I watched a documentary the other day called Good Hair, produced and presented by funny man Chris Rock. Btw…I LOVE watching documentaries. I put it on my birthday list last year and I’ve already exceeded the goal that I set for myself. Good Hair explores the black woman’s feelings about having kinky hair – over there they call it nappi hair over here in CT we call it kroes hair. I don’t know what they call it in the other parts of SA. It also explores the multi-million dollar industry of chemical relaxers and weaves.
I have to say that I truly *got* that documentary. I could relate to those women 100%. Because it’s my reality. I was blessed with the kink. In other words, I have thick, dry, curly hair. My hair is not naturally straight. I have to put chemicals on it to make it straight and I must blow dry it with every wash. I have to blow dry and pull from the root with a proper round bristle brush. I can’t just hold the hair dryer over my head and flick through with my fingers. Ha. I wish I could do that. In addition to the blow dry (and for the very best result)I need to use a GHD as well.
My Mother gave me my first relaxer when I turned 6, and although the ideal situation would have been to wait for as long as possible, I don’t blame her – because by then she was just exhausted from trying to manage my all my hair – I happen to have a lot of it. My Mom and my sister have beautiful straight hair. I inherited the kink from my Dad’s side of the family. I guess one of us was bound to get the kink. I inherited the kink and the fast-growing-hair-gene and many other things that I’m very happy to have inherited.
Anyway. My first relaxer was life-changing for my 6-year old self. I could actually shake my hair and it would move! I could actually comb my fingers through it and my hand would come out on the other side. Literally. It was like the heavens opened up for me! My 6-year old self felt beautiful and like I could conquer the world. That was the beginning of my relationship with chemicals on my hair. Because once you start you simply cannot go back. Having straight, manageable hair is very addictive. Feeling good about your hair is very addictive. Having fabulous hair is like a new outfit. Really, it’s like you can conquer the world. Fitting in and not having people stare at you because of your wild hair is addictive too. Especially if you are a shy, awkward teenager. Up until today I still relax my hair every 3 months, though I do give it a bit of a break during the summer months because I do a lot of swimming and I am not going to waste my money like that. In summer, I mostly use a leave-in treatment.
I have been lucky that I’ve never suffered hair loss or hair damage due to my intimate relationship with the chemicals. My mother taught me that one doesn’t ever use rubbish chemicals on the hair and that one ALWAYS outsources ones chemical processes to a professional, so I really don’t mind spending a lot of money on only the best. I only ever use salon products (I have to look after my hair between chemical treatments and I do need to “prepare” my hair for my next chemical) and the only real “side effect” that I suffer is the fact that the chemicals strip the colour off my hair. I used to have pitch black hair. It’s a very dark brown now.
For a while I gave my hair a break from the chemicals. I went through a braids phase which I loved. I went through a corn rows phase which I loved too. I even had extensions. I hated that one. I also went for a curly perm. I loved that one too! I went for a Brazilian at the end of 2011 and I won’t do it again – I am not convinced that that particular chemical is for all hair types.
I am also very lucky that the shape of my face means that I can get away with any hairstyle. I’ve had just about every hairstyle and they’ve all suited me. The one thing that I’ve always wanted to try is dreadlocks. But they are super expensive and very time-consuming to maintain. I would need go to a salon every two weeks for maintenance in order to NOT look like Bob Marley. Every year I contemplate shaving my head as well. I know that with perfectly shaped eyebrows and decent earrings I would totally rock the bald head. But then I think about the growing out part and I am put off because I would need to relax it as soon as the hair starts coming out and I can’t quite figure out how I will pull that off.
So. One of the issues explored in the documentary centers around what women of colour see as good hair. Surprisingly. Or not surprisingly, good hair (according to the doccie) = straight, non-kinky hair. Or rather, white hair.
Which is sad in a way because we have essentially been programmed to believe that perfect hair = straight hair and because of this, we cannot truly see the beauty in our kink. It is hard to see the beauty in ones kink if it is unmanageable and just downright impossible to control and especially when people (society) sees it as unruly and ugly and wild.
I used to have an intense love-hate relationship with my hair. At this point in my life I don’t love it. I don’t hate it either. It’s just there. It’s part of who I am. I guess I am finally comfortable with the kink. I am finally at the point where I realise that I am not my hair. I am so much more than that. Come to think of it, India Arie wrote a song called “I am not my hair” with the most beautiful and profound lyrics.
My favourite hairstyle these days? My natural look. My kink. My big, wild, unruly hair. When my hair is in its natural state then I feel more free than ever. I swim, I run and I walk in rain. I simply don’t care what it looks like. It’s curly. And big. IT suits me. It is absolutely a reflection of who I am. It is divine. Having said that, if I could choose my hair type then I would probably choose straight. It’s just easier in every way.
Unfortunately I cannot wear my hair to work in its natural state because I work in a corporate environment and that would be frowned upon – the conservatives simply can’t cope with it. I think that if I should move into an arty/npo type environment then it would probably be easier for people to embrace my big, kinky afro-textured hair.
Since I watched that doccie I have thought a lot about what it means (for me) to have good hair.
It’s quite simple really.
Good hair = clean hair
Good hair = a hairstyle that gives you the world of confidence and makes you feel comfortable in your own skin.
Good hair = a hairstyle that represents who you are.
Good hair = hair that is cut or shaped into a style that YOU can manage and maintain to the best of your ability.
What (for you) is good hair? Do you love your hair? What do they call kinky hair in your neck of the woods? Which hair type would you choose if you had a choice?
Ps…go and watch that doccie if you can. It’s very interesting and if you are not someone with the kink, then it will give you insight into the mindset of a person who has the kink. Also, there are men in the USA who relax their hair. THAT is just wrong wrong wrong. I do NOT know of ANY man in Cape Town who puts relaxer on their hair. I don’t think that they would survive that! If you are a man with the kink, then you need to be getting regular haircuts already!
Pps..if you have been blessed with kinky hair then do share some tips? What are you using at the moment? Is it working for you?
Ppps…I thank the Good Lord that I have no daughters. Eish. Can you imagine TWO females in one house with this issue? It would mean that my entire salary would be spent on hair.
Pppps…I did my last relaxer in January before I started back at work. It was a DIY job and I used a cheaper product. I didn’t go expensive because I knew that I would be swimming a lot, so I am way due for another one – I’ll probably do it sometime after the Easter weekend. You can view my hair in its current state in the link in this post.