I often hear people talk about our coiled texture – I’ve heard they’ve given numbers and letters to the type now – as coarse, brittle, rough, hard and unmanageable. Of course those in my generation were taught this from birth. And after hours of going through hair rituals and practices – frying, burning, braiding, de-kinking – why wouldn’t we believe our parents. After all, getting our hair done hurt.
It took me a long time to undo the mostly negative beliefs about my hair. I first went natural at 14 years old. In 1992, it was not a popular trend. “Why was I going back to my childhood?” my mother asked. On the contrary, I really wasn’t since, well, technically I was still a child, but also, I had my first perm in the 2nd grade. Ashamed of my natural tresses but hating perms, I kept my hair braided with extensions for the remainder of high school.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I saw a few black women wear their hair naturally as a style. I decided to take my braids out and not put them back in for a while. I think people don’t realize how stressful even braiding can be to the hair. After wearing my hair out, it started to relax. It didn’t feel the need to hold extra weight, be continuously burned (I used a hair dryer with a comb attachment quite often to “manage” my hair) or continuously pulled. It could finally just be.
Of course all of the hair products out now were not out in the late ’90s. No repair creams, softening lotions, etc. In fact most of the products were almost as harsh as the chemicals. So I only used shampoo and conditioner. And for the first time, I felt my hair … and it felt soft.
Felt, ink pens and fabric glue