19 Aug Aspire To Be Yourself
My hair journey has been an outward expression of my internal growth. As a young girl, my mother would always do my hair before I went out anywhere. She took great pride in the appearance of her 9 children. With 5 daughters, it usually took my mom a full day to get our hair to look “right” and so Saturday was usually hair day. She spent the mornings washing/conditioning and the evenings pressing and curling our hair (no electric flat irons… only pressing combs and curling irons heated over an open flame). Sunday morning, just in time for church, our hair was whipped! Nice and neat… not a single nappy strand of hair in sight.
“Nappy” is a term used to describe the state of someone’s hair usually not in a positive way. It basically means messy but especially is used in association with extremely tight curl patterns. My hair naturally grows as THE tightest curl pattern (4C hair)… which means basically my hair is intrinsically “nappy”. My mother wanted her daughters to be refined and respected in this world and so she did everything in her power to get our “nappy-ness” under control.
I grew up with this idea engrained into my psychology, the idea that to be acceptable in this world, I can’t be nappy. Ideally, this wouldn’t have been a problem, it’s not like I wanted to be nappy… I actually disliked it quite a bit… I preferred to have straight hair like the white girls I saw on TV commercials and billboards. It seemed so easy for them to be presentable, an outcome that for me took an entire day of washing, conditioning, detangling, drying, and pressing, for them probably just took 30mins. God forbid we ever missed hair day… I didn’t even like going outside to play with nappy hair.. how was I going to make it through the week?!?!
I had so many insecurities surrounding my hair, insecurities that my Mother carried were passed on to me and she probably got them from her mother and really it was passed on for generations ever since our people arrived in slave ships on the docks of America. The insecurities that come when the very essence of who you are does not match the description of what society deems worthy of respect. Like most Black women in America, I was trained that worthiness was something that I had to become and earn. You can’t just show up “As Is” and expect to be anybody in this world. You gotta conform to the culture of society.
Eventually, I grew to an age where I was responsible for doing my own hair and quite frankly I was not good at managing it which meant more insecurities. As a teenager, I learned how to use a flat iron (which was way easier than a pressing comb), and I also learned the magic of wigs and weave. My hair was usually burnt from all the ironing. I kept my hair nice and straight whenever going to school. Ohh and once I found the perfect wig that had just the right texture, everyone genuinely thought my hair grew 20inches overnight… it looked so real and I loved how my hair was down my back! I held onto that wig for dear life, as if my security and identity was bundled up inside of that wig.
I was 20 years old when I decided that I didn’t like how ashamed I was of myself/real hair. I ditched the wig and weaves… I also kicked the flat iron to the curb. I could no longer fit my short, damaged, tightly curled hair into a ponytail. So I just let it be. Every day felt like a protest. I felt as if I was serving notice to myself and to the world that I would no longer live by a false narrative. I forced myself to accept a new narrative… a narrative from God that says I am worthy just the way He made me. Even if my hair was indeed nappy… it doesn’t change my worthiness.
I decided to accept myself and stop waiting on other people. Honestly speaking, why should you accept me if I don’t even accept me?
Another narrative I chose to believe was this idea that I get to dictate to the world a new description of what society must deem as worthy. I started believing I was an exception to the rule and that if I wanted, I could be both “nappy” AND successful … and then I made up my mind I was gonna change the rules once I reached success.
My dear mother poured her whole heart into setting us up to be respectable and acceptable according to the standards of this world. Little did she know, she was actually setting us up to help redefine that very standard of WHAT and WHO deserves to be respected. We are a part of the wave of influencers that are demanding that our images and culture be authentically portrayed through media. If we can find the courage to be ourselves …. then there’s hope for the little black girl in Detroit Michigan that thinks her existence is too nappy and must be contained. You are worthy just as you are little girl. May you aspire to be yourself.
P.S…. currently I’m at a place where I’m free to wear my hair in whatever style I feel at the moment. Mostly I feel like wearing my Afro because I LOVE it so much and I know what it symbolizes. Sometimes you’ll catch me with braids or a wig.. or both lol. It really depends on the day! The difference now is that it’s all from a place of freedom and not insecurity.