I have never broached the subject of my hair before.
I am of African and European descent, but you can already guess what part of my genes dominate my hair texture. I used to HATE getting my hair combed as a little girl. That was before chemicals or heat ever touched my scalp. Every other Saturday they would “come for me” to take me to the sink to get my bushy, very thick hair washed. It was a crazy ritual that took almost half a day. Wash, condition, rinse, towel-dry, grease, comb (with repeated slaps from the comb – ugh), twists and bantu knots (we call them “chiney bumps” in Jamaica). If we’re wearing bangs the next day to church, the bang would be perfectly parted, a piece of paper would be twisted and turned into a make-shift roller, the bang would be dampened and super-oiled then wrapped for a set. That night we would wear scarves to not mess up our hair. (Me and my sister went through this grueling ritual together.) On Sunday morning our bangs would be carefully unwrapped, our bantu knots unknotted and pulled into one or two puffy pony-tails with ribbons and we would be ready for church.
If you read “It’s My Life and I Live Here: One Woman’s Story”, you saw where my mother joined my dad in the United States and left behind her two older daughters (me and my younger sister) with my grandma. (Mommy took our youngest sister with her.) Before Mommy left for the U.S., she took me to a hairdresser for my first perm. I was so excited – until the chemicals ROASTED my scalp! I was horrified at the experience. I loved how straight and long my hair became after each perm, but I hated the torture I endured each time. I had the same hairdresser for five years until I moved to the United States with my sisters to join our parents.
As I grew older and became responsible for my own hair appointments I began to experiment with my hair. I chopped it low on the sides and back and kept hair on top, I tried streaking to get highlights, I twisted or braided my hair numerous times, and so on. I enjoyed precision bob haircuts, angle bobs, finger waves, the flip, you name it, I’ve done it:
Then I went through a painful divorce.
At the time of my divorce, I looked in the mirror and realized that I did not really like who I saw. All my life, up to that moment, was based on what others thought of me or expected from me. This included my hair and appearance. I was very plain, and I really did not want to perm my hair anymore. I tried a more conservative approach to changing my hair, which was to grow it out by braiding. I braided my hair for 1 year. After they pulled my braids out for the last time and I saw the damage to my hairline, I decided at that moment to “chop it all off”. The lady asked me about 5 times if I was sure this was what I wanted to do, as my hair was shoulder-length at that moment. I told her I can’t think of any other way to do this. So this was the result:
I was a bit nervous, as I knew that people (including fam) would talk. But at that moment I decided that I would be BRAVE and be ME! I always wanted to stop perming my hair, and this was my chance to stop! No braids, either. I started thinking of the major benefits. No more long prep time in front of a mirror to style hair. No more mandatory trips to the hair salon that took all day. Financial FREEDOM! So I started shopping for hair products to keep it moist and fresh. It was so easy to maintain that I ignored all the statements that many would make. I was happier. I felt like I could adequately represent myself and not put on an image to please others. Soon I began trying colors to give it a different look, and I even allowed it to grow higher at times:
I LOVED IT!
After wearing it short for 3 years, I began to wonder what my natural hair really looked like. The short version was very manageable (still thick, but manageable) so I figured a longer version would not be too difficult to maintain. So I started growing it back last year:
Today, my hair is a reddish-brown and much longer. I have been stopped more times than I can count to be asked: “Who did your hair?” I get a kick out of the responses when I tell them “I did it!”
There is a song by a famous artist entitled “I am not my hair”.
For me, that is partially true. My hair is only a part of who I am, yet it plays a huge role in demonstrating who I am. I am free to be me, regardless of what others may say. I LOVE my look, and I am thankful that I gave myself permission several years ago to be ME.
Thank you to all who love me regardless of how I wear my hair.
I am my hair!