scr

In my column last month, I wrote a bit about women who I call Adult Survivors of the Hot Comb or ASH-C (Ashy) for short.

ASH-C women were born with kinky hair, are mainly of African descent, and their childhood rite of passage included sitting in the kitchen getting their hair straightened with the dreaded hot comb. I mentioned in the column that while those hair grooming sessions were traumatic and near torturous, our elders administered the painful procedures as acts of love. They wanted us to be beautiful, even if they had to burn the beauty into us.

Apparently I have a number of ASHy readers. I received flattering responses about the column and some took the time to share their own experiences of their sessions with the “kitchen beauticians.”

“Thanks for that, my sistuh,” writes Ife Mahdi, a poet and administrative assistant from Dallas. “It takes me back. And like you said, those sessions, though misguided, were fraught with mama love. I cannot begin to describe the safety and love I felt as my mama slathered Dixie Peach (hair grease) on my hair. Then came the snap, crackle, pop of the black straightening comb as it glided through my head. She was mostly careful, but on those occasions when she ‘slipped,’ that black comb would sizzle into the side of my neck and some major trauma would occur. I was ‘tenderheaded.’ My hair was very defiant, resistant, and waged its own revolution. It was sayin, ‘Hell no, I won't go!’ And no matter how many of those high-powered down-to-the scalp burns I would get, my hair refused to stand up straight. Instead it would ‘go back,’ back to Africa, where it belonged.”

Like Ife, Allison Neal of Richardson, Texas, also understood the loving intent behind the “torture.”

“These acts were of parental care, concern and regard,” Allison writes. “Ironically, for many of us, without the weekly ritual of getting our hair pressed or having a perm, we would've experienced an identity crisis and felt unloved or neglected by our mamas!"

The most amusing, albeit insightful story, came from Linda Stein, a Jewish artist based in New York. Linda was born with hair that was dark and straight.

“You may be an ASH-C, but I belong to ASH-B; Adult Survivors of Hair Bleach,” Linda writes.

“Starting at age 16, there was nothing more important to my mom, who also loved me very much, than for me to have blonde hair a-la Marilyn Monroe. My sandy brown hair just would not do. This meant a searing, two-process bleach, in which the beautician first stripped the brown from my hair (which opened my scalp pores) and then applied a burning second bleach which added the blonde.

"This was done in a beauty parlor, but I had an additional kitchen ASH-P experience at an even earlier age, in which my straight hair was permed by my mom, starting maybe at 8 years old, so I could be ‘acceptably’ female.”

A word to my ASH-C and ASH-B sisters. While I appreciate the sharing of your stories, I pray that you are fully recovered from those extreme hair makeover sessions from your past. If you are still having flashbacks perhaps you should see a hairepist.

It’s time to let it go.

0 Comments

Social