My Hair Journey

£100.00

Dropped into a world designed to reward White people, it’s no surprise Whiteness became the desired option. I suppose the closest many could get to White was straight hair – but it didn’t work. This one is for all my Black beauties who didn’t realise that our crowns grow out of our scalps proudly defying even gravity! Wear your crowning glory with majestic pride. I do… now.

 

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When I was a little girl growing up in Trinidad, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to straighten my hair and have long flowing locks, not to mention never have to sit between my mother’s knees while she dragged a comb painfully through my tangle-happy hair.

At 11, she finally gave in and straightened my hair. I was ecstatic for all over a week. Finally! Alas, it wasn’t what I thought it would be. Worse, it was also the beginning of decades of water fear! “If dat hair only get wet!” Water was like midnight in a Cinderella story. Water could remove whatever long, flowing currency I’d managed to acquire. Only in hindsight do I see how well internalised racism works…

By mid to late teens, I’d had it with straightened hair. That was just too much maintenance and I was not prepared to sleep in rollers for the rest of my life so I went for a ‘dry’ perm. I can only imagine in horror what a ‘wet’ perm might have been like. Sweet Lord! With my very Spanish surname and my newly permed hair, I was living the dream. *snort * When asked if “that’s your hair?” I vainly replied yes! After all, the length and thickness were all mine. When pressed by the more rigorous investigators if I “put something in it”, I would reply that I’d only added a perm to stretch my natural curls out a bit so all these luscious flowing locks were easier to manage. *double snort* The worst part of that ‘dry’ perm was when I went clubbing and danced the night away only to end up with sweaty slimy hair that even I didn’t want to touch. But I stuck with it, all the way to London.

The first hairdresser I found in London obviously had no clue what she was doing with such strong chemicals. She busted up my hair so badly, I went super short to meet the shredded tortured ends of my hair. You’d think I would give my hair a break then. Oh no no no! I was hell-a committed to my colonial thinking. Gotta have that white hair. I found another hairdresser who did know how to handle the chemicals. She was almost 2 hrs travel away from my north London flat and always cost almost £100 but I made the pilgrimage like a devout parishioner. I even made that pilgrimage from North Hertfordshire when we moved out of London. It would take me a full day to go there, sit for 3 hrs, and return via 2 trains and a bus. Told you I was committed. Frankly, I only stopped when my trusted hairdresser retired to Barbados and I got pregnant. I was afraid of how the chemicals would affect the baby and I couldn’t find anyone within 5 miles of Royston that I was willing to trust with my hair.

And so at age 36, I did a G.I. Jane. Total buzz cut. What a freeing experience and cost effective too. Do you know how much less shampoo I used? Chyle, lemme tell you!

Then when the hair started growing back, I discovered that I had really gorgeous natural curly hair. Natural Black hair was taking off in the Western world and YouTube was now “a thing” so I began to do some research. Apparently, the Black hair care I grew up learning in the Caribbean could full a list of Don’ts for Black hair. So I went to the University of YouTube for a ‘diploma’ in Black Hair care. Naptural85 taught me how to moisturise, emphasize, style and enjoy my curls… and I fell in love with my hair for the first time.

My hubby loved it too and begged me to never return to the creamy crack. He even bought me Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” movie. We both loved how soft my natural curls were (and probably, how un-slimy too! Ha!) Since then, I’ve grown out a full blown Shaka Khan ‘fro, cut it into a mohawk, dyed it everything from tiger-striped to purple and pink and truly embraced the beauty of my natural hair. Who knew all this goodness was hiding under decades of chemicals?

I know my journey parallels many. Our hair journey is represented moving from left to right across the painting –

For centuries Black women created elaborate, fabulous hair styles with their natural tight curls and locks, then slavery interrupted that style and grandeur. It also helped create a wider range of natural Black hair as slave masters had trouble keeping their hands (and other parts) to themselves. As a result, Black hair became even more diverse. Dropped into a world designed to reward White people, it’s no surprise Whiteness became the desired option. I suppose the closest many could get to White was straight hair – but it didn’t work. It took us a while to finally remember that Black is indeed beautiful and so is Black hair, bringing us right back to our natural state of tight curly stylish grandeur.

This one is for all my Black beauties who didn’t realise that our crowns grow out of our scalps proudly defying even gravity! Wear your crowning glory with majestic pride. I do… now.

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Copyright 2017 Stacey Leigh Ross

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