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i am not my hair (but i kinda am)

Baby Me

Baby Me

I’ve read a great deal about black women’s hair issues. I’ve listened to my friends discuss styles, cuts, treatments, etc. Debates about perms vs. naturals are not uncommon. And I can’t relate.

My hair is the one thing that will tip people off that I might be mixed. It’s long, super-curly, prone to frizz and tangle, and now a lot more grey than I’d like. [Buying my house started that trend.]

Those special hair products that are made for black women [or sometimes marketed to women of color]? I can’t use those – they don’t work. Hair products for “normal” hair? Don’t work. RIght now, I use a mix of AVEDA Smooth Infusion products, Pantene, and sometimes Be Curly, Hang Straight, and Frizz-Ease. No, not all at the same time. And generally, if I pair the right products, on the right day, I can get a pretty good hair day.

Most people do not understand my hair. I don’t usually hold it against them, since it took me so long to understand my hair, myself. Even

now, I don’t ever go to salons because I’m terrified of what someone might do to my hair. Where I live, there aren’t a lot of people who know how to deal with my hair.

disheveled with a banana at 2 yrs old

disheveled with a banana at 2 yrs old

I was born with hair. Cute, soft, curly, dark brown hair. This is probably when the touching began, but I don’t remember it, so that doesn’t bother me. When I was two, my mom would make pigtails on either side of my head and just wrap the hair into one curl and let it fall. I was supremely adorable.

My hair kept growing, and when I was four, instead of a big curl on each side of my head, I had a braid. One on each side, that reached to my shoulders.

Until the day a girl a little older than me came over to play. She introduced me to the concept of dares. She dared me to cut half of one of my braids off. When I was four, it didn’t seem like a bad idea. So I did it. I think I may have even gone out and said something like, “Hey mom, look what I did!” That didn’t end well.

reading in bed - age 5 or 6

reading in bed - age 5 or 6

But aside from “bunny ears” [our family’s term for putting the end of the braid back up into the band at the top, to form a loop] two braids on the side of my head was my hairstyle every day until I was about ten.

Ten is when the battle began. I was going to be forced to do my own hair. There was never a plus side explained to me. By this time, still not really knowing how to deal with my hair, my mom had introduced a Friday evening ritual involving Luster’s Pink Moisturizer. My sister’s hair is straighter, less frizzy, and less tangly, and generally easier to deal with [IMO – she might beg to differ]. Mom knew better how to deal with her hair than mine, so she asked some black friends about what to do with my hair. Their answer? Luster’s.

I HATED that stuff. HATED it. It was pink, and kinda slimy, and I didn’t like the way it smelled. And it didn’t seem to do much for my hair. But Mom was diligent. They’d told her to use it. That it worked. And I suppose she just waited for the day that it would. Or the day I’d have to do my own hair.

There was a short era when I kinda looked like a …well… a ten yr old who’d just started to do her own hair.

My parents felt sorry for me, I guess, so they tried to help. My dad knew a guy who did hair. So we went to him, and he told me to bring a picture of somebody’s hair that I wanted mine to be like. So I found a picture of Robin Givens [Head of the Class era] and took it with me when we went in. [side note: to this day, when I think of Little Shop of Horrors, I remember this show] Robin Givens had pretty much straight hair with a few curls that, looking back, were most likely done with curlers or an iron. I gave the man my picture, and he gave me a bootleg Jheri Curl.

The SHAME! It was the 90s! Coming to America had already been out!
At first I didn’t realize that’s what this man did to my hair. It was much drier than those Soul Glo deals that will go down in infamy – so that was good. But those were not good times. My hair never really was the same after that. Though the Curl did go away after a while [of NOT going back to that dude].

After that debacle, I definitely didn’t trust my parents when it came to my hair. I was 12 now, and they decided to try something else. We went to the local tech school cosmetology department and got my hair straightened. This experience is the reason why I avoid beauty shops now, I think. I sat there for at least two hours, listening to several women talk about how terrible my hair was – how it was too long, too thick, there was too much of it, it was too curly…just terrible. When everything was done, I had straight hair, and then they curled it a bit for what they called a Shirley Temple effect.

This was how I discovered that I do not look good with straight hair.

I think I had straight hair for a week or so.

So I go serious about trying to figure out my hair on my own. There were some bumps along the way, and being a chemistry major, my appearance wasn’t high on my list for a while. I was definitely about low maintenance at that time and rocked jeans, a t-shirt, and a pony-tail for at least 3 years.

Then I met a boy, and he asked me why I never wore my hair down. I thought about that a lot in the following months, and finally got the nerve to do it. It looked good!

By the time I was 17 I was finally comfortable with my hair. It’s not low maintenance, by my standards, but I like it. The number one thing I have to do is brush it when it’s wet. This is something all the magazines tell you not to do. Well, good luck brushing my hair when it’s dry. They suggest only combing when your hair is wet. That would take me an hour. By that time, hair I’d already combed would’ve become tangled again. [Yes, that’s right, my hair tangles spontaneously. I don’t even have to move my head.]

These days, my only hair issues are the people who cannot/will not resist putting their hands in my hair [and essentially messing it up]. And of course, frizz.

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