Your curls ain’t like mine

Eventually I knew what my hair wanted, it wanted to be itself…to be left alone by anyone, including me, who did not love it as it was. Alice Walker

I approached the glass window at the fish department and began to look inside to see if I could find any fresh looking fish. A woman behind the counter asked if I needed any help as she complemented me on my hair.

“Wow, I love your hair!”

I replied “Thank you.” She then said, “I’ve always wanted to go natural, but I want my hair to curl like yours.”

I paused for a second and responded, “You should definitely go natural, however,  you will have your own beautiful curl pattern!”

I smiled and walked away feeling like I accomplished something by encouraging her to embrace her natural hair.  But what she didn’t know, is that I too, like her, wanted my curls to be like someone else’s.

My hair was beginning to grow out after my big chop two months prior, and I had no clue of what type of curls were awaiting.  The current length didn’t quite have a curl “shape”, the strands were more like waves that I constantly had to add gel to it in order to make it curl.  The last thing I wanted, I told myself, was to go back to the 70s.

I am sure some of you have probably felt the same way: fearing that your hair would grow out to be “kinky” or “nappy”, or perhaps not look feminine enough.   Let’s face it, society ‘s “immediate” connection’s to beauty is not often found in the looks of people of the African descent.  And when curls or curly hair are referenced, most think of a fair skin person with fine hair, and not a person of color.

I felt sad.  As much as I wanted that woman to love her hair, I wanted to love mine too.

In article written by Chanel Donaldson for NYU/Steinhardt’s Department of Applied Psychology, where she researches hair alterations practices amongst black women, Chanel had the following finding:

Black women who are glorified for their beauty tend to have long, wavy hair, because American standards of beauty encourage an adherence to whiteness (Patton, 2010).

She also notes:

Slavery, racism, and White supremacy have had lasting negative effects on Black identity. The devaluation of African physical features, including hair, came as a result of being thrust into a cultural context where Blackness exists as the antithesis of beauty. A hierarchy imposed on Blacks by slave masters privileged those with lighter skin, straighter features, and straighter hair over those that reflected more African features (Abdullah, 1998; Banks, 2000; Patton, 2010; Robinson, 2011; Thompson, 2009).

It is no wonder we subconsciously desire those long “flowy” curls and reject/modify anything that will enhance our “Africans-ness”, simply because, we think, it will not be deemed as beautiful. In addition, if you live in certain metro areas or small cities, the likelihood of a natural hair “culture” might not be prominent, better yet, non-existent.

How do we undo such conditioning?  Well, I am not a psychiatrist, however, I know that we have the power to unlearn that which has been wrongly taught to us.  Here are a few things that have helped me change how I viewed and thought of myself:

  1. Positive affirmations – you have no idea how much these really DO work.  I might not feel or believe in what I am saying at the time, but words are sound vibrations and they have the power to permeate your psyche. You might feel silly at first, but just keep doing it until it becomes your natural thought process.
  2. I changed what I was watching and reading – I took a break from reading mass market magazines and watching tv shows that did not showcase a significant amount of women that represent the color of my skin.
  3. I connected with other women who had gone natural – it was like having a going-natural-support-group.  Not only these women shared so many ideas, but they also boosted my self esteem, through their confidence and sharing their stories.
  4. Local natural hair shows – not only did I see a mayhem of natural hair in all colors, shapes, sizes and curl patterns, but I got an opportunity to learn about my type of curl pattern, what would work for my hair, etc.  The best part, a bunch of sample size products to try.

Go natural.  It is part of you, it makes who you are.

Have you gone Natural?  What has been your experience?

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