Sunday, August 8, 2010

Black Woman Hair Psychosis

I just finished reading a recent post on one of my favorite blogs Diary of a Happy Black Woman. I've been following the life adventures of author Rosetta Thurman for the better part of 2010 and a major theme that she has written about is her hair journey. She changed from permed to natural hair with a "big chop" and while she has found personal joy in the new 'do, she also endured the loss of a boyfriend who couldn't get with it.

The newest post in the hair saga is about her mother who went from a weave to natural, only to turn around and put a perm in her hair 24 hours later. As Rosetta says "In the end, I think my mom just wasn't comfortable with "the nappy look" (as she called it) and was much more confident in her appearance wearing a straight style that "moved" when she moved. After all, she's always worn her hair pressed, relaxed or in a weave ever since she was a kid."
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Last night I hung out with a girlfriend and a couple of her friends. I met them at a bar and as my eyes scanned the room to find them I spotted my friend's fair-skinned back with her long straight weave hanging down it. The weave is something she adopted just a couple years ago. When we were in college she, like me, had a perm and was faithful to the Dominican hair salons for a wash and blowout every 1-2 weeks. She recently revealed to me that she had been just as heart broken as I, when our favored shop closed down autumn last year.

Of the other two women she was taking shots with at the bar, one was Indian and the other was black, from what I could tell based upon appearance. But the hair threw me off. The texture was black girl hair with a perm, but it was really long and wavy. The kind of length and wave my mother has naturally without any chemical. It's the Cherokee in our blood line. Mommy's got that good hair... but I've digressed.


I was mesmerized by long-wavy-haired black girl... Could that really be hers? Maybe. I know haven't seen every kind of hair there could be on a black woman's head. What could she be mixed with?

And then we took a picture. I kinda cringed when I saw it on the digital display. We were three black girls, but I only saw two with beautiful hair: one long straight weave, and one long wavy maybe-weave or mystery ethnicity, next to my medium length perm pinned up in a clip because it was sweat completely out from my earlier exercise session.
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Last week my sister cut off her perm. She is beautiful. She's always been beautiful. But for the first time, in a long time, I really see her bright brown eyes and dimples in her cheeks when she smiles without any distraction.

Daddy told her she looks like an Afro Queen.

Her mommy hasn't said much at all.

10 comments:

Crystal said...

As I told your sister and I say to you what India sings about "you are not your hair" you are beautiful any way you wear it.

I always had problems with the terms 'good & bad" hair because having thick long hair was no picnic but a lot of work. That to me wasn't so good, so I still just as everyone else put so called "mild" relaxers in to help make it easier to manage.

Going natural can be a challenge especially in certain professions. So I empathize with your friends mom. Natural is easier when young I would guess that not many of those who wore afros in the 70's maintained that natural look through 2010.

Amazing Love said...

She recently said something to the effect, "It's grown on me and it fits you. I like it..."

Nice post...

Kelli With An I said...

I cannot STAND the phrase "good hair". Why is it only applied when discussing long and "indian" like hair? The phrase is damaging to the MILLIONS of Black women whose hairs coil like bed springs! Whether you relax and weave your hair or choose to go with what the Lord gives you, I think Black women are too judgmental of each others choices. White women color, perm and cut and weave their hair till the sun goes down and you RARELY see discussions between them with the animosity we have for each other.

Stan said...

I think black women spend WAY too much time futzing with, spending money on and dealing with their hair and or worrying about what someone else's hair looks like. The first thing a woman uses to describe another woman is how her hair looked, or what color or length it was. Too much time and money is wasted on hair issues. I prefer short hair on a woman, in fact my favorite hair style for my wife is short. I take her to the barber shop when I go and I watch the men drool on the sly, cause she's fine too! The other reason why I like it short is because we get to places on time when it's short. She don't have to comb it and style it and look in the mirror at it as much when it's short. You young ladies have a whole lot more things to do with your precious time than hair. Get it cut, keep it short and have one less thing to deal with, other than HAIR!!! You'll be surprised how liberating it is. It's hard enough being a black woman in America! Babygirl needs to let me take her to my barber, then that 'fro will be Right!!!

Sydnie said...

@Crystal: I had a conversation recently abt Chris Rock's film and I noted how MOST of the one on one interviews he did were with women in the entertainment industry who all proclaimed they had a weave BECAUSE they were in entertainment. I wonder why and how we can break that mold? Especially because if media images of us change, I feel like it will trickle down... Just a thought.

@Amazing Love: I'm sooo glad.

@Kelli: I agree it is absolutely a shame the judgement and animosity black women have for one another manifested thru hair. And it starts with the babies... How many times do u hear a woman say "I'm not letting my child go out the house looking a mess so somebody can talk about me!" Black women's care about our appearance is a gift and a curse. And sure white women color their hair, perm it, chop it up... But its not with the same kind of care. Going to school with white girls all my life and babysitting white children - hair to them seems to be such a non chalant issue. They care abt how it looks, but if it gets messed up, oh well. Do something else with it. Does their nonchalance breed more support amongst each other on the topic?

@Stan: I appreciate your point of view, but I feel it is such a mature man's view. Did you always feel this way? Was Mommy's long wavy hair not something you were always attracted to when you were young? Not that women should choose their hair styles for their men, but how many men (and talking about in my dating age range) are really OK with their woman switching up their hair so dramatically from long to short, perm to natural to weave? Just a thought.

Rosetta said...

It is, indeed a psychosis of sorts. Our relationship with our hair is influenced by so many outside factors that it can be hard to figure out what is really "good hair" to us personally. Good hair to me is any hair that YOU love. Not what someone else says is acceptable. We have to be very deliberate about defining beauty for ourselves. I mean, you can be Halle Berry and *still* lose your man, so...#shrug.

Sydnie said...

@Rosetta: LOL, so true.

DBLexicon said...

Clearly, Im soooo LATE! but now with having a roommate who wears a weave for "industry sake" I think I can comment. She has been wearing a weave since she's "broken" into the industry exactly a year ago, and in that time she's been going natural. Not only her but another close actor friend, and actress Raven Symone have commented on how wearing a weave helped their NATURAL hair to grow. They didn't have to fuss with their own hair or do anything to it for at least a month(if it's a good weave), and once they took it out, they had a NICE healthy head of hair. Now once this natural hair was out, did they know what to do with it?? My roommate didn't! She had to ask another friend to twist it down and sleep with it like that so it would have some shape in the morning, and not just be a bush of wildness. Now she did prepare for this 'new look'. She bought a new, expensive dress, put on the makeup she usually saves for auditons, and nervously walked out of the house with a new face. When we spoke at the end of the day, she was pleasantly surprised at how many compliments there were to her during the day!! Natural, is just a work in progress. I don't think there's much information on the maintenance and styling of it, leaving women to be frustrated immediate and run to a perm or weave...

Sydnie said...

@dblexicon: i haven't done any research in regards to maintaining natural hair, since clearly i don't have it... but there is something to be noted/said that black women freak out and feel like they don't know what to do with their own hair the way God gave it to them. I highly doubt that there is any other group of people who have this problem.

Amazing Love said...

There's A LOT of research on "natural hair" There are blogs, youtube videos, everything you can think of. You just have to look. Unfortunately because it isn't common place for everyone, folks don't take the time to look. You can find anything on Google. =)

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