My hair evolution has taken a considerable time to finally come full circle. But I made it! I have re-discovered my roots, literally. And I am no longer afraid to embrace my identity and everything that comes with it. The reason why so many African-American women are desperate to hide behind their sheets of straight hair is really because they are afraid to embrace or expose what really lies beneath the façade. Of course this only pertains to those of us with “bad hair” as opposed to “good hair.” The difference being that the latter refers to hair that can be classified as “swimming pool” hair, which means that you can basically dive into a pool of water and re-surface sporting shiny wet ringlets. So, if you are not blessed enough to be endowed with this enviable crown of glory then you will most likely not risk diving into the pool or if you do you will emerge with a soaking wet nappy mess. The “nappy” hair condition that most of us suffer from has successfully kept the beauty salons and supply stores consistently busy.
Comedian Chris Rock documented the thriving business of hair in the African-American community in his film, “Good Hair” which made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It’s almost incredible when you consider the amount of money we spend on our hair; African American women make up 10 percent of the nation's population, but spend more than 2 billion a year on hair care products. I fell into that trap out of a desperate need to tame what I considered a mass of “unruliness” on my head. But through it all I always gravitated towards the more natural look. I convinced myself that there was no way I could possibly wear my hair in its natural state without altering it with chemicals. So in my attempt to play on my tightly coiled curls I tried the “Wave Nouveau” look without success. Then I finally gave in and went completely straight. But I never felt content with my sleek and “hard to maintain” look. My visits to the hair salon became more frequent and more expensive. I was aware of how much time and money the process was costing me and yet I accepted it as my lot in life. Kind of like a sacrifice or a necessary task that would guarantee me full on acceptance in my professional and personal life. But those were just superficial beliefs.
Deep down inside I knew I didn’t need my hair to define me as a person or prove that I was worthy of respect or success. And I slowly started to resent the fact that we as African-American women had bought into the idea that if we didn’t wear our hair a certain way we would be denied entry into the elite society. Or somehow our men wouldn’t find us desirable. And then the rebel in me took hold and wouldn’t let go. I made the forceful decision to let go of all the constraints and allow my natural hair in all its glory to devour the over-processed mass that I had clung to for years. The result? Sheer Euphoria!
How could I have denied myself this feeling of renewal and contentment all these years! I re-discovered who I am and what I am. And for once I liked and appreciated the person staring back at me when I looked in the mirror. The pride you feel when you allow yourself to be who you are without any restrictions is second to none. I became more active and I also enjoyed tossing and turning in bed at night without dreading what I would look like in the morning.
It has occurred to me that the whole hair issue goes a lot deeper than just trying to keep up with your monthly retouches. It defines who we are as a people and it sends out a message to those who may judge us and wonder why we are ashamed of the one feature that clearly distinguishes us from all the other races. As women its only natural to experiment with different styling options before settling on the one that we are most comfortable or happy with. I can truly say that after a decade of confusion, frustration and money-draining options – I am now finally Happy to be Nappy!