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.
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.