Love, Nappy Hair

Photo Credit: Spaceship Massah (Fofana)

‘I love my hair because it’s a reflection of my soul. It’s dense, it’s kinky, it’s soft, it’s textured, it’s difficult, it’s easy and it’s fun. That’s why I love my hair.’

Tracee Ellis Ross

Nappy- informal + sometimes offensive, of hair: naturally coarse and tightly coiled, kinky.

When I was a little girl, my father used to take me and my three brothers to the barber shop to cut our hair. Back then, I didn’t mind nor care about having my head shaven clean because I wanted to spend more time with my brothers. What was my dad thinking? Perhaps he wanted to establish his own exclusive all-boys club even though I was a girl. Reminiscing back, I haven’t yet understood the weight my hair had on my belief of what beauty is. As I grew older, one grade at a time, and as my hair started growing, I started correlating the level of my attractiveness to the ‘tidiness’ of my hair. It took me a very long while to accept the natural state of my hair which is curly on a good day and kinky on days I’m oblivious to its existence. I started noticing the unwritten rules followed by women of all age groups- one should straighten their hair on ‘special occasions’ like weddings, birthday celebrations etceteras implying that our natural hair is somehow inadequate for those occasions. Even in school, we were praised the most when we wore our hair straight. It felt fitting and we felt ‘seen.’ Without actually knowing its consequences, while we were vulnerable to suggestions, our loved ones -both men and women- left a long-lasting mark in our minds- our hair exudes its utmost elegance when styled sleek and straight.

Hair is a centerpiece of black culture. Once a symbol of freedom and self-expression for generations, it has undergone a different interpretation in our relatively urban areas. From my perspective, there seems to be a prevailing notion that the more textured or ‘nappy’ one’s hair is, the more they are considered unattractive.

On average, women spend about two hours a week styling their hair. Several hours more as the hair becomes more textured. I’m sure I am not the only one who wished for the easiness of just washing our hair and voila! We all have experienced a rude awakening of the reality of our actual hair types, and how to deal with it in a healthy way. I have played with different hairstyles (most of them unfitting and difficult for my African hair) but did it anyway given I was highly influenced by Western media. I resented my hair for not looking like one of those girls’ hair from a hair conditioner commercial. I did not like what I saw, and it factored into how I carried myself for so long. I felt embarrassed and ashamed.

Ultimately, it came a time when I had to sit with discomfort and ask myself if I believed all the things I was told, and I had to decide whether to love and accept my authentic, god given hair or if I should continue spending more time than I should be changing who I was for the sake of public approval. All of us are entitled to do and be whatever we want, and we can shave our head, dreadlock, cut, or highlight our hair whenever we want to but the silver lining lies in celebrating and embracing the richness of our unique hair in all its variations. Whether we choose to wear braids, cornrows, or afros, it is an opportunity to honor and express our diverse cultural heritage.

Written by: Ruth Mekasha

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