Posts Tagged ‘black hair’

Going Into The Wild Alone

August 24, 2010

I am a little over a week into the loc process, and at this point I feel pretty good about where it’s going.

I had a professional start them with two strand twists, and while I initially had every intention of seeing her again for at least the next few months, I quickly grew tired of not having the freedom to wash my hair as I pleased (I could RINSE it, but she instructed me not to wash it until I saw her again next month, or else the twists would just all come undone). Considering the fact that dodgeball season is almost upon us, I need the freedom to wash my hair as frequently as I need to.

I already knew from the start that latching, rather than palmrolling, would fit my lifestyle more properly. It would give me the freedom to: wash my hair frequently without worrying about my hair loosening; maintain my locs with NO product and therefore no chance of buildup; maintain my locs any time and any where; continue my heat-free haircare (heat is bad for your hair, ya’ll); and do maintainance a little at a time or spread out over several days if necessary. The cons are that I run the risk of damaging my hairline if I overtighten (easy enough to avoid, I just have to know when to stop) and my locs will likely be more compact and a little less fluffy than they would have been had I chosen to palmroll instead.

So just a week after paying someone $90 to twist my hair, I spent about 6 hours over two nights fingerlatching all of my twists. It took forever mostly due to frequent interruptions from Eve, my own clumsiness, and the fact that I had to latch several twists more than once since they kept coming undone. After all of this work, I stood underneath the shower and rinsed my scalp for the first time in a week.

Of course, the unthinkable happened. As soon as my hair got wet, most of the twists undid themselves. Fuck! My long hours of crampy fingers and tired arms went down the drain in a matter of minutes!

So yesterday I picked up a latch hook from Michael’s and decided to give latchhooking a try rather than fingerlatching. I was able to tighten the twists a hell of a lot closer to my scalp than I could manage with my fingers, and unlike the first time, I haven’t had any issues with them coming loose. It looks better too – I can actually see the parts in my hair.

I spent hours last night latching about half of my hair and intend to finish the job tonight. Using a tool takes a lot longer than using one’s fingers, but it’s time well-spent and I only plan to do it every 1-2 months. Some of them may come loose after I wash my hair due to the ends already being loose, but that’s to be expected since I’m just starting and my hair is not even close to being locked yet. I feel pretty good about where this is going; I’ve always been a big fan of learning new things and DIY, and doing my own hair is something that makes me feel empowered. I won’t be seeing my loctitian again (she was nice, don’t get me wrong!), and I am admittedly a little nervous about taking my hair into my own hands, but I still feel pretty damn good about it.

Advertisements

Locs and Babies and Consent, Oh My!

July 28, 2010

I’m still thinking about hair, but today I’m thinking more about Eve’s head rather than my own. I’ve always wanted locs for myself and my children, and have always had every intention of locking up my kids’ heads while they were very young. While browsing the natural hair boards to see when (and, most importantly, HOW) other parents started locking up their children’s hair, I found that there is a bit of a debate over whether or not one should lock a child’s hair before they are old enough to consent to it.

I was surprised, honestly, that there was even any ethical question over it. Eve’s ears are unpierced because I do not believe in permanently altering children’s bodies for non-medical reasons without their consent – and this includes routine circumcision and cosmetic genital surgery for intersex children. Several people have asked when we plan to pierce her ears, and my answer is simple: when she is old enough to ask for it, she can have them. This may be when she is four, it may be when she is seven, it may be never. But it’s her body, not ours, so it’s not a decision that we will make for her.

My opinion on hair is very different. While locs are a somewhat permanent style, they ultimately are just hair. They can be grown out, cut off, whatever. If she gets older and decides that she doesn’t want them, we can remove them. If we cut them off, she will have to learn how to style her hair as it grows from very short to whatever length she prefers, but I don’t think that learning how to manage one’s hair throughout its entire growth cycle is really a bad thing. Basically, my thoughts on hair boiled down to: it’s my kid, it’s just hair, I’ll do what I want.

