Hair Shaming

My earliest memories of me and my hair date back to when I was around seven years old. My mom and dad shared time with me, and at the time, I was both of my parents’ only daughter. For any reason, if I went to stay with my dad, and my hair was not done I remember hearing him sometimes say, why is your not done? On my mom’s days, I remember every so often having to spend hours while my mom would braid and put beads on my hair. In my community, braids and beads became my signature look back in the day.

Growing up, I can recall my first visit to the hair salon. My mom was over me, crying and fussing to get my hair done. She took me to a salon to get a relaxer. I didn’t know what it was, but at the time, I was just so happy to know that someone else was going to be doing my hair and that they couldn’t have been as slow as my mom was to finish. When I sat in the chair at the salon, I immediately noticed somethings that stood out that the stylist did that my mom didn’t. For instance, the stylist parted my whole head and put this cold, creamy stuff on my hair. Shortly after she applied the product to my hair, it starts to itch and have a burning sensation. I wanted to scratch my scalp so bad, but I remember being told not too. Then she rinsed my hair out in the sink and I just remember it being so much easier for her to comb through my hair, and it was bone straight.

From there, I had every hairstyle you could have. Quick weaves, braids, short cuts, curls, relaxers, you name it. I made the decision over 12 years ago to do a big chop and to stop relaxing my hair. I fell in love with how easy and affordable my hair became once I was able just to wash and go. However, my new found hair routine still did not make some people happy. I would hear some of them say when you are going to do something with your hair, or I would have people question my nationality by saying things like, ”what are you mixed.” Which now looking back was offensive in its self. People come in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and our hair is another element that makes us all unique.

Before doing the big chop and leaving the heat alone, I had no idea what I was going to do with my hair or what my hair was capable of looking like. When people would doubt the fact that they could have a curl pattern, my tip to them was, if you leave the heat alone and stop processing your hair, you may have a different texture or pattern too. The biggest concern that most people have in regards to transitioning is the fear of the unknown. The unknown thoughts such as, what if it does not look right? What if other people do not like it. That is understandable. For some people, the desire to make others happy far more out weighs the desire they have to please themselves. Change is not the easiest thing to do. Prime example, someone that has been eating a particular food all their life just found out that for health reasons, that they would have to go without eating it for the rest of their life. That may be a hard task for a person. But, they know eventually, they have to eliminate it from their diet.

Fast forward to today, the cycle continues with my daughters. Society has really conditioned people to think that if you have not spent hours in the salon, or had your hair straightened that your hair is not “done”. I have even heard some say to my daughter, oh you didn’t get your hair done, all because it was not in braids. It became a trigger for me. The type of mom I want to be is one that instills in my daughters hair care. When they are old enough to know the cause and effect that certain things have on their hair, certain styles such as relaxers, excessive heat, and permanent hair color are off limits. I can proudly say that my daughter’s hair have never broken off or fallen out.

It is vital to know how often to shampoo curly hair textures on African American’s hair. It is wrong to push the narrative on anyone that there is something wrong with their hair for the simple fact that it is not one hair strand is the same for all. What may work for one person may not work for another.

Get Comfortable

I’m glad I was able to stand my ground and not to conform to what people wanted our hair to look like. I was not the only one that wanted to yell out to the world that, THIS IS MY HAIR, I CAN WEAR IT HOW I WANT.

A student by the name of DeAndre Arnold was threatened that if he did not cut his dreadlocks. According to (“Texas teen banned by high school from attending graduation after refusing to cut dreadlocks,” 2020), the school insisted that it was not about the student’s dreadlocks but instead it was about the length of the locks.

Another student in a different situation, chose to cut his dreadlocks to avoid being disqualified from a wresting match. In both cases, you have some that are outraged that the students have been asked to cut apart of who they were to make others happy. Than you have some people that do not think that it looks professional. The dress code is designed by white people for white people and is damaging to black bodies,” said Black Lives Matter activist Ashton Woods (“Texas teen banned by high school from attending graduation after refusing to cut dreadlocks,” 2020).

In some states, laws have been passed that would stop discrimination on natural hair in the work place. What I think is unfortunate is that a law had to even be in place in regards to how a person wears his or her hair. Is there any proof that the way a person wears their hair, is related to how smart he or she is or whether or not they are capable of doing a job? I have yet to find anything. However, what I have found is how certain products and chemicals have been linked cancer. Rather than shame a person because of how they wear their hair people that feel the need to judge, should ask themselves, what does their hair have to do with me?

The cost of being natural

Getting my hair styled by a salon because a treat for me. I could no longer afford to pay the upcharge that stylist charged just because of the length or the thickness of your hair. What most stylist have told me is that I’m charged more, because more products have to be used. Across the board individuals that are natural are marketed to only achieve healthy hair by using certain products, by avoiding certain ingredients. It can be expensive. In order to limit my time in between salon visits, I have had years to research which hair products and tools are safe for my girls and I to use.

The Penelope J is a company that was founded by Tomeka Jones in 2009. She named the business after her aunt Penelope Jones, that passed after loosing a battle to breast cancer. The products are promised to be carcinogen free and to be all natural, organic and vegan friendly. The Penelope J offers a variety of items from hair care to skin care and made with safe ingredients.

Some of my favorite products to use are:

https://thepenelopej.com/products/coconut-lime-verbena-hair-milk great for achieving the perfect twist outs or wash and go styles.

In addition to using safe products, we also protect our hair from friction when we are sleep by wearing bonnets or silk scarfs over our hair to prevent breakage. We also get in the habit of applying oil to our scalp along with head massages to get our blood circulating to promote hair growth. In between braided styles, I try to avoid hair styles that will create too much manipulation. These are all steps that work for us and our lifestyle.

How someone wears their hair is one of the most harmless actions to anyone else. People should be more aware of how the things that they say and do may impact someone else as it pertains to the way people choose to do their hair or their children’s hair. People should feel free to live their lives as an individual instead of living and looking like everyone else.

Reference:

Banning ethnic hairstyles ‘upholds this notion of white supremacy.’ states pass laws to stop natural hair discrimination. (2019, October 14). USA TODAY. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/14/black-hair-laws-passed-stop-natural-hair-discrimination-across-us/3850402002/

Texas teen banned by high school from attending graduation after refusing to cut dreadlocks. (2020, January 24). USA TODAY. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/01/24/black-texas-teen-barred-high-school-after-graduation-not-cutting-dreadlocks/4562210002/