Thursday, February 2, 2012

BFly's Black Herstory Month: 'Black Hairstory'

Okay, so after yesterday’s post regarding Black History Month, I got to thinkin’.  While I don’t necessarily think we need to have black history month anymore, I won’t be a ‘party pooper’ and not join in the celebration.  After all, I am Black and I am Proud and I/we deserve to be celebrated.  However, I’m going to celebrate a little differently than most others.  On this blog, I will not (just) post about the accomplishments & contributions to society of famous (or not-so-famous) African Americans.  I am going to (mostly) talk about my history and experiences as an African American…..specifically, an African American woman. With this post, I will kick off BFly’s Black Herstory Month (‘BBHM’) by telling you a little about my ‘Black Hairstory.’

I was born to an African American father and an African American mother, with Native American roots.  I know, I know, that’s just about every black person’s story.  Mine is real (included are pics of my grandmother as the ‘show’ to my ‘tell’).  If asked, my grandmother will proudly tell you she is a black woman and makes no mention of her NA roots, unless asked about them.  Most people do ask, because she looks like she is of a race/nationality other than African American.  This is due to her NA grandfather (as the story goes), from which she inherited a reddish-brown complexion, smooth skin tone and a long, black silky mane.  Both of which were passed down (in various, diluted amounts) from generation to generation.


My Mom inherited more of her mother’s NA genes than she did her father’s AA genes, when it came to hair and complexion/skin tone; although she had enough ‘heft to the weft’ to pull off a big ole afro back in the day.  The length of her hair ran the length of her back and that, she passed on to me (and my two sisters).  That being said, when you see me, you don’t see nary a NA root; not in my complexion, facial features nor hair texture.  I am chocolate brown with a smooth skin tone and naturally long hair that is not coarse but it damn sure ain’t ‘fine.’  I call it ‘nappy-curl’ because I can wash ’n go, with conditioner, and have a nice curl texture but when it’s left un-coiffed and dry, it looks like a bunch of red cotton. In the pic below (I was 7 years old) you can see my big poof of hair that was pulled into a side ponytail:

As a youngster, I hated to get my hair done but, without fail, my mother washed, sometimes blow-dried and styled my hair every other week and our ‘dos were refreshed, in the meantime, as necessary.  As a preteen, after I grew out of wearing ponytails (like most other young black girls) I wanted a relaxer.  Why?  Because I wanted the already long length of my hair maximized (having long hair was a huge plus in the looks department) and I wanted my hair to blow in the wind.  As most other black mothers did, my Mom said ‘No’ the first few times I begged but, eventually, she gave in.  But not without warning me that I would regret it and mess my hair up for life.  She was right (almost).  Throughout the years, I’ve tried different things with my hair……..relaxers, braids, salt ‘n pepa haircut (done at a cosmetology school and looked a hot afroed mess……wasn’t a curl in damn sight!), ponytails, fingerwaves, pineapple waves……..the works.  The only thing I didn’t try was a jheri curl….and that was because I saw what it did to my sister’s tresses.  Nevertheless, my hair fell out, broke off and ended up looking so far gone from where it began. I finally learned to take care of my hair, while in college, and have maintained a healthy grade & decent length of hair since.  But, then, for the next 15+ years, I wore the same style almost always (like what you see in the pic below):

Fast forward to the point of maturity where I was finally able to see (what my Mama had been telling me all along) that the length of my hair did not make me (beautiful).   My Mom had been suggesting, for years, that I cut my hair into a very short hairstyle to ‘bring out my beauty.’  Years ago, she cut off all of her hair and hasn’t let it grow past her shoulders since.  A little more than 2 years ago, I finally decided to take my mother’s advice and figured my birthday would be the perfect time to do it.  I didn’t tell anyone about my plan. I just made the appointment, told my stylist what I had in mind and she gave me what I wanted, plus some. The result of that haircut was the style you see here (I absolutely LOVED it!):

For months, I rocked the Mohawk style in various ways and not since I was a teenager had I received so many compliments and ‘double-backs’ (when someone walks past then turns around for another/closer look).  I had to admit, with the short-short hair, my facial features were on full display….and I looked damn good. I was definitely feeling myself!  So much so that, a little over a year later, I looked in the mirror and said, ‘To heck with it……I’m taking it all off!’  Once again, I didn’t tell a soul.  I went to my barber, who had been maintaining my shape-ups, and told him to take it all off.  He said, ‘Whaaaaaaa?!?!  Are you serious?’  I said, ‘Yes I am…..dead serious.’ So, he commenced to cuttin’.  And when he was finished, I knew I made the right decision when I heard him whistle. ‘Whooooo weeeeeeeee!,’ he said.  Then, he (jokingly) asked me what I was doing later that day.  Yeah, I was looking good (as you can see in the pic below).


On the day I got my first brush-cut, I was also a host for my sista-friend’s baby shower.  So my sisters, Mom, daughter and some of my closest friends were in attendance.  I wish I could’ve recorded the looks on their faces and the comments they made when they saw me.  That’s when I KNEW I hit the jackpot. Between my fam’s reactions and the reactions of so many others, what I already knew was confirmed: long hair did not ‘make me.’  I looked gorgeous with almost no hair at all.  Then, when I decided to make it red-hot……..ooooohhh wee…..couldn’t tell me nothing (as is evident in the pic below)!

I figured I’d be a brush-cut, redhead for life. Then, I began to miss having hair and being able to wear different hairstyles.  So, I got my last cut in August and decided to keep my hair in its natural state.  Now, I am sporting a small, red afro that has grown out enough that tracks of some kind can be sewn in (which will actually be happening tonight).  I plan to give my hair a rest and let it grow, ‘under wraps,’ by keeping it weaved, braided & twisted up for a few months.  Come late Spring, early Summer, I‘ll be sporting a bigger, redder, badder afro!  I know it’s going to be a lot of work, keeping it healthy and pretty, but I’m looking forward to the versatility my natural tresses will bring.  While (the length of) my hair no longer defines how beautiful I believe I am at any given time, I’m glad to have experienced the long and short of it.

What’s your black hairstory?