Monday, September 20, 2010

The L Chronicles: Stranded

[Note: This is a personal blog. Some of them are not personal - they empower you. Some of them are personal - they empower me. This one is very, very personal. Enjoy.]

Today, I went to CVS to pick up a couple of items. I've got a head full of natural waves, coils, and curls, and so, I'm addicted to the hair care isle of any department or drug store.

My natural hair is a "thing" for that I explained here when I discussed what it meant to me to have natural hair.

I had just left a meeting with a member of the Inspired Girls advisory board and we started the conversation with, "Girl, you are working those you doin?" because that's just how we talk. In a land of waist length weaves and Beyonce dye jobs, we stand out in all of our natural glory.

As I stood on the hair isle in CVS, eyeing how overpriced their Neutrogena products are, I overheard a woman say, "Well, I'm not sure about this...for your hair...I mean...with the type of hair you have. I don't know about that, so let's go with this." I glanced up to see who was talking and more importantly to see who the comment was for and I saw a Caucasian woman who appeared to be in her 60s talking to a young girl who appeared to be black. The girl had gorgeous, thick natural hair...and of course, the white woman had straight hair (it was short and grey). The look on the girl's face was a blend of confusion with disappointment.

Instantly my heart sank. I just stood there, staring, and then quickly looked away to not seem obvious. My chest got tight, and I quickly walked off.

As I stood in front of the paper towels with tears in my eyes, I tried to understand what was going on with me. Was this PMS or was I feeling some kind of way about what I had just heard? I realized it was the latter and I felt compelled to go back over and say something, anything, to make it better somehow.

But what would I say without seeming like a pushy, militant black woman? Of course, my braidout was fluffed to perfection and my curls were defined so I would appear to be a reasonable adviser on the matter but still...I'd be sticking my nose where I wasn't invited.

I went back and forth with myself and finally decided to go over...I got back to the hair isle and they were gone. I went to the front and checked out and left the store with tears streaming down my face.

Perhaps I'm way too sensitive when it comes to this hair stuff, but for some of us, it's deeper than hair. It's about our identity and feeling beautiful and swimming upstream in a straight haired culture.

I sat in the car for a minute and realized that I was so bothered because I, as a grown woman, spent years realizing that I had to remove the kinks from my mind, not my hair. It took a shift in my consciousness for me to understand that I'm gorgeous through and through and that untamed curls or a silky press do not change that. Perhaps I was projecting my past issues onto this girl, but I had the feeling that there weren't any natural haired black women around to tell her how beautiful her hair is and to show her how to care for it properly. I would imagine that her white caregiver was overwhelmed and confused with where to begin with her thick, coily hair.

As I sat in my car, I closed my eyes and said a prayer for the girl. I prayed that light, love, and peace would surround her...that even if she grew up facing the typical ups and downs of life, she'd never feel less beautiful because of her hair. I prayed that she would look in the mirror and see beauty tangled in her strands and that her hair would be a source of pride and distinction.

I drove off wishing that level of liberation for every woman. I know that chemicals are mere style choices for some, but for many, they're unconsciously wrapped up in a system that's telling them they're not light enough, thin enough or pretty enough so they buy the weaves, the creams, and the clothes, hoping to make some invisible and unattainable cut.

I'm happy to say that I'm liberated from allowing my hair to define me, and I can't help but want the same freedom for every other woman - white, black, or other.

The lesson? Say what you want to say. You don't know whose life can be blessed & transformed by you simply stating your truth. Next time, I'll politely state mine. What I say is my responsibility; how people respond is theirs.



  1. Girl, speak! I probably would have been emotional too. I just took my daughter to a natural salon for the first time to get her hair trimmed (also for the first time) and styled. I thought about my short, two-month natural hair adventure so far. The stylists were teens or in their early 20's and struggling with transitioning. The one doing my daughter's hair said, "Don't ever perm her hair. If you want it straight, bring her to me and I'll do it (blow it out) for you."

    You've read my natural hair post, so you know--I'm so grateful that the kinks have been removed from my mind. But since I really haven't started growing it out, I know I will have doubtful thoughts along the way. Can I do this? My childhood friend confided in me the other night that she was thinking about "going back to the creamy crack" after a year of being natural because "she can't take it anymore." It's work, but I think it's definitely worth it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow, Daree, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    It's amazing how powerful the conditioning is - it's like not missing what you never had to be a lifelong natural. I applaud you for what you're doing and how you're proactively taking care of your daughter's hair. It's not easy and the images don't help.

    I do appreciate that we're seeing more natural performers sporting cute styles, but they're so few and far between.

    And how awesome that your friend confided in you! I hate when women go natural and get all militant about it like they been enlightened since the womb. I think it's a journey and I just applaud anybody even willing to give it a shot.

    I agree with your assessment - it's work of its own kind but it is so worth it. I'm now to the point of not even missing anything about relaxed hair. Give me my poofy hair all day! LOL

  3. Very relatable post. My four year old has started asking why her hair doesn't hang and swing and other questions taht we all asked at some point when we noticed that our texture is different than other races. I think it helps that she sees mommy's hair is poofy too and she loves it. While I feel that natural hair isn't for everyone, I do think that everyone should try it. If you don't know what your natural texture is like, then you really don't know what you're missing!