Like most black people, especially black women and femmes, I have plenty of horror stories about the abuse and insults that led me to hate my hair. I could tell you all about how I was called Pube-Head, Bush Girl, Coco the Clown, and told to ‘bark like a dog’ because my ‘new name’ was Poodle. I could tell you about coming home to find pencil sharpenings, bread crumbs and wads of paper in my coils, or even about the time when I had a braid cut off—BUT that’s all in the past now! And I’m not bitter. Honest. 🙂
If you’d like to know the series of events that ultimately led to my going natural, check out my journey here: http://naturallytiss.com/my-natural-hair-journey/
But the short version is:
Now, though, despite everything and everyone telling me I shouldn’t, I love it. And despite everything and everyone telling me it’s ugly, I think my hair is beautiful.
I have a multi-textured fro: a lot of it is 3c; a fair amount is 4a; and there are maybe five individual 3a strands dotted around that really cramp my style—but you work with what you got! My point is that I don’t suffer the texturism that people with 4b and 4c hair are exposed to.
However, I still find it useful to be what I call ‘afro posi’. I actually made it a hashtag, because, well, what can I say? I’m a twenty-year-old walking stereotype who uses social media too much. I apply #AfroPosi to the hair experiences of any person of Afro-origin—but for me personally, it’s a phrase I use to remind myself that yes, I should wear my hair out to that job interview, and no, it doesn’t look nappy or gross without gel, and a thousand other things to blank out the voice in my head that tells me
‘Straight hair is the prettiest’. Because guess what? It isn’t. My hair is beautiful too.
My hair contributes to my beauty in countless ways, from the mundane to the spectacular. When I wake up in the morning, I’m still tired (spoonie problems) and I look it. I more often than not have pillow creases on my face and sleep in my eyes. My breath smells, frankly, like grim death. But my hair? My hair is no normal bedhead.
Well, it is—but we’ll gloss over that, because you can’t see it.
No, when I wake up, I do so with a golden, rose-printed silk scarf wrapped about my head like a vintage-glam turban.
When I wake up, I wake up like Etta James, hoe.
I glide (or stumble) to the bathroom like Holly Golightly without the hangover.
I wake up looking F A B U L O U S, because that is what the ‘fro requires. *nail painting emoji*
I know that a lot of people dislike the perceived extra work of Afro hair; actually, I used to be one of those people. But since going natural, I’ve realised that, despite my disabilities often incapacitating me, there’s always some sort of hair shortcut I can take. Even when the rest of me is a state, I can keep my hair relatively healthy, and even pretty. In fact, one of my favourite things about being black is the fact that I can put my hair in a protective style for anywhere from a week to two months and just… leave it the hell alone. And be flawless—and I mean flawless, erryting chris—throughout. You know what that is? That’s a blessing, my friends.
Even better, though, is when I have the energy to truly pamper my hair. I’m the kind of girl who looks pretty much the same, whether I’ve been camping in the wilderness (not that I’d do such a thing, but in theory) or I’m about to hit the red carpet (again, theory here—I’m stretching your imaginative skills. Thank me later). So the thing that makes me feel beautiful isn’t always my reflection, but rather the action of beautifying. The more pampering I do, the more stunning I feel. Self-care is warfare, my friends!
So when I’m cotched in the bathroom with armfuls of products from my mysterious Drawer of Afro Wonders, I feel like a fairy casting a spell. I read labels with glee, mix custards and creams and conditioners like an artist creating paint shades. Take this shampoo, cut it with this mour mint-infused Shea butter, et voila—a clean, refreshed scalp without dryness or frizz! This conditioner to detangle, then this for moisture with this on top, and oh, what next? I. Go. WILDDDDD.
Yeah, I know. My life is exciting, right?
But when I’m done, and my concoctions are back in their drawer, and my hair is finally dry… damn. I feel so, so beautiful. And I smell like a mango. Yum.
I live in a predominantly white area, so I don’t often get compliments when I’m out and about—mostly just confused or mildly alarmed looks. At one point, that might have bothered me, but now, I really don’t care. In fact, being stared at makes me smile. Knowing that my hair (though it’s still relatively short) is taking up space, makes me smile. I always stood out where I live, because I am a 5’11 black girl with a limp, but now I stand out on purpose, and I like it. I don’t avoid being seen; I embrace it. When my hair is tucked away into an up-do, or beneath a wig for the winter, I feel like I’m a little bit less there—and when it’s out and unavoidable, I feel like I’ve been crowned. I know, I know. Hotep o’clock. Shut up, I can be corny if I want to.
The point is, my hair finally feels like me. After years of beating it into submission, hating it, and eventually getting rid of huge chunks of it, I finally figured out what it was that I wanted from my hair. All it took was forgetting what I’d been told to want, and remembering what actually makes me feel beautiful.
I was taught to crave length, and hate my shrinkage—but now, I stretch out a cute little coil, then watch it spring right back with pride.
I was taught to want smooth, sleek locks—but now, I style my hair two days before a party, to make sure it’s big and frizzy, the way I like it.
I was taught that the only true beauty was the kind we see on TV. I was taught wrong. And once I forgot all that, I was able to decide for myself.
Out of all the ways in which my natural hair contributes to my beauty, there’s one that’s less obvious than my hair’s health, or my confidence, or my love of pampering. It’s the fact that every time I see it, I remember how my idea of what is beautiful did a complete 180, purely because I made the decision to change my mind and choose for myself. And if I can just decide, out of nowhere, that my hair is beautiful, then what’s to stop me deciding that the rest of me is beautiful? That all the other things I’ve been told to hate—my nose, my height, my shoulders, my scars, my weakness—are all beautiful?
As it happens, there’s nothing to stop me doing that. In fact, I’ve already done it. Just like that. Over just one year, I decided that everything about me was beautiful—all, oddly enough, as a result of loving my hair.
Now that’s a serious contribution to my beauty.
By Alicia ‘Tiss’ Saccoh