Sadly, my happy Afro days didn’t last forever. When I was 11, I started getting my hair straightened by a woman named Ms. Headley. I’m a little embarrassed to say I felt proud when she would remark that although I was dark skinned, my curly naps were not fully kinky like most black people’s hair. She would straighten my hair with a searing hot hair iron to within an inch of its life and proclaim that when she was finished, I would be able to “shake it like my father is white.”
When I was around 12 or 13 I got my hair “relaxed.” I guess that natural black hair is supposed to be uptight? It was a really hard time for me. I was an uber geek who wanted to be a rapper–yeah. Good luck there, Abiola! To top it off, my skin was plagued with acne and eczema. Finally, when I was 16, I realized I was allergic to the chemicals used to relax my hair and that’s why I broke out so much. I started getting my hair braided and weaved so the relaxer could grow out right then and there!
Suddenly, I had styling versatility. It was fun and I reveled in the whole joy of black girl hair. Weaves, braids, bobs, curls and waves. You name the look and I rocked it. My hair literally astounded my classmates as I was one of the few black girls at my school. My HS yearbook even listed me as “can be seen with different hair every day.”By the time I got to college, I’d not only morphed into Freshman Class President, I was a also the worst kind of natural hair snob. My best friend and I would stalk and shame any black girl we saw whose hair was not what we deemed to be Afrocentric: braids, fro, curls, twists or dread locs. Looking back, that time in my life makes me a little sad. It wasn’t fair for me to be so judgey. People are from different cultures and hair has different significance to everyone.
In grad school I was finally back to rocking my big, beautiful Afro. The Afro dress was long gone but I was in Vermont so it was too cold to wear it anyway. People were so obsessed with petting my head as if I was a dog or pet that I did an art project called “Don’t touch my hair!”
Today I might rock my luscious Afro one week and a Farrah flip wig the next. Curls, twists, locs, flat iron, weaves–I love it all. It’s fun to play and experiment with hair, and nobody should be judged for what they do or don’t do with theirs. I love myself and I love my hair. My love for me does not increase or decrease because of the way I choose to express myself on a given day.
For some black women, their hair is almost like a religion. They only hang with other women with similar hair philosophies and judge anyone who sees things differently. It’s almost like there are separate churches, The Church of Natural, Church of Weave, and Church or Relaxers. It has been said that our hair issues are the equivalent to white women’s eating disorder issues. Unfortunately, all women battle with both body and hair image challenges. On TV, I’d bet that 99.9 percent of the women of all backgrounds have dyed hair and/or extensions.
I love the versatility that my gorgeous kinky hair allows me. I am a goddess, queen and bombshell. Yeah, I said it! Why should I have less style options than Lady Gaga?
Love your hair–whatever it is and however you choose to wear it. As with anything concerning your body, it is your right to choose.
What is your hair like? Do you have African American hair? What’s your favorite hairstyle? Tell me everything in the comments!