By Erickka Sy Savané
I had never heard the term so I almost choked. I looked at her brown skin with hair looser than mine, (I’m no expert, so I’m guessing she was a 4b), and I thought, Wow, she really drank the hair kool-aid! It reminded me of years earlier when I was talking to a friend and she referred to herself as having ‘good hair.’ Her hair was loose like actress Sally Richardson, and when I checked her on it she became instantly embarrassed in that way that people do when they realize they just said something stupid. I wasn’t even mad at her because this was just the beginning of the natural hair movement and she didn’t know any better. She had been told her entire life that her hair was good, and now people were trying to tell her that a cat wasn’t a cat. I just wanted to make sure she knew the term was played out so she wouldn’t end up looking like a fool out in these streets. So when it came to this friend I knew that she didn’t know any better either because she had been told the same thing. I didn’t even bother to check her on it because, if anything, she thought that she was being a good friend. I had just started dating an African man and the way she saw it, with my nappy hair and his, my kids were about to be condemned to a life of short, nappy, carpet texture hair. My God, what was I thinking? Was the ‘D’ that good!?!
Five years later, our first daughter was born. You know how black moms (at least my mom) love the first few months of a baby’s life because their hair is so soft and fine and all you have to do is slap baby oil in it? We call it the baby hair stage. Well, my daughter had that stage for about 3 days, and after that came the “carpet texture.”
It was just like my friend said, and I don’t know why, but it caught me off guard. My mom too because as thick as my hair was as a baby, it didn’t resist baby oil, it didn’t refuse to lie down, it was obedient if not for a few months. My husband would pick her hair out into a little fro and honestly, I wasn’t ready for it. Even though I was already natural and had been for a couple of years, I was still addicted to two-strand twist and anything that would give my hair texture. I considered that pretty. The picked out look was radical, black, and strong. And now it was on my baby. How Sway? At first, I did what many black moms do. I put so many rubber bands in her hair that it looked like a can of afropuffs exploded, but that didn’t last long because it always felt like too much. It was too short to braid, but that didn’t stop strangers on the street from giving me their hair braider’s card, address, and social security number, or bombarding me with the names of products I should use to help it grow. It was as if the world was conspiring to help me rid this child of her ‘carpet texture.’
Sometimes change happens where we least expect it because there came a point in my own hair journey when I couldn’t bring myself to use another curly pudding, creme, or curl definer. I was so tired of fighting with my own carpet texture. I was living in LA at the time, so I had my friend and hairdresser Felicia ‘Loving Your Hair’ Leatherwood refer me to someone who could give me an asymmetrical cut with clippers. Deana really knew what she was doing and when she finished cutting my hair, I loved it! And the beauty was that it worked best picked out, so my carpet texture got to be the star!
It was then that I was able to see the beauty of my daughter’s hair and it makes sense because you can’t love something that you can’t love on yourself. It’s interesting because once I got right with me, and then her, people on the street stopped asking how they could help. Now I have two little girls with beautiful, thick, hair and I just leave it alone. I tried braids with my oldest daughter who is now 7 1/2, a couple of years ago and I didn’t like it. She’d been asking for them for a long time and when we finally did it, she liked it too much, and I felt it sent the wrong message. I remember when I used to wear wigs sometimes as a model and whenever the shoot was over and I took the wig off I felt so let down. So less than. So back to reality. I didn’t want that for her. I didn’t want her to rely on somebody else’s hair. I figure if she can love herself as she is, at a time when so few little girls walk around freely with their short afro hair, she’ll be fine later on in life. Funny enough, when I explained to her that her hair is beautiful and she doesn’t need to put anything in it to make it long, she never asked me for braids again. I think she got it.