19 April 2010

A Hair Story

As the lighter-skinned, straighter-haired slaves--men and women--continued to curry favor with the Whites in power, a skin-shade, hair-texture hierarchy developed within the social structure of the slave community. There were the light-skinned house slaves and the dark-skinned field slaves. The light-skinned slaves were said to have "good hair," and the dark-skinned slaves to have "bad hair." Good hair was thought of as long and lacking in kink, tight curls, and frizz. And the straighter the better. Bad hair was the antithesis, namely African hair in its purest form.
-from Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America.

I was born bald.

Absolutely bald.

And I stayed that way for a while. I was that absolutely adorable (of course!) bald baby girl whose mother probably heard, "Oh, he's such a cute little boy," more times than she desired.

And when my hair came, it was curly. The hug your scalp kind of curly.

Then it nearly all fell out. I was balding at the tender age of 3 or 4. There are a series of childhood photographs where I always wear a hat because of my hair loss. The doctors never figured out why the follicles refused to hold fast to my hair. But eventually the balding ceased, and my hair grew back again.

And it came back scalp-hugging kinky curly.

But then I started the process of going straight. I have spent many many hours sitting by the stove while my mom straightened my hair with a hot comb or in the beauty salon cringing at the 4-hour process of chemically relaxing (straightening) my hair. I've added hair tracks--with some woman sticky glue-ing or weaving hair into my head.

I've had funky short choppy haircuts done in Europe. I've let it grow to my shoulders. I've sat in chairs for 8 hours of tugging and wincing and more tugging and more wincing as women from Senegal kinky twisted my hair into fabulously long styles.

And now, for the first time since forever, I'm back to the first stages of my hair. Somewhere between the bald and the braids, I had tight, tiny kinky curls that God gave me. And when God gave this hair to me, God said it was "good."

And so I'm now back to my good hair today after the lovely Avery in Hillsboro Village chopped my 'do.

I've experienced tons of emotions today, aware of the many nuances that go along with hair. And I know the journey of learning about and growing my natural hair will be long and probably annoying at times. But right now as I sit here on my bed with my short, scalp-hugging good hair, I am reminded that I am not my hair. I smile. And it feels so so good.


bluenun456 said...

i love this ciona!!! courageous and awesome.
"I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I ma not this skin
I am a soul that lives within"
–India Arie

Andrea said...

Love it, C!

MMS said...

WOW, WOW, WOW! I LOVE your hair and your story, and I love YOU!

Doug said...

How could you be any more beautiful. I know that is not the point of your post or of women's, particularly African American women, issue with hair, but you cannot escape it. You are beautiful.

leahtodd said...

wow. i am not my hair. you may have no idea how much i need to hear this.

i am cutting my hair on may 3. i am cutting it short. this will be the first time in about 10+ years my hair has been short.

it's been a pretty big deal, and i felt God wanted me to cut it.

hope you are well. would love to catch up!

love your story and love you!


Ciona said...

Thanks everyone! It's been pretty exciting . . .

Chop it, Leah! It's fun, fun.


Madame Rubies said...

Girl, you are too beautiful for words. I have my own, white-girl hair issues. And, I have to admit, I have coveted braids and dreads. As a matter of fact, I went through a kid-phase where I regularly braided pieces of my hair and slid beads onto the ends. I loved it. Mom recently told me that one of my friend's mom would not let me come play at their house so long as I insisted on wearing "black hair." Hmm... I may have my own blog to share on this. Maybe tomorrow's poem can cover hair.

Ciona said...

Oh wow, Heather. Yes, that would be an amazing prompt for tomorrow's poem.

Anonymous said...

"And now, for the first time since forever, I'm back to the first stages of my hair. Somewhere between the bald and the braids, I had tight, tiny kinky curls that God gave me. And when God gave this hair to me, God said it was 'good.'"

Definitely my favorite lines of this piece. As always, your words awaken a love within me for self, the people around me and most of all for our amazing Creator.
Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

Madame Rubies said...

Hair poem up: http://madamerubieswrites.blogspot.com/2010/04/hair.html

Liesl Ms HFK said...

oh my, this is truely a touching story.... love it C.... Bluenun456 is so right YOu are not your hair as there is a beautiful soul within you.....

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Beautiful post, and I must say, beautiful hair!
What a lovely, profound story.