Gather two or more Black women together for any appreciable amount of time and the conversation will eventually get to the topic of hair. I was about six years old when I discovered that one can have either “good” hair or “bad” hair. Curlier or “nappy” hair was bad and straighter or less curly hair was good.
My hair is somewhere between the two – too curly to be “good” hair and too straight to be “bad” hair. I suppose it’s simply naughty.
Today I took my naughty self to the salon next door to my office for a trim. This was the first time I had my hair cut there and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. See, not every stylist knows how to cut curly (or Black folks’) hair. Sure, they all say they can but not all of them can.
Way back in the day, much to my mother’s dismay, I used to wear a wicked ‘fro. Now, any decent Cleopatra Jones wanna be knows that to keep the ‘fro looking good, you gotta get it regularly trimmed. One time, being short on funds, I found myself in one of those cheap, franchised, clip joints waiting for someone to call, “Next!” I have since learned to sprint the moment I see a set of electric clippers. That woman sheared me like a sheep and the results were nothing but baaaaaaad!
Today’s trim, however was fine and I’m very pleased.
After I got over the ‘fro, and into the 80s, I used to chemically relax my hair. This made my hair straight but also as dry and brittle as a corn broom. To get it to look half-decent I’d have to, strangely enough, set it on rollers to take a curling iron to it. For years I’d go to salons and complain about my hair. It was too frizzy, wouldn’t stay straight, took too much work and cost a fortune in hair products to maintain.
Then one day a new stylist was working with my hair and said, “You know, women come in here and pay good money to get hair like yours.” That’s when the penny dropped. I must have been out of my mind paying all that money and wasting all that time trying to fight genetics. I got all my chemically treated hair chopped off and went au naturale!
I’ve kept my hair natural for twelve years now and I’ve never loved my hair more. It’s long. When you stretch it out it goes almost to my waist. I can braid it, twist it, pull it back, wear it down and put it up. It is healthy, strong and I can play with it!
What never ceases to amaze me is that other people want to play with it too. I’ve had total strangers come up to me and gush, “My what beautiful hair you have!” and reach out to touch it. Ok, I know I’m not the only coloured gal to experience this so I have to ask, what is it that compels people to want to touch the hair of a black person? Sheesh, I’ve had times where I thought I was the attraction at a petting zoo.
In some cultures, the top of the head is supposed to be the most sacred part of the body. In other cultures, the hairstyle is deeply connected to spiritual belief or journey. In these cases, it is quite offensive to touch the head of another person without that person’s consent. To me, whatever the culture or belief, touching another person’s hair without permission is simply rude. So unless you are my stylist or my lover, please purge the urge.