My college application essay was about my hair. I cannot therefore deny that hair matters. But it’s just hair isn’t it? Just like skin color, it’s something you can’t change(unless you’re Michael Jackson of course). Why make it a big deal?
But the truth is that it’s not just hair. If you look at it biblically (for the Christians among us), hair is called a “woman’s crown.” And even in you don’t believe in the bible, it is not possible to ignore that hair is tied so closely to a woman’s perception of beauty. Hence why hair is a 500 billion dollar business.(yes you read right. 500 billion dollars)
But so what? Who cares how much women spend on their hair anyway? Considering that the vast majority of the women who buy extensions and chemically straighten their hair are black, I think it should matter to any black person.
The other day Cliff asked me why I keep my hair natural. It’s a very personal choice but it lies deeply in an issue that affects Black women in general. The summarized answer to that is I am tired of trying to conform to an idea of beauty that is built around someone who does not look like me. Women, consciously and sub-consciously, have embraced one image of what beauty is. I won’t bother to say what that image is, but search for google images of the word “beauty” (or follow the link below)
Growing up with this image of beauty, it comes as no surprise that black women have fallen prey to trying to look like the women they are constantly seeing everywhere. Weaves, wigs, relaxers were thus invented to help black women “enhance their beauty”. Many women, my sister included have stated that they prefer the aforementioned 3 alternatives to their own hair because they not only provide more variety but also make their hair easier to manage. But is it still just variety or rather an escape you are looking for if all you exclusively do are just extensions? And how do you know how hard it is to manage your hair if you have never tried?
The purpose of this blog post isn’t about other people’s choices though, it’s about me(in the least vain way possible of course). About a month ago, I started a Facebook album entitled “For the woman who dares to wear it natural”. It was a spur of the moment thing. I had just done a “No make-up selfie”-one of the latest trends on Social media, supposedly in support of cancer victims- and admittedly I was feeling a bit in love with myself, especially my hair.
I had just realized I had no pictures of me with my natural hair. And though I had convinced myself that the period of my life where I upload photos to social media in a bid to attract “likes” was over, I gave in to the impulse to do so. So I did 6 photos. And from that I have people asking after my hair as if it were a different entity. And I don’t mind so much. Because part of me has been looking for a way to debut my new look to the world so to speak. Get myself and others used to it.
I’m still getting used to people staring at my hair especially when I wear it out. Especially from the women. Most of them think I must have done something extra special to my hair. I find it ironic that my hair should be something of an oddity in Africa. There is one woman at the PAS of the US Embassy where I work who has often said “Oh look at you, you’re dressing like an American, even your hair.”
The guys have been way kinder. I wouldn’t say I get hit on more, rather I have heard a different set of pick-up lines of late. From “You have inspired me to keep my hair. Please give me your number so I can show you when I’m done” to some random drunk guy singing “Saka rasta” (some Zim Dancehall song) to me on my way to work. Which bring me to the third group of people who want to tell me what to do with my hair. No. I am not interested in getting dreadlocks. Or going bald.
Anyway, that’s enough hair talk for a day. Just one last thought from Marcus Garvey;
“Do not remove the kinks from your hair–remove them from your brain.’ Take that how you will…