Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Hair



I’ve tried many different hairstyles through the years: braids, wraps, weaves (loved my weave!), afro puffs, straightening combs, roller sets—you name it, I’ve tried it. But I’ve always come back to the relaxer.

Ever since I could remember, I’ve always “relaxed” my hair. For those who don’t know, a relaxer is the opposite of a perm. So a relaxer is a chemical treatment that straightens hair, as opposed to a permanent, or perm, that adds curls. My hair is naturally coarser than other types, so it takes a lot more maintenance than other hair styles.

I grew up in the South, in the age of the relaxer. My mom, aunts, and grandmothers were not much for nappy hair or natural looks, so we did anything we could to survive the heat and humidity. Honestly, I have longed to be able to wake up in the morning, brush my hair, and go. But I like the look and variety of styles I can achieve with relaxed hair. It takes time, but I feel it’s worth it.

I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn, but while all women care deeply about their hair, for black women, it is our crowning glory. Whether it’s true or not, a lot of us believe our hair relates to how we are first perceived in the world. Much of my self-worth is attached to my hair, maybe because I spend a lot of time and money to tame it. A bad hair day is on a whole ’nother level in my world! If I were a braver woman, I’d show you by taking a picture of myself this morning with bed head—not gonna happen!

A friend of mine gave me the children’s book Happy to Be Nappy by bell hooks, to show my daughter and son the range of black hair styles available to us. Their hair is much different that mine because they are biracial and the texture is much finer than mine. But however they decide to treat their hair, I’ll help them understand the range of choices they have in caring for their own distinctive, beautiful crowns of glory.
For more hair-raising stories, visit Sunday Scribblings.

19 comments:

Remiman said...

January,
I think that for all races and both sexes, Hair is their crowning glory!
I wish there was a relaxer when I was a teen. ;-)
rel

Crafty Green Poet said...

When I worked in Malawi, I loved to watch my students plaiting each others hair and then to see the final styles was amazing!

gautami tripathy said...

Here we call relaxers, straightners! I have VERY straight hair and I used to wish for wavy hair.

Kamsin said...

I think hair is really fundamental to who we are whatever our race is. After all it's such awesome stuff!

thefirecat said...

I love both bell hooks and Chris Raschka (my favourite of his is "Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop", though "Yo! Yes?" is a close second). I didn't know about this one--I'll have to check it out!

Have you read "Nappy Hair" by Carolivia Herron? It's truly wonderful and speaks to your idea that for black women, hair is not only their crowning glory, but an expression of their fundamental power--not only as women, but as black women.

I of course am a mouse-blond-turning grey white chick....when I was in my 20s I used to wish passionately that I'd been born with red hair, because that was the only true "powerful" hair myth I could come up with for myself. The whole "redhead as witches" thing runs very deep in Irish roots. The only thing people would associate my hair with was air-headedness.

Although, come to think of it, maybe they were just basing that on my personality....

This was a wonderful post, and filled with insight. Thanks.

January said...

Thefirecat: I have not read Herron's "Nappy Hair," but I will definitely check it out. Thanks for your comments.

Rob Kistner said...

I enjoyed reading your perspective in this post January.

Our hair is one of the very first things people look at when they look at us.

When I first was balding, I struggled with the idea, and photos of me showed the lack of confidence in my eyes. But after a year or so, I came to grips with it... and after a few summers, with a nice 'cool' bald head -- I came to really love it... and love how I looked being bald.

Now it's been 20+ years being boldly bald -- and you couldn't pay me to go back.

My confidence really shows in how I carry myself. I've also learned that many people see a bald male head as a sign of wisdom.

Key in life -- love what you got, and display it with pride... ;)

boliyou said...

I think the book sounds great! There are so many options for hair of all types that can help us define and boost our confidence.

paris parfait said...

Isn't it funny how much time and attention - and money - we spend on our hair - and worrying about it? But it seems to be a universal preoccupation. And ah, the travails of heat and humidity on one's hair. Sigh.

Dani in NC said...

Great post! It looks like we were thinking along the same lines when we followed the prompt today.

For black people, especially women, how you wear your hair makes a statement. Even if a woman straightens her hair to fit in with her peers, she is making a statement: "I don't want to bothered with politics; I just want to get on with my life." I think the only other people who can come close to understand the importance of hair as a statement are the young alterna-kids who sport mohawks and crazy colors in their hair.

DJPare said...

Beautiful crowns of glory - great line!

Sandie said...

I am glad I wandered by. This is a great hair post.

Paul said...

Variety is the spice of life. That's something I'm learning going through a number of these posts and yours has contributed to that learning experience. Thanks.

January said...

Paul, that's what I'm finding too--everyone has a story or opinion about hair.

Bug said...

Love the book! And now you MUST post a pic of your hair on a bad hair day. I know I've never seen you with so much as a lock out of place!

laundrygirl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
laundrygirl said...

Sounds like a cool book!

Catherine said...

That's a very cheerful looking book. I've never heard the term "nappy" before. At least, not in relation to hair. In NZ, a nappy is a diaper!

Leila said...

my hair is probably like your kids', but believe me i know the anguish of bad hair days. i grew up getting it straightened, my mom pulling at it like it was steel wool, commenting negatively on my natural birds nest look. no one was ever happy with my hair. i still have a whole lot of neurosis attached to my hair! it's great reading about you and your hair. love the poem too. few people are so frank about how important hair is!

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