Posts Tagged ‘natural hair’

Hair, Home and Meaning

January 28, 2012

“To tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin to love yourself, value yourself. And that’s political, in its most profound way.”  — June Jordan

I come from a culture, it is said, somewhere between where the Ganges meets the Nile, converging with European colonialists, Chinese, Syrians and indigenous people. Where girls slicked their hair back with petroleum jelly and water — cinching cinnamon buns wound close and pulled tight with woogies. Where box-plaits were common and traditionally, you got braids for carnival, even my East-Indian, white and black mixed friend whose hair I’d done, tightly winding the ends with tiny rubber-bands. Her father hated them, she told me — hated how it looked when she plaited up her hair. And my curly haired primary school friend: a Trini ‘Spanish’ — every swivel of her head echoing with the clack of snap fasteners and aluminum foil on the ends down her back.

In secondary school, rebellious girls shaved half the underside of their heads — it was a way to be definitively edgy then. And more than one East-Indian girl came into her own by loping off the long, dark strands she’d been waiting to remove. Many of them, never looked back. Some girls permed their hair straight; some were life long naturals like me. Some of those naturals permed then when natural again — some stayed natural, adding length in locks, in nattys: coiling, clumping, unbridled, twisting, spiraling across shoulders, down lower backs.

Our heads once smelled like Luster’s pink oil, Let’s Jam! pudding and African Pride products. We pulled brushes from school book-bags and dipped them under the tap before dragging them across our scalps and flaked black gel buildup from our tresses.  We leaked jheri-curl juice onto the top of our blouse collars and maintained dry-curls and glittered finger waves.  We learnt about “weave-ons” and sat still with our selves, quietly dancing fingers around and around to put our hair in corkscrew twists.

We traded in banana clips, barrettes, the sharp teeth of tortoise shell hair combs and baubles; and sported bandeaus, bandanas wrapped around buns and metal hair clips made famous by those girls tumbling through the air at the Olympics on TV, instead. Once upon a time, our mothers slow-rubbed Dax grease into our roots, coated strands with coconut oil and wove colored woolies into plaits and styled them to match uniforms. They burnt and sewed the edges of our hair bows so they wouldn’t unravel — and when they did, we ran the length of school yards in vain, searching for them like lost dreams in the breeze.

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yea i know this is not a hair blog, but…

May 31, 2009

“small ting” as we say in trini.

i’m soooo excited about how moisturized and black and scrumptious my hair looks in this random pic that i espied in a friend’s photo album. [post-slight-fiasco-on-virgin-hair and several packs of braids later. so yes, all things considered, i’m frickin’ excited about it].

black girl hair :-)

also, when i go to work,  i love how some of the little black girls in our program, who are still sporting their natural afro-coils and plenty baubles and barrettes, play in my hair. their little hands idly grasping some sections, fake-stylin’ telling me what i should do with it—put a pink band with a bow on it here or there. hmmm….you know what?  i’m so thinking about that too.

in trinidad, when i was in primary school, we were fascinated with hair, among other things. older girls played with younger girls’ hair whom they knew and friends played in [or tried to play in] other friends’ hair. i remember little girls would tell other little girls that “letting somebody play in yuh hair” would “make yuh hair fall out,” kind of like what jet beads are supposed to ward off. it was the nascent covetousness and all that supposedly came along with it that was supposedly dangerous to a young girl’s flowing mane. so this was highly discouraged. wisdom passing down from the mouths of mummies, mum-figures and other appointed gate keepers of little girls.

still, some of this inevitably fell on a few harden ears, as we un-braided and re-braided somebody’s plait at one time or the other, re-fashioned a woolie or a selection of hair-clips. somebody’s mummy was bound to be displeased when they got home. fun hair to style, was never hair like mine. it was something silky. something long.  something closer to what we styled on our barbies’ heads at home. even, ahem—all my black barbies. nary a kinky coil in sight on any of them.

and so i never swat a kid’s hand away from my hair—i smile at their excitement and i  try to hang around at least a little bit, to endure some random texture feels and impromptu hair fixing. like i am some giant dolly gone askew [without the requisite dimensions, painted on face and the like]. i know i’m no where as cool as these kids sometimes seem to think i am. my hair isn’t even that cool–or that special. but it’s extremely nice to see young black girls interested and excited in the potential of their own kind of natural hair.

trust me, you don’t see that happening a whole lot these days so when it does—it’s significant to me and quite refreshing to see. plus the little girls with relaxed tresses, while interested in me, in the capacity that i function in, they are decidedly less impressed with my hair, one even voicing loud disapproval after my last braids-with-extensions removal. interesting stuff. working with kids and the way in which they reflect society in their own kiddie ways. 

yes, i am not my hair and blah, blah, blah and all that stuff but in many ways—i am and that’s a-ok with me. for more adventures in black girl hair, google “natural hair blogs,” “black girl with long hair,” or peep the link below: 

http://blackgirllonghair.blogspot.com/

granted there are many excellent hair blogs out there; all good in a variety of ways. and i am by no stretch of imagination, a connoisseur of the entire range of them. this is just one that of late, i visit frequently and enjoy. this link really serves as a kind of validation and is really either for a) anyone who doubts the issues of black girl hair or questions the relevance of this post in relation to that or b) my own issues with staking a claim that there are black girl hair issues and putting it out there. again.

cause i kind of have before —– here,

gotta love the complexities of life y’all. and some days, i truly do.

