I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within
Some days I am indeed my hair. Sorry India.
When it comes to hair, sometimes it’s a pain in the donkey being a black woman. There. I’ve said it. Crucify me.
As a pre-teen I begged and pleaded with my mother to allow me to relax my hair – she caved, and what a mistake that was. My hair is naturally fine (I was not blessed with the coarse, thick long hair that is my sister’s trademark) so the relaxer did more damage than good. It wasn’t until college I decided to break the cycle by going back to my hair’s virgin state —something I learned that you can never actually do. Duh! Once that virginity is gone, it’s gone.
I was hoping to at least get my hair as close to its original makeup as possible. I spent the next few years natural, but mainly rocking micro braids or curly weaves. It was that way until April 2009 when I waved the white flag because I could not find a natural style to uphold the vision I had for my wedding. With a heavy heart, I allowed my maid of honor to relax my hair a few nights prior to the wedding.
Fast forward to a little over two years later and I am free of the creamy crack because I chose not to ‘touch up’ at the six week mark. I wanted to once again find my way back to my roots. To say that my hair is better off without the relaxer is not something I can pronounce with 100% confidence. This is most likely because I know very little about maintaining my hair in its natural state (or any other state, really) and it pays the consequence for my ignorance.
I recently spent a number of days removing braids from my hair and worrying about how to style it now that I wanted to take a braid/weave-break. A worry made worse by the fact that my hair is short, very fine and easily breakable. I had an anxiety attack over my fear that I would look Celie-Color-Purple-You-Sho’-Is-Ugly with my hair in its natural state. No chemicals. No hot combs. No extensions. Nope. Not a thing. Just me. As I am. With the change in my hair, the focus would now be on my face. How would I distract from the flesh moles that are my enemies? How was I to hide (or at least divert attention away from) the chickenpox mark taking prime real estate on the bridge of my nose since the age of seven? How would I keep people from noticing that my eyebrows are so thin at the end that it looks like someone shaved them off halfway? All my physical insecurities would take center stage now that I had to rely on my own beauty.
Despite the nauseating thoughts, I made the decision to move forward with this change. My household budget was demanding it. I no longer wanted to contribute to the $507 billion (Yep. Scratch out the m in million, replace it with a b and add a ridiculous amount of zeroes.) African Americans (hello women!) spent in 2009 on hair care and personal grooming items. This is at least according to an annual report published by Target Market News. I was stunned silent when I heard that number. How can that be when the Census reports that we make up only 12 or so percent of the American population? For the sake of all things sensible, I had to take fewer rides on this crazy bus.
I headed to the hair salon (knowing this would now become a special occasion trip) with a boulder heavy on my heart. Was I doing the right thing? Seriously? On most days I am a love-myself-unconditionally type of chick. Where was that girl today? Not even replaying India’s Video in my head could give me the confidence I needed. By the time I reached the salon, I had chickened out of my resolve to be a more spending-conscious black woman. At that point I just wanted to be one of the perfectly coiffed girls that sat next to me on the subway and walked alongside me from the train to the salon. I just wanted to fit in.
In an effort to fool myself into thinking I was saving money, I decided on the least expensive weave style available – $325. Add to this the cost of the hair, a deep conditioner and tip; I was looking at dropping $500 in one sitting. This literally made me sick. My stomach did not settle down until I told the stylist I had changed my mind. I just wanted to wash, deep condition, and cut and style MY hair. $500 – $145 = $355 that I almost wasted because of some false sense of beauty that I let dominate my mind.
The woman who walked out of that salon more closely resembled me on most days – one who understands and embraces the true meaning of 1 Samuel 16:7 – The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
It was with that thought that I put my headphones in, searched for I Am Not My Hair on Slacker radio, gave myself a mental high five that it came up right away and walked down the streets of Brooklyn as if someone had thrown rose petals down for me to step on. While I was indeed my hair for most of the previous week, today I was choosing not to be.