Saturday, September 1, 2007

I am not my hair........or am I?

Look at her, she's beautiful. Her skin? Flawless. Her hair? Full and shiny.
If you could guess her ethnicity, what would you say? African American and Native American? African American and Cuban?

How about none of the above? She's not African American at all.....

She's Ethiopian.


Now, this post isn't about how American News media stereotypes how Africans (and Blacks, for that matter) are all the same. Although, believe me, that's something that makes my blood boil and a topic that I'd like to revisit in the future.

This topic is about me.

Ya see, I have extremely thick and very coarse hair. When I was younger, I didn't have a relaxer. Whenever it was time for my mother to do my hair, she's always save me until last because it was so thick and coarse. She'd frown at my hair in disgust whenever it was time to press my hair. Same thing happened whenever I went to the salon. "I'm going to have to charge you extra because your hair is like a jungle!!!"

Oh my God. I have bad hair.

Now, my mom and these hair stylists aren't bad people. They're just unaware of how to take care of Black hair properly. So, with the limited knowledge that they were given, they had to break down my hair with chemicals or pressing combs.
Get this: I used to actually ENVY the girls who could slick their hair back in this little tiny ponytail, and slick their thin edges down so smooth that you could see their scalp. How come my edges never got that smooth?

So when I got to high school I chopped it off. My once past my shoulders hair was now one inch short. Now, salon visits were a breeze and doing my hair in the morning took no time at all.

What's wrong with this picture?

When I got to college, I grew my hair back out. It's been varying between chin length and shoulder length ever since. I realized that if someone didn't like my long thick hair, that it was their problem, not mine. Recently, I visited a salon where a young Dominican woman did my hair for me, and she challenged the way I will think forever by asking me something so simple.

"Why do you wear a relaxer? Your natural texture is so beautiful."


Ya see, a lot of times we as Black woman are taught that our hair is bad because it doesn't lay down or operate like someone who isn't Black. So we spend all this time putting chemicals, grease, oil, and the biggest no no, direct heat on our heads to achieve the look that we desire.....self included.......
Ya know how Blacks are seemingly the last to know that we should be exercising, that we should be eating right, that we should go to the doctor frequently, that we should be saving money..etc...etc...well, hair care is no different.

There are natural products that will soften the curl pattern in your hair making your hair manageable and healthy. It seems like Birhan Weldu (The young woman pictured above) has that figured out already. How come Cosmetology schools only teach chemical or hair pressing to take care of textured hair?

Why do we hate our natural selves so much?

It's sad that it took a Dominican woman to tell me that my natural hair was beautiful. It's sad that it took a Dominican woman to give me tips to nurse my hair to natural health. It's sad that she could recognize something good about me that I couldn't....

I have good hair.

Your thoughts?


Andre said...

Jos, the hair straightening thing is something that's been going on for as long as any of us can remember. The need to un-napify your hair starts to surface when the greater society; black folks included; glamorize a certain eurocentric look. We then allow that particular look to have some sort of a conferrable place in the world of societally dicated beauty. Since people tend to covet things that are widely accepted as being "beautiful", the attributes that we blindly label as such becomes the very standards that we seek; even if they're not natural to us. This sad reality is only underscored when you've got ignorant asses like DL Hughley who are quick to insult a black woman's qualities through his own self-hatred rather than embracing them as a different type of beauty standard-bearer (i.e. with the Rutgers women).

HeiressChild said...

hi joslyn, i agree with andre. i've always marched to the beat of a different drummer. i was wearing an afro and braids/cornrows before they became "popular," or the "in hair style." i loved those styles when i wore it that way, and love my style now. i have a relaxer now, and i love it, but i don't wear it because society says it's the thing to do or because i want "white" hair; i wear it because this is how i want to wear my hair right now.

my hair is beautiful, however i choose to wear it. i just don't like black people telling me i'm not black enough because i choose to wear my hair differently than they think i should. i am a beautiful, black woman, regardless of how i wear my hair. i'm still who i am, regardless of how i wear it.

society has come a long way though in accepting hair. it was a time people had to straighten their hair for a job interview, only to revert to their more natural hairstyle afterwards. even then, some jobs fired people, or told them they had to change their hair. now it's acceptable even for police and bus drivers, the jobs where hats have to be worn. for our bus drivers, hats are optional, probably for that reason.

Tiffany said...

Hey Joss Lynn... you should check out "Happy to be Nappy" by bell hooks. It's a children's book but I think it's cute and you would like it!

Andre said...


What's up sis?! You never visited my blog, but you stop by a newbie's (no offense, Jos. Sorta).


Joslyn said...

Hey ya'll!

Andre: I agree witcha on the history of un-nappifying. It's sad that, to a certain extent, we identify everything Black as unaccceptable. That's why I wanted to show the pic of this young lady. Her hair is softend, but not relaxed.

Heiress: Believe me, I'm not suggesting that one isn't "black enough" because she chooses to wear her hair a certain way. In all actauality, having a relaxer is very convienint. I know that since I've retained a lot of new growth that my prep time in the morning is taking a lot longer!

I guess the bigger picture is that in cosmotolgy schools, the option to care for Black hair are two:

1. Chemical

2. Press

Both of these ways serve to straigten the hair. Is this some subliminal messege that textured is wrong?

Again, I'm not suggesting that everyone walk around with afro's and braids, because that's certainly not the way I plan on wearing mine! I just think that people should recognize WHY they wear their hair the way that they do....

Tiff: Welcome!!!!!! Be sure to visit soon and visit often (lori is obviously a hater who hasn't visited....make sure you tell her I said that.... :)

Andre: HATER! Get your own siblings!!!


Dnotra.ANN said...

Hey there Jos Lynn...where on earth do get such interesting topics? I never would have thought of all of this, but it is ever so true. Instead if the we the African Americam women being thankful for the God givin texture that we have and making the best of it, we try to recreate the whole dog-gone thing. I think the style is very cute on her, but let me try guys would never stop laughing!
Until Next Time

HeiressChild said...

hey joslyn, oh i knew you weren't suggesting that to me; i just though i'd mention it because i've heard people say it. i understand exactly what you're saying about recognzing why we wear our hair the way we do. another good post!

Joslyn said...

Hey Ann!

As always, thanks for stopping by! I'm still so back and forth about growing this hair out. It's so scary and I haven't been natural since 6th grade!!!!

"I havent' been natural since...."

If I were talking about anything else, that sentence would be very sad.

Hey Heiress!

Okay I'm glad that you weren't thinking that! I just hate it when Black women tell other women, "You need a perm"

Uh, really?

Anonymous said...

These comments are soooo funny! Being black - afro american - colored - negro or what ever title we will be called in the next ten years is a blessing. Jos, don't worry about the texture of your hair, I have that same "slave" hair. This is meant to be funny, cause I say that to myself everytime I feel I need a perm. I tried letting my natural hair grow through, but I couldn't stand not being able to comb thru it!!!:)
The lady in the picture is Ethiopian and their hair texture is different from ours.
Do you realize that most women would kill to hair hair texture like yours? Ha - Ha - sound like me, once so many many years ago in elementary school, I could never understand why my part in my hair was so much smaller than the girl sitting next to me...we silly little me didn't know she had thin hair and mines was thick! I am proud of my thickness, and I wouldn't trade if for the for anything in the world.
When other 'sister' question is it time for a perm...turn to them and smile and ask if they are willing to pay for you getting a perm.

Plus, another wise crack...I don't want to be that little old lady who is balding because her hair is so thin...I probably didn't shouldn'tve said that...oh well.


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