When I think of the times my mother would have me sit on the floor to do my hair, which was very long and coarse, parting it, greasing it (Royal Crown), then putting in the ponytails with the colored twist bands or barrettes.
Memories of those times are synonymous with the culture of Black women. Our mothers always made sure to keep our hair neatly combed or press, thus, we learned at a young age, that hair, was a very important beauty feature of a woman. However, it was also infused in us very early on that there was something wrong with our natural hair. Mothers like mine, who got tired or just too busy to do our hair, often started putting kiddy perms in. That resulted in many of us suffering hair loss and damage to our natural hair that would last a lifetime.
I was blessed to have long hair. Everywhere I went, people asked me if my hair was real. They wanted to touch it–run their hands through it. I never understood the fuss, as not having any vanity whatsoever of the length of my hair. It just was peculiar how Black folks, particularly Black men acted whenever seeing a young Black woman–any Black woman, no matter what age, with natural long hair. There was a value added to it; people were always awed by the sight of long hair. This would become a long-standing experience that has lasted to this day.
In its natural state, my hair is curly and wavy. After years of doing my hair, my mother simply got tired and decided to have a perm put in my hair by a friend of the family who was also a beautician. When I think of the time it would take this woman to do my hair; I cringe. I swear, I’d leave the house at 8:30 a.m. for my 9:00 a.m. appointment, only to get there, and have to wait for her to get in the mood to do my hair. Honest to God, she’d have me sitting in the kitchen, while she cooked breakfast sometimes, then start doing her laundry; then, tell me to go downstairs in the basement, where her salon was, and she’d be down shortly. Ok, hours would pass–literally, I’ve been waiting on this woman for several hours. When she finally touched my head, it would be damn near noon. This would be repeated over and over and over. I was 12 when I got my first perm. By the time I entered high school, I went back to natural. My high school years were a time of fashion and beauty exploration. Freshman year, I decided to trim my hair–I wanted a flared look. Then, people started calling me Farrah. I experimented some more, cutting it into what would eventually become the geometric look (ahead of my time). I would wear my hair up (like women did back in the forties) then create other styles. There was no telling what I’d do to my hair.
However, I am here to tell you…right here and right now. I NEVER, EVER, EVER, HAD A JHERI CURL! Couldn’t stand the drip. And those damn plastic hair bags people used to wear. This, was not cool to me. And don’t even get me started on that flaky mess that you’d see in people’s hair if they didn’t wash that head. Yuck. Terrible. The extremes Black people went to just to have a curl. This period truly exposed just how much value Black people put in their hair.
And Black women…we are some of the largest consumers of hair care products in the world. From braids, locks perms and relaxers, and now hair weaves; adding on: hair care products, beauty salon visits, etc., this adds up to a 9 billion dollar industry. Companies fiercely compete for the attention and dollars of Black women by infusing insecurity with desirability of having European hair; it fuels a sickness that is helping many Asians send their children to college.
Today however, there is a movement in Black Women. Many are going natural. Love some of the looks. As always, Black women are the most creative when it comes to hair:
I’ve been natural for over 30 years, but I stopped pressing my hair within the last 8 years. And my hair is the healthiest it’s ever been.
I’m glad and very supportive of the new attitude and movement among my sisters, but I wonder, is it really a liberation for many or just another trend.
Only time will tell…