However, one person on the natural hair board did say something that made me rethink my stance. Her gripe was specifically with parents who decide to loc their very young children’s hair when they do not have locs of their own (including white parents in transracial families). She brought up the point that locs are a highly politicized style whether or not one grows them for political reasons, and that there are distinct stereotypes and other misguided assumptions that one will face if you’ve chosen to wear them. While it’s one thing for a child to endure that sort of ignorance from people with the loving guidance and support of a parent who is also dealing with the same thing, it’s another situation entirely to force that child to go it alone.

That was all she needed to say to convince me. I still intend to loc Eve’s hair, but ONLY if I have locs myself. If I can stick with it, then in about two years my locs should (hopefully!) have matured, and Eve’s hair will be long enough that I can start the process on her head – if that’s still what I want to do. If I can’t hang in there, if I quit again, then Eve’s hair will stay loose for as long as she wills it.

Fair enough? I think so.

Hair Porn!

July 27, 2010

Yesterday I made an appointment to have my hair done professionally for the first time in about five years. I’m finally going to start my locs again, and I am so excited that I’ve been reading natural hair blogs and looking at nappy pictures all day. This will be my third attempt at locking since I went natural; my hair is so naturally soft and my curls are so loose that my hair takes a very long time to loc. Both of my previous attempts failed because after more than a year of spending too much money at the hair salon, my hair still had a very long way to go; in my impatience, I quit.

This time I have a plan. I’ll have a professional start my locs (I do want more or less even parts, and I know I can’t manage that on my own), will see her for a few months to have them retwisted, but then will take over my own maintenance once I feel confident enough to do so (or once I start getting sick of spending the money every month – whichever comes first).  I’ll be maintaining my own locs using the latching method, which will give me the freedom to work out regularly (yes, I do plan on exercising again once the summer heat waves have relented) without worrying about my twists coming undone.

Via Feministe, I found a link to this hair porn tumblr (it’s not actual porn, silly), which features pictures of many women of color but also non-POCs and their ‘dos. Unfortunately, there are no image descriptions.

Raising a Woman of Color, Part II: Hair

May 19, 2010

Like many Black American women, I have had quite the love-hate relationship with my hair. I have “good hair,” a term that I hate because of its implication that there is such a thing as “bad” black hair. My hair is soft, loosely curled, grows quickly, and is easily “tamed” by a perm*. By contrast, “bad hair” is kinky, highly textured, tightly curled, and doesn’t take too well to straightening.

For as long as I can remember, my hair has been a hot topic among the black folks in my life. I wore my hair long for my entire youth, and it was fawned over by many, from my aunts and cousins to complete and utter strangers in the street. I was complimented time and again for having good hair, and was also frequently admonished (even by total strangers!) not to even think about cutting my hair. Among family, I was so proud of my hair. And now, even though the long straight tresses of my youth have been gone for nearly a decade, I STILL have women lamenting the loss of my good hair. Every time my mother looks at my high school senior photo, in which my smiling face is framed by long black hair, she sighs as if I’ve taken something from her.

This policing of hair doesn’t just happen among women. Black men have been just as quick to pass judgement on me for not wearing my hair long, especially if they’d seen pictures of me as a child. On one occasion my mother’s neighbor, a pastor, told me right to my face, “You could be beautiful like your mom if you would just let your hair grow.”

At my predominantly white school, it was a different story. The hair that I took such pride in at home never seemed good enough when I was surrounded by white kids. I was very jealous of the white girls and their hair. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why I couldn’t get my hair to do the things that my schoolmates’ hair did naturally. The other girls had ponytails and all I could ever manage were ponypuffs. I remember slathering tons of moisturizer and blow-drying my hair to death every morning because I wanted it to look like theirs and it just. Wouldn’t. Work.

Every time that my mom permed my hair (which was a painful and time-consuming process, but I always looked forward to it anyway), I thought that my hair would move ever closer to that perfect and beautiful ideal…and of course, it never did. I was doomed to have black hair for all of my life, though I took comfort in the fact that I didn’t have the really “bad” kind of black hair. Never mind the fact that my “good hair” was dry, breaking off, and coming out in tufts due to all the harsh treatment. Never mind the fact that every time I got a perm, I spent a week or two picking the scabs off of my scalp where I had been burned.

When I finally decided to go natural, it was just because I wanted to try something different. The day my hair was cut, even though I was nervous, I wasn’t thinking about all of the social implications of the action. I knew that there were plenty of people who didn’t WANT me to do it, but for God’s sake, I had no idea that they would still be buggin over it a decade later!

