My hair and how people have reacted to it over the years
(This is part of an email that I just sent, with a lot of "story" about my hair/life and how people have reacted to it in different places)
I love your story, and totally understand... When I lived in Detroit, my hair was just... not popular. When I was homeless (from 9-12) I wore really shoddy cornrows because that was all Mama knew how to do. My hair was fuzzy, frizzy, and worn looking by the time she was done with it, and I had kids calling me "The Godfather" because of the style, I suppose. The second my Auntie saw me, she made an appointment at her salon to "fix" it, and then started (again) the relaxers. I suddenly, for a day, had people wanting to be my friend. When I moved to GA, I had someone do these beautiful braids on my head. Crazy hair art with braids, because I had so much, it was thick, and strong (despite the relaxers a few year prior. Everyone had pressed/relaxed hair, though, in the school.
Fast forward to here. I haven't had all that much luck with wearing my hair loose, and having even slightly big or poofy hair resulted in comments, "Wow, that's big" or "What happened?" This was in high school. I once tried to do a relaxer again, shortly after that, and it didn't take. I tried a lot, and my hair just seemed to punch it out. I started flat ironing, but even when I tried to wear it down, within the first hour it would get noticeably bigger, where people would make the same comments and make me feel ridiculous. That was probably because the iron was $10 from Walmart. My hair can usually hold heat, and curls wonderfully. The one time, in the 11th grade, that I did nearly a full set of curls on the top of my head, I had people CHECKING ME OUT. Guys who'd never noticed me in this all white school, and girls saying "Why don't you wear your hair like that all the time? It's so pretty!" It was like the solution to pleasing people was curly hair, after all these years of trying to figure out what I had to do to make them happy.
But now that I'm older, I have people asking, why not wear your hair natural? An afro would be so cool, dude! I'm thinking they're thinking that if I turned out like a rapper with a pick and a huge fro, they'd like me more, or have something to play with. I would feel ridiculous. I would look ridiculous because I have problems with how my face looks... with hair framing it vertically. lol!
It's like an ongoing joke though, in the world here, with all my friends. Dude, you should wear your hair in a big fro, all the time! Dude, that'd be so funny! I wish I could have a fro! --- I hate to say it, but white people are crazy.
The other day, the same guy at work that called me out on my hair for being... natural-ish looking (it was tied down in big braids, but not flat or pulled drastically tight) and he said "Dude, what's up with your hair?!" That same guy said just yesterday, or the day prior, that a week ago my hair was huge. It was after I did a curlformers set and it came out bigger than I like, so I tried to pull it back into a ponytail/bun. I thought it was cute, natural, soft, healthy, with the odd twist. I had a flower in it, and I got compliments! But he said, "Seriously, I've never seen your hair that big. It was HUGE!" And made arm motions to his girlfriend and his mom. I responded "I hate huge hair, that wasn't the goal" and... Well I suddenly felt terrible for having a style that I thought looked good, but was apparently HUGE enough to remember.
One of my best friends-ish has been an advocate of mine, never leaving a conversation about my hair without saying how difficult it is to work with, how long and strong it is, and how it's like no other head. (Respectfully, of course) And whenever someone says, "It's just hair" or "It just looks frizzy" she's quick to set them straight on how different it is. My husband knows how crazy it is, his mom, and everyone she talks to (cause she's spent loads of time twisting it with me). I have a lot of support, but I never really know what to do with the other friends, passersby, or just plain ignorant people.
I just end up feeling terrible, reaching for a hat, pulling up a hood, trying to pull it tighter...
I don't what all that's supposed to mean, but I think I'll put it in a separate thread along with this message to you! Thank you so much for sharing your story--I'm definitely getting better with my hair, styles that last longer, detangling tools, and learning how my hair reacts to butters, conditioners, leavins, oils... It's crazy how long I've gone without becoming a product junkie and learning this stuff sooner. It's also amazing how I've stayed natural, with no help, and how the work I've put into keeping my hair DOWN (protective styles, buns, rarely washing) has given me all this natural hair that people are now dedicating their lives to getting.
If you didn't know, I decided late last night to do a henna treatment. I don't really have a big reason, but I'm hoping it'll help with conditioning, and to work on some of the coarseness of my hair. And also, to help with detangling! If the world flips on it's axis and I get some weight on my hair, and it teensy bit of curl loosening, I'll die happy!
I have to say thanks for your story. I know what it is to have a hate relationship with your hair.
I got a relaxer at an early age. I have weird hair, fine strands, medium-thick density, very kinky (4b...z-shaped hair strands and 4c...teeny tiny o shaped coils). My mom became frustrated with the cottony texture of my hair and that it would tangle as soon as it was combed (my sister, although she had the same curl pattern, had hair easier to comb. Maybe it was other properties of the hair; she has medium and coarse strands for example), so when I was five or six, she relaxed it. Unfortunately, my hair did not take well to relaxers. My hair was kinky so that leaving in the chemical for only a short period would not straighten, but the strands were fine so the relaxer caused a lot of my hair to fall out. I grew up ashamed of paper thin, stringy, not-quite-straight hair that never grew past the nape of my neck.
I wore braid extensions a lot to cover up the damage. But I was tender headed and hated getting my hair done. When I was fifteen, I noticed that my mom's hair was growing nicely due to her Wave Nouveau (sort of a modern day Jheri curl), so I asked for one. I had it for maybe three years. My hair grew at first, but at the end of my senior year my mother went against the stylist's instructions and flat ironed/blow dried my hair. Within.the next two weeks my hair started falling out. I had to get a haircut.
About a year later, I got my last relaxer when a friend offered to do it for me. By then most of my hair was natural. My friend was so appalled by my natural hair that she left it in for longer than the longest time listed on the instructions! Of course what little hair I had fell out!
I decided to go natural and started transitioning out of the relaxer. At first, I was zealous about the natural hair for the sake of being natural. But my perspective has changed over the past three years. I went natural because it was more "pure" and because the style options seemed cool to me, but I remain natural because I know my hair and scalp like it. My hair is back to its thick, gravity-defying self and I actually like it that way. It retains length well (though I recently cut it and would like to go shorter). It's just easier for me.
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