“If you touch my hair one more time.” The life of many have flashed before my eyes the moment they raise their hands and place it in my hair uninvited. I begin to see red, and like those old voiceless cartoons, stream begins to protrude out my ears at my initial point of anger. It’s like my natural hair defies any kind of social norms or rules. There are no laws of proximity, no such thing as personal space. I don’t mean to come off stand offish but it is honestly very awkward when you are petted like a zoo animal without the zoo. #NaturalHairProblemNumber143.
It took me until I was a sophomore in college to recognize how conditioned I was to believe that straight hair was the only thing that was beautiful. All I knew was that the “creamy crack” left my hair looking like I could somehow alter my identity to include at least 25% Indian in my race. Never did I realized that I was a prisoner to my chemically altered hair follicles. If you even dare to get it wet I would probably begin to melt and disappear into the crevices of the earth. I do not remember a time when my hair was not relaxed. But I did not have a choice in that because being in a African household you do not control anything. That brings me back to the days my mom would use the knuckle of her middle finger to knock me in my head every time I moved while she was relaxing my hair. The ultimate struggle.
At this point it’s important to mention a line from my soulful sister India Arie “I AM NOT MY HAIR!” My hair does not make me the person that I am. I also do not discriminate on anyone who wears weave or has processed hair. I simply just want to share my story.
Perception goes a long way.
How many of you can relate to being the only person of color in a class and asked to speak for the entire population in which you identify with? Nobody? Me neither. But I have become the spokesperson for all things natural. Having the opportunity to travel to Nigeria. There were very few moments when people weren’t talking about my hair. The Nigerian way of thinking is very backwards. I mean that as nice as possible. Not to mention how Nigeria is the number one country of people who bleach their skin (-______-). I thought that being surrounded by my people I would be embraced by defying the Western standards of beauty. Unbeknownst to me it was the exact opposite. If it wasn’t my mom it was one of her friends telling me to relax my hair that it will look prettier if I did. Honestly in a matter of ten days I started to consider whether I should relax my hair or not. But then I remembered why I was doing it in the first place. My hair started to break off and I was a relaxer away from Rogain. I had to do something different. So I stopped using relaxers. The plan was to wait for my hair to regain thickness but I fell in love with naps or curls. Dassit!
I am 24 year old Nigerian woman, I do not wear makeup, my lip gloss is never popping, I do not do my eyebrows, I own probably 3 pairs of earrings (maybe 5 I’m stepping my game up slowly), and my hair is natural. I am a bit of an extremist but that’s fine by me. My physical appearance does not define my level of intellect and if you believe it does, you are sadly mistaken. I am comfortable in the skin that I am in. Hope you are as well.