For those of you in a hurry I’ll condense this post into the following sentence: Disliking my hair doesn’t mean that I don’t love myself.
For those of you with the time and inclination to indulge my ramblings here’s the longer version:
There are certain aspects of my physical being that I like and some that I don’t. I also have certain physical aspects that I feel completely neutral about. As I’ve got older certain things have moved from one list to another, but despite disliking various individual parts of me, I like myself. Why wouldn’t I? In the grand scheme of things I’m pretty alright. I don’t have any festering self loathing issues that need to be dealt with. I’m fine.
Since I started this blog I’ve become increasingly conscious that there are people out there who have decided how I feel about myself and I’m not impressed.
I’m a fan of the natural hair movement. Your natural hair is nothing to be ashamed of and I wholeheartly feel that the beauty and diversity of afro hair should be celebrated. The part I’m not so impressed with is the weird notion that any black woman wearing a weave or using hair relaxer hates themselves. Other variations on this theme are that we hate or reject our heritage and / or wish we were white. That’s a pretty big leap.
Problems always occur when people start making global assumptions about people they have never met. It’s also undesirable, in my personal opinion, to start lecturing people on what they should and shouldn’t do with their own bodies.
I’m an educated woman and I’m well aware of the various factors that have resulted in some black women feeling that they have to alter their appearance. I also understand the commercial and media influences, which have affected the visibility of black people over the years. I know and understand about the “othering” of people of colour and I am well aware that these things influence what any society would view as “normal” All this aside, my experiences as a black woman born and raised in the UK does not automatically mean that I have issues and I would appreciate it if people would stop assuming that I do.
As a little girl I always wanted to have long blonde hair. I’ve never had any interest in having white skin, but I spent much of my youth daydreaming about waking up one morning with long blonde hair.
The crux of the matter is that when my mum did my hair, it hurt. There’s the problem right there. 5 year olds don’t like having their hair done if it hurts and little girls with active imaginations have the capacity to resolve their fake problems in creative ways. I’ve always been a pragmatic individual. There were two possible solutions to my problem.
- Get my mum to stop doing my hair – indefinitely
- Change my hair to something that doesn’t require an afro comb
I was a little girl in the 1970s and there was definitely a lack of diversity on the three available television channels. The straight haired blonde models on the adverts certainly didn’t look as though they regularly cried at the prospect of having their hair done. They were very smiley and spent a disproportionate amount of time shaking their heads for no reason. Their exaggerated head movements showed off their lovely long hair. When I copied them nothing happened, and I mean nothing. Short afro hair doesn’t move, no matter how much you try.
I was quite imaginative as a kid and would regularly improvise the long hair I wanted with an assortment of props, the most popular ones being a pair of tights or a long woollen cape, presumably from somebody’s christening outfit. The important thing was that I could wear it on my head and that they’d move when I twirled, unlike my afro which didn’t.
As the years went by I discarded the props and buried my afro under an assortment of shop bought hair, in every imaginable colour and when it wasn’t hidden it was chemically treated it to within an inch of it’s life. My hair has been, Toni Braxton in the 90s, short and other times so long that it tries to strangle me in my sleep. It has been braided, permed, relaxed, cornrowed, beaded, weaved and on occasion left entirely to its own devices. Throughout all of this nonsense, at no point have I wished that my skin was a different colour. I’ve wished I was taller, slimmer, curvier, quieter and occasionally smarter but never whiter.
The days of changing my hair will probably never stop, but the one thing that definitely should, is other people projecting their ideas onto people like me. I’m lucky enough to exist in a place and time where I have the freedom to be whoever I choose. The little brown girl recreating the Harmony hairspray advert didn’t need your approval and the grown woman version doesn’t either.
Don’t look at my shop bought hair and make assumptions about me or how I perceive my identity. My hair, my choice.