By: Timoni Webster
My hair is coarse, kinky, and coiled down my back in slinky ringlets. Growing up, every other Saturday was hair-washing day. My mother would take a day off of work, and go to work on my head. Our shift started after breakfast and droned into the early evening. First–the take down. I’d unwrap the beaded links that dangled at the tips of my braids and my mother would rat-tail comb out each and every lock. Next– the comb out.
I’d wince with pain as the afro comb raked its way through my tightly coiled mane. I dare not let a tear fall during the process. Pain, in fact, was beauty. Third—the wash. I stiffly hunched over the edge of our claw-foot tub as my mother poured buckets of water over my sponge-like mane. Lather, rinse, lather, rinse, condition, comb through, rinse.
Then–the blow out. Now listen, the blow out in the 1986 bathroom of our row house was not the same as the blow out of the 2015 Dominican hair salon. The blow-out was always the worse part of hair day. My shrinkage, naturally, was real, and my hair held water like a sponge. For what seemed like hours, the blow- out commenced. Afterward, my mother doused my head in olive –oil and Blue Magic and the braiding began.
When I was eleven I got my first visit from aunt Dot—and my first relaxer. I was on my way to sixth grade and by then, had taken an interest in hair styling. My mother allowed my aunt to relax my hair, as long as I learned how to maintain it myself. By the time I was thirteen I had become the local neighborhood stylist and spent endless hours on perfecting my mane.
I experimented with every style, besides a jerry-curl, imaginable. Finger waves and jumbo-braids, weaves and afro-puffs, sky-high waterfalls and Nubian knots—I rocked it all. Never once did I feel that I projected a particular subsector of black culture through the extension of my hair choice. Never once did I feel that my hair defined who I was, or not.
Now, I wear weaves when I want to, high buns when I want to, twist-out’s when I want to, and silk-presses, when I want to. However in the wake of the post-millennia natural movement, I’ve noticed that my choice of hairstyle, on any given day, seems to be the focal point of my image. I recall one recent outing I attended for a friend’s birthday celebration when I felt particularly judged. First of all, I walked in snatched from head to toe. I was feeling myself, as should every woman when they put on their best.
I wore black on black on black, which is typically my signature look. My weave was freshly sewn in and loose waves caressed my shoulder blades. As I entered the party I made my rounds– smiling, hugging, and hi-ing. I saw a lot of familiar faces, and some unfamiliar. I approached the unfamiliars with a smile and an extended hand. My open salutation was met with gritty stare-downs and dry mumbles. The stare down started where it always does– at the top of my head.
The three unfamiliars grimaced and turned their au naturel heads away from me. I wasn’t as shocked, surprised, or dismayed as one may think. The scene was a reoccurring one that I’ve seen too many times. The question is though, who wrote this scene? When did we begin to silently judge each other based on the preference of our hair choices? When did we began to verbalize those judgments? Social media forums are filled with pages dedicated to the black woman’s crowning glory , but very rarely does the content of those forums celebrate in unison the variety our hair is capable of producing.
The weaves v naturals are like the modern day narrative of Spike Lee’s Good-n-Bad Hair musical interlude. Since when did one’s hair choice determine their intellect, social awareness, or blackness? Does my twenty-inch Brazilian loose body wave somehow extract and dissolve my blackness, my brain cells, or my God-given common sense?
Do my natural coils that are twisted into braids beneath my sew-in somehow represent my true self, more than my exterior hair choice does? Absolutely not—just as I’d assume that not every sista rocking a twist-out is a high-browed intellect, social activist, or self-proclaimed martyr for the movement.
The divide that exists amongst the weaves and naturals is at best, ridiculous, and at worse further distracts us from the task of building a united front against a society that truly suppress and appropriates all of us. It is time for us to stop judging one another based on outward expressions of beauty, and start seeing ourselves for who we truly are — one nation, one culture, one race, one black woman.
Have you had any experiences with being judged because of your hair? If so please share your experience in the comments below.
Read more from this author on her blog http://theforeverqueen.com/good-vibes/