Afrindiemum, a favorite blog, got me started on this today with her posts on biracial hair. My hair is an obsession because 1) I often don't know what to do with my hair; and 2) it's still political. I have naturally curly hair. As a child, I hated it. I couldn't smoothly part my hair with my fingers like the Bionic Woman. My Dorothy Hamill haircut looked suspiciously like a flat 'fro. My hair looked like a jheri curl when wet (which was good) - but then dried into a a frizzy nest-like thing. I had "good hair" according to my African-American grandmother--keep it long! I had wonderful curls according to my mom--what I wouldn't give for those curls! But I hated it.
Still, it is a struggle daily--not just the doing of it, but the statement I make with it--and it is a statement. It really comes down to who will I be today? Will I be my regular, curly-haired, a little bit more assertive, smart self? Will I be my more conservative, groomed and sadity self and blow-dry my hair straight? Why is hair still so political? What is going on here?
And then there is the issue of self-love. My frizzy, un-like everyone else's hair was just another reason for me to dislike myself. And this dis-ease with my hair is reflected in the way that I deal with the world too. Alice Walker writes in this wonderful essay, "Oppressed Hair Puts a Ceiling on the Brain," that "it occurred to me that in my physical self there remained one ast barrier to my sprititual liberation, at least in the present phase: my hair."
She continues: "Not my friend hair itself, for I quickly understood that it was innocent. It was the way I related to it that was the problem. I was always thinking about it. So much so that if my spirit had been a balloon eager to soar away and merge with the infinite, my hair would be the rock that anchored it to Earth. I realized that there was no hope of continuing my spiritual development, no hope of future growth of my soul, no hope of really being able to stare at the Universe and forget myself entirely in the staring (one of the purest joys!) if I still remained chained to thoughts about my hair. I suddenly understood why nuns and monks shaved their heads!"
My hair and I are still in the struggle. So too are my thoughts. I'm looking forward to my 50th birthday -- really not too far away--I've vowed to myself that is the day I shave off all my hair and test what it feels like to live without thoughts about my hair and the self-judgments and judgments of others.
A necessary postscript to any discussion of hair: I am happily trying to be curly these days after a visit to Devachan Salon in New York on Crosby with Julie. It's a wonderful salon where curls are celebrated--I left with my hair curly and it looked great (it was dry too!). I've been using those products for a few months now. Also, I'm a big fan of Mixed Chicks leave-in conditioner and Miss Jessie's Curly Pudding. I hate to really mention it, but if you want to blow-dry your hair straight use the Kerastase Oleo-Relax shampoo, conditioner and the leave-in shine thing. It's incredible expensive, but it works!