In October, a Honeysmoke reader asked how I will instill “Black” values and a sense of pride in Simone and Nadia. This month, I’m going to address a practice I will not pass on to my daughters: hair issues.
For decades, black women have been at war with their hair. They fight with it, press it, relax it, cover it, protect it, weave it. For many black women, doing hair is a long, arduous and even painful process. It doesn’t have to be.
My mother cherished my natural hair. She didn’t believe in pressing combs, relaxers or anything else that could damage it. I grew up with a health head hair, and I consider myself lucky.
There is one exception. I had what many black women call “good hair.” I am embarrassed to admit I took pride in that label. What I didn’t realize as a child was that if I had “good hair,” then someone had to have “bad hair.”
When I got older, I veered from my mother’s thinking. I sat in a beauty shop for hours and paid someone to straighten my hair every six to eight weeks. I have a sensitive scalp, and I burn easily. As soon as a beautician started the process, my scalp felt like it was on fire and I wanted her to wash it out. I waited as long as I could between relaxers. They were costly, and I was loath to spend so much time — sometimes the entire day — in a beauty shop.
Beauticians relaxed my hair — off and on — for 10 years. The more I thought about it, the more I considered relaxers a form of self-hatred. Getting my hair done did not have to hurt.
One day while a reporter at my first newspaper job, I went to lunch, walked down the street to a salon and asked a woman to cut off all of my hair. It rested just past my shoulder blades. A group of women gathered around and watched as the beautician cut my hair to about a quarter of an inch, washed it and finger-combed it with curl activator.
I don’t want Simone and Nadia to have a similar experience with their hair. Curls give hair personality, and there is no need to straighten them. In our home, there is no such thing as “good hair” or “bad hair.” It’s just hair.