Shortly after the Big Chop, I made a new acquaintance: my own hair, in exactly the form that it grew out of my head. Black women are pretty much the only demographic who frequently spend their entire lives not having any idea what their hair really looks or feels like, so this was a big deal and a huge discovery for me. I had no more problems with breakage and the dryness was a lot less of an issue. I decided pretty quickly that I would not be relaxing my hair ever again.

Let it be known that I have no problem with women who choose to straighten their hair. I do, however, have a BIG problem with the characterization of straight or easily-straightened hair as “good” and nappy or natural black hair as “bad” (or unprofessional, or wild, or what have you). For many people it’s internalized racism at its very finest, and the policing of black hair is something that, while I bought into for a long while, now leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth.

Eve’s hair was the very first part of her body that I ever touched. She hadn’t even been born yet; she was crowning, and in between contractions I took a moment to put my hand between my legs and gently touch the top of her head. I felt her hair first, before I ever saw her eyes or heard her cry or kissed her mouth. First I felt her hair.

I love that hair. It’s grown significantly in the past month, and while it’s difficult to tell what its texture is going to be like later, right now it looks like she’s going to take mostly after me. It’s soft and gently curled, like mine. It’s good hair, but not because of its texture or behavior; it’s good hair because it’s her hair.

I won’t be perming my daughter’s hair, ever. I want her to grow up with the hair she was born with, with the hair that my fingers gently brushed in those moments before her birth. I want her to learn how to respect that hair as well as how to style it. If she ever chooses to get it relaxed (which I won’t allow until she is at least sixteen), she will make that decision with years of experience caring for her natural hair. My mother is already pushing back; she rolls her eyes and laments at how much of a burden I’m going to be saddling Eve with, as if natural black hair were something to dread or suffer.

It’s going to be an uphill struggle, battling white folks and black folks alike about what is appropriate or attractive for black hair (hint: many of them think that natural black hair is, by its very nature, neither) and how that relates to Eve. But I am determined in this. She will know that black hair is good hair. Period.

*Some black women refer to straighteners strictly as relaxers rather than perms. I grew up with perm and relaxer being interchangeable terms, which so far as I can tell is mostly a regional thing.

Twist and Fro

April 26, 2010

I am almost 27 years old, and I don’t know how to do my own hair.

Growing up, my mom relaxed my hair on a regular basis, and all I ever learned how to do with it was comb/brush it, wrap it (although I kinda sucked at that and the scarf always slipped off during the night), and pull it back in a ponytail. I slathered Luster’s Pink lotion on it on a regular basis for moisturizing, and that was about it.

Around age 19 or so I decided to go natural, and in all that time since then, I still have not learned how to do my hair. Besides a couple of failed attempts at locking my hair, a mohawk (which my husband did for me), and one completely bald stint (also courtesy of my husband), I’ve usually kept it shorter than two inches and maintenance free. I’ve done the wash-n-go for YEARS, and for the most part never even touched a brush let alone run a comb through it.

After Eve was born, I started to let my hair grow out a little. It’s now several inches long (maybe 4 or 5?) and on Friday night I washed it, combed it out, picked it out into an afro, and then pushed it back with a headband. It was super cute! I rocked it again the next day and even my mom, who has lamented my short hair and natural look ever since I first cut it almost a decade ago, loved it! My husband simply adored it.

Saturday night I spent an hour and a half doing two-strand twists, which I have never done before in my life, and they ended up looking pretty sloppy the next morning. I realized where I went wrong after doing a bit of Googling (I went to bed with my hair still wet, and I didn’t use anything to keep the twists in place while they dried), picked up some clips from the closest beauty supply shop, and spent 30 minutes retwisting and clipping. I let my hair air dry (I don’t own a blow dryer and don’t want one either), took out the clips, and voila! They looked awesome!

Naturally, I didn’t think to get a picture while they were still fresh, and today they look pretty fuzzy since I’ve slept on them, but I’m still feeling pretty great about the fact that I’m learning more about my own hair. After all, I’m going to have to learn how to do hair at some point once Eve has enough on her head to warrant her own ‘do. I look forward to more experimentation in the future!