the beautician held in her hand and I didn't know what else to do. My hair had won. I gave up.
The beautician looked at pony tail she held and looked at me, then asked if I wanted to keep it.
"No thanks" I said, suddenly weary. I felt like a failure.
WHERE WAS MY AFRO?!? How could I be taken seriously in the black empowerment movement without an afro. Which is what I thought true natural hair was. Poufy, kinky, tightly coiled and BIG!!
Everything my hair was not.
It wasn't until college that I started appreciating my hair. It was easy to manage short, but it grew so fast that by the end of the year my hair would be past shoulder length. So I'd cut it again over and over every year.
Not to keep it short,but to prevent the attention that came to me due to my hair. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable.
When I graduated college and moved to New York, I tried one more time to show my love for my people. I tried to dread my hair. What a messy situation that was. All my hair did was coil into these large ringlets. After 6 months they refused to tangle. It was a disaster.  Perhaps because I started out with long hair. But I didn't want to go through that messy first and second stage because I was then working on Wall street, and messy hair was unacceptable.
Anyway,  cut my hair a lot of time since then, and although I get a lot of compliments on and questions about my hair texture,  I've never quite gotten over my desire to be able to wear afro puffs, or to have a poufy braid out.
I even bought this shirt as an homage to the afro I could never grow.
But now, althought I envy all the other women that are able to style their hair in large afro's and I secretly get frustrated when people subconciously cite the natural hair movement as meaning a person has to have an afro,  I've grown more content with my hair and basically know there are really no limits or prerequisites or hairstyles that decide how black, committed or empowered I am..
As long as I love myself.
That should be empowerment enough. 

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