Thursday, June 25, 2009

I am my hair...consequences and repercussions

Someone posted this article on LHCF, and I thought I'd share. I remember reading about the little girl mentioned at the end (Miriam) in an article written in the AJC. I wanted to drive to ATL and hi-five her daddy. :)

ARTICLE FROM CNN: In the black culture, a richness of hairstory

ORIGINAL ARTICLE ABOUT MIRIAM: Perfect braids show depth of dad's devotion


Any story about a little girl's hair hits close to home for me. I mean, honestly - my mom didn't take this much time with my hair, except for on special occasions when she was going to straighten it with the straightening comb. Any braided styles I had, were done by my oldest sister.

Then, the third grade hit. My other sister, who is 7 years older than me, got a Jheri curl. Well of course, I wanted to be like her. So guess what I got? Yep, a curl. That first year was ok...everything was moving along. But my mom worked nights and didn't get home in the mornings until after it was time for me to get to school. I became in charge of my own hair care, and I had no clue what to do.

By the 5th grade, it was all breaking off. I had to get it cut down to a TWA. Of course, if I had known what I know now, it surely would have stayed natural. However, in the 5th grade you really want to keep up with the Joneses. I met my 3 best friends that year. Guess what? They all had ridiculously long hair! And then there was me. Snoop and Sunni's parents forbade them to even get relaxers. Sunni was one of the people who truly had some "Indian in her family." :lol: Her hair was down to her mid back, and it curled up when it got wet. Snoop had a TON of hair, too - hers was thicker than Sunni's. Like, I remember times in high school where she didn't have a blow dryer with a comb attachment, and we would have to tag team her hair. Then there was Kiwi...her mom was white and her dad was black. She had that spirally, curly hair and she had a lot of it. Needless to say, I was in desperate need of long, straight hair. Self esteem, with regards to my hair, was at an all time low.

My mom, bless her heart, she just had no clue what to do for a TWA. The stylist told her to put some gel on the edges to smooth it out. That became left up to me. I had gel everywhere. It just was not a good look, and as soon as my hair was long enough, I begged for a relaxer. My sister Pam would have to roller set my hair at night, because I didn't have the skills to do it, and certainly could not master a curling iron in the 6th grade (and didn't need to, anyway).

I have fuzzy memories of exactly how this transition occurred, but at some point in junior high I ended up with a curl gain. I know...what??? I'on even know. Mercifully, by 8th grade I had somehow discovered the world of braided extensions. I had those put in for my sister's wedding. Finally, I had that "long" hair I wanted, even if it wasn't mine.

I got these extensions on and off from 8th to 10th grade, if I remember correctly. Round about 10th grade, I believe my hair was natural again. But because I had no clue what to do with my hair, I would just get it straightened when it wasn't in braids. That did not mix well with me playing soccer and running track. And we won't even talk about the time that I burnt a chunk of hair out with the straightening comb. Eventually, I went back to the relaxer, and kept it on through college and up until I was 28. I had braid extensions a few times in college as well.

Needless to say, this endless cycle of abuse - natural, straightening comb, relaxer, braid extensions, too tight braid extensions, overlapping relaxers - took a toll on my poor follicles. I can tell you many horror stories about relaxers, but one that sticks out the most was my senior year in college. I had braided extensions for the senior cruise, and I took them out shortly after getting back. I wanted to get my relaxer in for the last activities of senior week, and graduation. I self relaxed, using Motions. Because I didn't know better, of course I overlapped the relaxer. I didn't want to leave it on too long, so after the shortest time listed on the container, I rinsed it out (I didn't know this term back then, but in essence I had texlaxed the new growth). It wasn't bone straight, like when my mom would do it. I dried it and fried it with the curling iron, and it was do-able, but not what I wanted.

I called my mom and lamented on the state of my hair. She said, "I'll just re-do it when I get up there for your graduation." Mind you, that was gonna be like, in a week. 2 weeks at the most. I said, "can you do that???" She said, "yeah, it'll be fine." CLUELESSNESS ABOUNDS ! And folks, she most certainly did re-relax my hair, the morning of graduation. My hair wasn't dyed, but it sure was fried and laid to the side. You couldn't tell me nuthin. But somebody needed to be telling me something, because that was all STRONG and WRONG.

I am thankful that I stumbled upon going natural, because I know my hair would not be as healthy as it is now. But I am dealing with the consequences and repercussions of horrible hair care throughout the years. I have permanent damage in the area of my temples. There is a bit of fuzzy hair there, but it will not fill in all the way and it will not grow long. I envy folks with full hair lines. Frankly, I'm surprised I don't have more damaged areas.

If you have a daughter, teach her about her hair! Teach her how to take care of it. Teach her that it IS beautiful in it's natural state. Make sure it's healthy, because healthy hair is beautiful, be it short or long. I'm not mad at my mom - she did the best she could, with what she knew. She never had long hair, and doesn't have it now. She has some unhealthy hair practices, but I have given up on trying to steer folks in the right direction. She's 66 years old, so I know she's gonna do her own thing, anyway. If I ever have a daughter, I'm pretty sure I will be OCD about her hair. I'll probably have to keep myself in check. But when she gets older, she won't be writing a blog about how her mom didn't really teach her about taking care of her hair and being proud of it - whether it's natural or relaxed. Her blog is going to be about how her momma worried her to death about taking care of her hair, and how she appreciates it, as a adult. :)


Serenity3-0 said...

This is interesting. I escaped that jheri curl phase. Thank God! I think I want to do a hair history and use soem of the photos I found from when I was a kid. I also think I'll probably link this blog on my site today...

Marilie said...

Be glad you escaped! Black folks, we just took The Curl to another level. It was never meant to be dripping, and we certainly were not supposed to be out in public with plastic bags on our heads, and messing up our pillow cases. LOL!

When I go home in July I am going to steal...I mean uh, borrow...some photos from my mom of me growing up. I know for a fact she has pics of me with the TWA, because I remember her taking them right after I got my hair cut, before I went to church that Sunday. And I know there are plenty of Jheri Curl pics.

Now I just have to find my scanner and the power cord.

Cyn said...

My dad had me and my sister for the summer in Texas and had his ex give us jherri curls. Up until then we were still natural with long thick hair. My mom was livid when we got home. The jherri curl was hell on my hair and I went to the 4th grade with a TWA. I hated every moment of it.

I still struggle with my hair both relaxed and natural cause I never really learned to manage and maintain it.

Marilie said...

OMG, what was he thinking??? Giving you a Jheri curl without checking with your mom first???? Shenanigans! I would have been livid, too!!

I think we are lucky to live in this "technology" age - we have the advantage that our parents didn't have, which is the internet. I've had to teach myself everything from scratch, and still can't cornrow worth a dayum. LOL Thank goodness for,, and a few other sites. I have been able to find a wealth of knowledge.

I like to read on (you don't have to have long hair, there is all kinds of good info and tips). I also find some great blogs about maintaining hair and some great YouTube tutorial videos. :)

Tazzee said...

Thanks for sharing that article from the AJC, I missed that.

I think I got my first relaxer at age 8 - I have a VERY tender scalp (almost cried looking at the pics of that little girl getting her hair done) and my grandmother couldn't take anymore. I also had a jheri curl - hated it!

As much as I talk about going natural, it will be a while before I take on such a task. I do have a question - what is a TWA?

Marilie said...

Hey Tazzee!

TWA = teeny weeny afro :)

I thought the article was pretty cute. There's no more excuse for people to walk around with kids with busted looking heads...if this guy can do his daughter's hair, surely the rest of us can! LOL