By: Kyra Brusch
“Does it hurt?” my mother asked with a certain sadness in her eyes.
Just like her and many more before her I was getting a relaxer; otherwise dubbed the black women’s rite of passage, our passage into the mainstream society. Did it hurt? OF COURSE IT HURT! A relaxer is a mixture of lye and perm salts, a mixture known to destroy coke bottles and on this particular day, destroy self worth. Yes it hurt, but as the relaxer destroyed my natural tight curls to produce unnatural bone straight hair, I had never felt happier.
“No, it actually feels good,” I answered back with the biggest smile on my face
I was happy. I was happy because I finally felt I was going to be accepted in my predominately white school. I was happy because my hair finally matched with the woman on the cover of magazines.
What I did not know back then was that my happiness was fueled by internalized hurt, hurt stemmed from being told that black was lesser. Hurt from internalizing that being black meant not being beautiful. I remember that if I ever articulated a sentence in a clear concise manner someone would always state with an ignorant smile, “ It’s like you are not even black” or “ You do not even act black”. It was not just at school. At home I also felt that the skin I was in was lesser.
In my brother’s room hung all his teen heartthrobs; not one of them black. I did not look anything like Britney Spears, Kirsten Dunst, and or Natalie Portman. I began to associate being black with being ugly and dumb. I officially began to hate my skin and hair.
I felt the relaxer would solve all my problems, but it did not. I began to get 18 inch weaves put into my head to try to compensate for the inadequacy I felt from within. I believed the weave made me happy but all it did was cover up my hurt with 18 inches of bone straight hair.
One day after getting my weave put in there was this little black girl in the salon. She was brushing a Barbie doll’s long blonde hair. In her eyes I could see she was admiring it… longing for it. I sat down next to her. She had this gorgeous curly hair propped up in two afro puffs and sadness in her dark brown eyes. Out of nowhere I felt someone combing through my hair… it was she.
She said one sentence that still echoes through my mind till this day “ your hair is so pretty; it’s just like Rapunzels”
I froze. The only thing that I could think in response was “ Does it hurt, does it hurt feeling inadequate, does it hurt feeling as if you are not pretty, does it hurt feeling as if you were born worthless, does it hurt?”
The only thing I could muster to actually say in response was “thank you” in the faintest way possible.
I never knew that girl personally, but I can see in her eyes it hurt just like it hurt me. In the process of trying to mask my pain, I participated in causing another little black girl’s pain. After the 15 second exchange I had with her, I decided to stop getting weaves and to cut out the unnatural bone straight hair. I want my natural kinks back. I finally realized I have a duty to be a leading example to young black girls so they will never have to feel inadequate. I will do whatever in my power to make sure young black girls know they do not have to change to stop the pain.
So does it hurt?
Written By:Kyra Brusch © 2014
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