Hairstories

March 27, 2007

So here is my inaugural blog. Initially I thought about calling my ruminations “constructive commess” but I decided against it. While I cannot promise to always be constructive (in fact, many times I am not), I am however frequently creative minded. Now commess is a popular Trinbagonian colloquialism or trini-ism as I like to say. The word commess struck me as totally apt because of the way in which I imagined a space where I could dig into a variety of sometimes random and poignant observations or thoughts on things in my life, all through a Trini-esque lens of course. Sometimes it’s confusion cause I am totally random and that’s the way that my mind works. The following thoughts deal with black women’s hair. This blog really grew out of me writing a response to a friend’s myspace blog about her thoughts and concerns with wearing her hair natural. She explored the response from men (specifically black men) and their inability to accept that her hair is beautiful. She was constantly being plagued with assertions like, “you’re really pretty BUT…(insert appropriate criticism of Afro-textured unpermed hair here). Now seeing that she epitomizes the look of the stereotypical mixed race sister, faced framed with a mass of soft, fuzzy curls. And yes, I used the word “soft” there strategically cause you know, REAL black hair supposedly isn’t.

All this got me thinking about the ways in which black women’s hair functions as this politicized space. Hair can be political, it totally can and it really doesn’t matter what “type” of black girl you are either. Decisions, decisions. Fraught with so much meaning and imbued symbolism. To straighten or not to straighten? A conscious sister has got to rock dreads or an afro right? It also made me think about how growing up West Indian doesn’t mean that we don’t deal with all this either. I grew up in the West Indies and I’ve never had a perm in my life, which is really not an anomaly where I come from. Part of this stemmed from my parents and the way I was raised, it just wasn’t something we were swayed to do. My mother wears her hair natural as well and she never indoctrinated me into the world of relaxers and whatnot. Of course women perm there all the time and there are enough people still existing in some post-colonial fog about what constitutes beauty and “good hair” (more on that later). We have all of that. But despite that, it’s still not all that uncommon to see plenty women rocking their natural hair. So when I came to the states for school, it was amazing the numbers of people on any given week who were befuddled by my hair enough to ask questions and/or touch.

First and foremost, people are always amazed that I never had a perm. Especially black people. Most significantly black people. People are always amazed that I am a dark skinned female with natural hair that supposedly has some “length” allegedly. This is really what makes it a kind of “good hair” for some people. It’s good because it’s been know to graze the tops of the shoulder blades. That in and of itself apparently boggles the mind. People of African descent have some ill conceived notion that black hair “does not grow.” It’s hair! It grows! This obsession with length and what constitutes length. This obsession with movement and what constitutes movement as if natural hair does not “move.” Oddly enough, these are the same people who don’t seem to connect the use of chemicals with unhealthy hair. If one is so inclined to think obsessively about length and all, then leaving your hair chemical free and natural would probably benefit it tremendously. More mind-boggling are the people who grab a fistful of my hair strands and proclaim something like, “wow, it’s so–soft,” many times in an awe filled voice tinged with surprise. Again, usually but not always limited to people of color. What do they expect? It’s hair. Sigh.

As for the popular rationale behind this supposed need for relaxers, as my mother once said to me, something is seriously wrong with a people saying that they cannot deal with their own hair. The psyche must be in crisis. I mean it’s YOUR hair. If you can’t “deal” with it, then who can? Added to which, there seems to be this social construction of black women out there revolving around the beauty industry. It’s true, there is a versatility in black hair that is reflected in the products and possibly the buying power of black women when it comes to hair care products. We can relax, texturize, color, braid, perm, weave etc. and apparently we do so with enough regularity to support a thriving hair and beauty industry. The array of possibilities and the way in which it is presumed that all black women are predisposed to indulge in this market is everywhere. In my life, it is always other women of color saying, “girl, when you going to do something different?”

There is this presupposition that I must somehow eventually get bored with my kind of hair. With MY hair. With my being. I am frequently running into yet another young black woman trying to entice me to change something hair-wise. Straighten it and get some versatility even though it is versatile already in its own way. And to be different. Different as opposed to what though? Me? First of all I don’t have the desire, time, energy or disposable income to be running around changing weaves and refreshing micros and touching up relaxers on the regular. Second of all no one ever asks my white friends who have had their hair exactly the same for as long as I have known them (a lil trim here and there notwithstanding), just straight and natural all their life to switch it up.

So, hair is complicated. It’s just always been a part of me, like the color of my eyes or the hue of my skin. I didn’t choose one day to cut off a perm and find myself. And it’s okay if someone chooses to go that route or not. It’s always just been, me and this hair. I just think it’s very important to contextualize why we think the way we do and understand where this all comes from. Your hair is not difficult but if someone tells you that long enough from every angle, then you might just think it is. It’s sometimes annoying having to consistently validate to random other black women why it’s okay for me and my hair to have the freedom to just be. According to India.Arie, even though “I am not my hair,” if I was though, I’d be cool with that. Though that is not all that I am, personally I’d prefer that than people trying to make a concerted effort to separate me from well, me.