The other day I made a YouTube video talking about my natural hair, and in the video I said, “I didn’t know what my natural hair looked like until I became an adult.” In that moment, it was just something I said, but after I recorded the video it really made me think.
The first time my hair was pressed (straightened) according to my mother, I was about two years old, two!
By the time I was four I was rocking a Jheri curl.
Natural hair wasn’t really a fad. We had just left the era of the Afro and moved into the era of the press and curl.
Growing up you pressed “bad” hair, or you pressed hair that refused to grow as a way to pull it from the scalp, encourage it to grow. As a child you have no opinion and no say, and as a parent, you do what you feel is in the best interest of the child…and sometimes your self.
Nappy, something always used in a derogatory manner when I was growing up. Nappy meant bad, not manageable. “Girl, get that kitchen (a.k.a back of the neck). You don’t want no kunka bugs showing.” I can remember the countless Saturday’s spent in my grandmother’s kitchen while she pressed my hair using an old school pressing comb that went straight from the stove onto my hair. The holding of ears. The beads of sweat forming on my top lip from fear of being burned. Burns treated with butter (Lawd, butter is NOT for treating burns y’all. It traps the heat and makes the burn worse), and the repeating of “be still”.
Let’s look at the history of hair straightening in the black community. According to the BBC, in early African civilizations, hairstyles could indicate an individual’s family background, tribe and even social status. It is said that, the close proximity of ones hair to the sky suggested that it was the conduit for spiritual interaction with God.
So when did it all change?
It was said that after the abolishment of slavery, many blacks felt the pressure to fit in with white mainstream society and adjusted their hair accordingly. That’s deep y’all!
My first child was a girl. She was beautiful with a head full of hair! Thick, beautiful hair.
I followed in the footsteps of my mother and I pressed her hair when she was very young, about age four.
Damnit, thinking about this infuriates me. I can remember telling myself that I needed her hair to be easier to manage for me. My daughter hated getting her hair combed. She would hide all of the combs and brushes in the house. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with straightening hair, I’m just saying that in the process I forgot to remind her to love her natural hair. To remind her how beautiful her natural, God given hair was. Fortunately for me, I embarked on this natural hair journey while she was still young. It allowed me to teach her about her natural hair, and to remind her how beautiful it is. She’s been natural since middle school.
This really got me thinking about the irreparable damage (in some cases), and introduction of self hate (in some cases) in our communities so I dug a little deeper. Growing up my definition of good hair was soft, long and easy to manage curls. I’d always wished that my hair was more like that or like the hair of my mixed or white friends. I often questioned why God gave them the straight hair and us this “nappy” stuff. Y’all see where I’m going with this? I never looked at my desire for something other than what God gave me as subconscious hate. In my mind, I just wanted to fit in.
Forty years old, while recording a YouTube video I discovered something about myself that I never paid attention to. “I didn’t know what my natural hair looked like until I became an adult.”
Dear Little Black Girl,
Your natural hair is beautiful.
Until next time…🦋