How self-quarantining is helping me to love my natural hair
As a black woman, I am no stranger to the complexities associated with hair. My ability to transform and shape-shift with each hairstyle is nothing short of amazing. One month, I could get box braids or passion twists and the next, I could be rocking a straight black wig.
My mood changes with each switch and the world reacts differently too. But I have a particular relationship with my natural 4c hair. Most times it’s tucked away under whatever protective style I’m wearing and I’ll interact with it only to oil my scalp and to wash my hair. But most people, unless we’re extremely close or have been following each other for a while on social media, have not seen my natural hair.
This is not because my hair is unhealthy. Since 2013, I stopped relaxing my hair and allowed it to grow in its natural state. You might think that the choice to stop relaxing your hair is a fairly mild one but on the contrary, it was a milestone in my life. Growing up, my mother regularly relaxed my hair whenever it started looking too “kinky” and instilled her perceptions of what “good hair” was to me.
For a long time, I didn’t think good hair looked like mine.
I would go back home for a couple months to my father and he would let it grow out and even got me a hairstylist who gave me the coolest braid designs for school, but my mother was still set on the “relaxed” look. Choosing not to succumb myself to the ritual of changing my hair’s texture was important and needed.
When I migrated to the US and started high school in Miami Gardens, I didn’t want my hair to take up the time I dedicated to settling in, so my preferred style was braids and the occasional sew-in weave. With the help of my roommate in freshman year, I discovered wigs and started wearing them mostly. Even then, I still didn’t wear my natural hair out. In fact, I didn’t like how my face looked with it, thought my hair was ugly and wished that my curl pattern was looser.I thought I had left that mentality with my mother in Jamaica but there’s no way to escape how the world views black women and our hair.
This is where quarantine comes in. Because I didn’t have to get ready for classes or make up myself to go out, I decided to let my hair out for a week and have been wearing it out ever since. Some days I do style it but most days I just let it freeform and do its own thing. I’ve been taking the time to care for it and give it the attention it needs and subsequently have gained a greater love and appreciation for my hair. The world has taught me that my hair in its natural form, unmanipulated and kinky, looks unprofessional and unkempt and makes me ugly. It’s uncanny how retreating from this same world, though the retreating wasn’t voluntary, has helped me discover a new form of self-love.
For me, my hair, black hair, is not just something that grows out of my head but rather a political statement, an emotional reckoning and a social identity. When society recoups from our slumber and attempts to go back to some semblance of normal, I’ll probably still wear wigs but my love for my natural hair won’t be forgotten.
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