Ever since I can remember, I’ve been keenly aware of my hair. Hating it. Loving it. Straightening it. Spending tons of money on it. My family fighting about it. And this was all by the age of 5.
By 10 I started straightening my hair everyday. And last year I finally fulfilled my dream of investing in a Brazilian blowout. I’ve tried damn near every product, trend, and native rain dance to get my hair to cooperate.
I’ve cried over hair my, I’ve smiled over my hair, I’ve been livid over my hair. I’m pretty sure I’ve experience the full spectrum of human emotions over my hair. But why? What’s such a big deal about hair, right? It’s just hair. It’ll grow back. It doesn’t look that bad. You should be grateful. People pay so much money for your hair. It’s so cute. Can I touch it?
No, you cannot.
I don’t know why society has brainwashed ethnic women into believing their hair is somehow less than, I’ll I know is I gave in and swallowed up everything in that punch bowl. I’m grateful for the movements encouraging and lifting up women for embracing their natural hair. But that’s still nearly 20 years after I had been brainwashed.
It’s gonna take time for me to undo the anxieties and insecurities I have around my hair. The funny part is, I felt like I finally been doing just that. I was curls all the time. I didn’t even want to look at my straightening products anymore. So what did I do? Go to salon and let someone completely ruin my hair.
Everything that I had been working towards in the past few months, had been dashed in the few snips of some scissors. I looked at myself in the mirror and wanted to cry. Every negative thought I had ever had about my hair and myself came rushing through my mind all at once. I didn’t even know what to say, so I just tried to leave the salon as quickly and quietly as I could.
Again, why all the drama, Ali? Let me try and paint the picture for you.
These days we have representation everywhere. Girls that look like me and are confident and seen as beautiful are a dime a dozen on TV. Hell even Barbie Dolls look like me now.
That wasn’t the case, however, when I was growing up. Very few girls looked like me on TV and even if they did they surely weren’t the star. And everyone had straight hair.
Everywhere I turned there were advertisements encouraging me to straighten, losen, and/or relax my curls. Make them more manageable. Easier to deal with. Cause God forbid, my curls (or even me) had the audacity of having a strong personality.
These were the messages I got: Curly hair, tame it. Dark skin, lighten it. Strong personality, calm down.
Beautiful to me meant white, blonde, blue eyes, and a demur personality. None of those things were me. So I couldn’t be beautiful, right?
When you put so much blood, sweat, and tears into something it becomes a part of you. It can become a part of your identity. For a lot of black women, or ethnic women in general, that something is our hair. If we can just get our hair to “look white” then at least one part of us will be beautiful according to society.
Again, I’m working very hard to expel all of this toxic thinking out of my mind. But when I looked up at myself in that salon chair last week, I was rendered back to my ten year old self who was so excited to finally be allowed to straighten my hair.
It takes time, effort, and a lot of self love. But in the end I know it will be worth it. Because I’m worth it, and so is my hair.