Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Hair There, How Are You?

Hair for a PoC is political.

There is no way around it.  Every PoC I know has a hair story.

Here's mine.

I was lucky enough to be born with European looking "straight" sleek hair and for the first few years of my life I don't have any recollection of hair associated trauma....

But you see my paternal grandma was a curly. Not a wavy, but a corkscrew tight and frizz-ful curly. And when puberty struck things changed for me and they changed drastically.

I never understood what was going on when all of a sudden the girls at school started commenting on how "bushy"  and frizzy my hair looked. "When last did you brush it?" the snide girls would ask, and then laugh. "It wouldn't look so bad if you just kept it wet all the time" others would say.

I stayed at school during the term, and when I'd go home in the holidays my mother did not take well to this newfound bushy hair her daughter exhibited. I'd be whisked to the salon and it would get chopped off on the regular, then blowdried pin straight.

Every-time I'd come home from school this was the case - I learnt that my hair was not beautiful unless it was in a tight bun or blow dried straight... I tried relaxing it when I was twelve... to no avail. At school the coloured girls would ask me "What's wrong with your hair?" and my cousins (who were Indian) would tell me I looked coloured and had black hair (to them that was the ultimate insult).

I hated my hair. Every time it would grow I would take to it with scissors and chop and chop but it would grow back. (This wasn't something I would do as a teenager. I did it as early as a few months ago.) When it grew long enough I would ask the girls at hostel with me to iron it with a clothing iron, which they would. I would keep it straight for as long as I could then go through the process again. When ironing was infeasible I would pull it back into a tight bun so that the back of my neck would hurt and it would never be perceived as bushy.

All the guys I dated always told me how beautiful my hair was, but they didn't know it was fake. It was ironed straight. It was in a straitjacket. I convinced my dad to buy me a higher end hair straightener when I was 17 and spent an hour each time I washed it to get it straight and pristine. Every time I would wash it and it would coil I would recoil in shame. I did this for years - until I was about 24... And then I put my foot down. I said to myself: enough.

This didn't come easy. I had a friend who was a curly who told me I would be beautiful by just letting my hair be. And the reception was great... I had long luscious curls and they were well received by the world. My look worked: it was wild and free. And so was I.

But this didn't last. I still secretly resented my hair. It was so thick and heavy and my friends all coloured their hair and floated through life with their sleek halos. I dyed it blonde and hated it more. Then I cut it all off. All of it. I shaved 2/3rds of my head and kept a hipster type top knot.

This didn't help either. I started romanticising the long hair... but told myself this exercise would be good for me, I would learn of who I am and have to accept my hair as it grew out. Guess what? You got it... this didn't work for me either. At each phase of growth I found something to hate about it.
It doesn't listen to me, it doesn't conform, it doesn't mould to what society says it should, and I hate it. Throughout all of this I felt no legitimacy talking to other natural hair girls because they  perceived my hair to be fine and "beautiful" and their difficulties seemed so much worse.

I have no resolution to this tale..... Except to say that I still have to live with it. I have questions I ask that I am scared to answer?

What am I projecting onto my hair?
What does my hair represent?
How do I come to accept it without my acceptance being dependent on what society deems beautiful?
Who taught me how to hate my hair?
Why do I feel gut-twisting hatred when I look at it in the mirror?
How do I find help?
Will I ever be a natural hair queen?

If you are reading this and you know, PLEASE, I beg of you, let me know.  Share your story with me so I can share it with the world.


  1. Oh my word! This is such an eye opening post. I didn't know that poc with "straighter" hair had similar struggles to those of us with kinkier-curlier hair. I applaud you for your candor.
    As for resolution? You have to create it for yourself. It doesn't have to conform to what anybody else might think is right , and it doesn't have to be static. I'm in a place where I am at peace with my hair and all the challenges that go along with it. My choice is not a popular one- some might even call it unenlighted. I relax my hair and this has brought me so much peace. My reasons for relaxing are purely for practicality's sake but it doesn't even matter, because they are MY reasons. Do I look at women with big boisterous natural hair and wish mine could look like that? Not really. Natural is the way to go, ideally,I think. But that's just not where I am and taking ownership over that has been so empowering.

  2. Thands. Thank you for your honest share!!! I think we have come to a place where people who choose not to wear their hair natural are shamed, and that isn't right. As you said it is a journey. It is so hard to accept where one is though, and to take ownership. Like how do I not hate this thing that is on my head? What can I do to have it make me feel better? How do I accept it as it is... that's where I am and it is hard... I just resent its stubborness and don't know why. I am angry that I tried to go natural and now it's misbehaving... anyway thanks for your share! you go girl with your unapologetic confidence. xxx