My whole life I’ve either worn my hair straight, or wanted to wear my hair straight. I grew up hating the two stranded twists my mom would put in my hair when all of the girls around me had beautiful straight hair. That’s what I saw. Pretty straight hair that was easy to slide their fingers though. Pretty hair that blew in the wind, and didn’t need a half-dozen barrettes and a bottle of hair creme to keep it in place. I had such a distaste for my naturally curly hair I didn’t realize what I was willing to do to change it.
When I was ten, my parents signed me up for acting classes.–I was very dramatic but didn’t have an ounce of talent–Anyway, my instructor was passing out roles for our end-of-session play when she said: “And Jennifer, since you wear your hair in pig tails, I thought you’d be perfect for this part.”
She looked at me, waited for my elated responded when I did something probably no child before me had done…
“That’s ok, I’m wearing my hair down for the play.” “Down” meant going to the salon, and having my hair blowed dry, and pulled straight with a searing hot comb. I’d be at the salon for hours, bawling most of the way through from a tender head, but then so happy with the end result.
“So you don’t want the part?”
“No thank you, I’m wearing my hair down!”
And she passed the opportunity on to another girl my age who was more than happy to take on an additional role for our performance.
When my mom heard what I had done she was so livid, she made sure that my braided pigtails were exactly what I wore the day of the play.
Throughout my life things hadn’t changed much. When I went off to college I promptly found someone who could straighten my hair for me every few weeks. Since I never had my hair chemically straightened (thank goodness my mom had the willpower to resist that temptation) I didn’t get it wet between salon visits. And the only time I ever saw my hair curly was right after a wash, just before getting it pulled straight again.
It’s pretty much been all I’ve known, and all I’ve understood to be accepted in my line of work. It was a battle getting some of my bosses to accept my long hair (which I refused to cut for the sake of TV) so I never even considered going a step further and wearing it curly.
Embarrassingly enough, it wasn’t until having my daughter, that I even considered options for occasionally wearing my natural curls.
I grew up hating my hair. But why wouldn’t I? All I ever saw were women with pretty straight hair. Even my mom had her hair chemical straightened. And then there was me. Even if my hair was adorably cute and unique… I felt like my hair was ugly. And I don’t want that for my daughter. Or my son for that matter. I won’t ever allow clippers near his sweet head of curls.
Thankfully, there’s been a HUGE movement recently where black women are going natural, cutting off their chemically straightened hair and rocking their natural curls. More and more I’ve been noticing beautiful naturally curly hairstyles, on TV, online, and passing by on the streets. I can’t help but admit that these beautiful women, posting YouTube videos, countless blog posts, and tutorials inspired me to give my curls another go, and for the first time in my 27 years of life, I LOVE my hair the way it is, naturally. And as I look at this photo I took yesterday in all its natural glory, I don’t see a “new me,” but a me that I’ve been suppressing the last 27 years. And she’s happy to be free.