HOW TO STAY NATURAL WHEN TIMES GET HARD
I keep saying the natural life ain’t for everybody. After the 2016 Olympics, I’m starting to think the black hair life ain’t for everybody. The permed life ain’t for everybody either. I can’t believe how Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles were dogged out because their permed tresses didn’t meet black twitter’s approval. Gabby was disrespected to the point of tears, provoking her mother to respond publicly. She has been traumatized by this experience and I can relate to it so much. It was that type of teasing and taunting (it’s called bullying now) that caused me to get a relaxer. People’s criticism made me hate my curls when I was in the sixth grade. The pain is a deeper than the strands that grow out of my scalp though. My hair is a representation of generations of pain and oppression and it’s impact on me.
My natural hair journey started as an internal war that I unknowingly waged against myself. It has required training, strategy and perseverance to win it. I couldn’t even start fighting it until I acknowledged some deeply buried insecurities that I had about myself. I had to tread through layers and layers of emotions and beliefs until I was left with nothing but my gender, hair and skin. Basically, I am a black woman. The negative messages and stereotypes about black women made me feel inadequate at a very early age. Every goal I’ve ever set for myself was made to overcome a tainted image, stereotype or statistic. I was mentally at war with any medium that made me feel inferior. It’s overwhelming how many there were. Even the messages sent by the writings fathers of the USA said my ancestors were only 3/5 a human and had a detrimental message to my self-image. It took me 35 years to realize that my enemy wasn’t the media who glorifies images of beauty that look nothing like me. My beef isn’t even with my classmates who called my thick and unmanageable curls nappy. Nor is it with the beauty industry that pushed lye to straighten my hair so I can look more like the women in magazines. My problem was with the way I responded to all of this. I was constantly trying to look at myself through other people’s eyes and never just enjoyed being me. It sounds complex and difficult, doesn’t. It was.
That’s why it pisses me off to my core that people have been so disrespectful of those sistahs on the 2016 USA Olympic Gymnastics Team. These women have won more medals than any other US Olympic team in history. That’s epic; but people were criticizing their hair!? That seems so shallow. Both Gabby and Simone have relaxed hair. They wear it pulled back and pinned up so it doesn’t fly in their faces as they move their bodies in amazing ways that most people can only envy. They sweat and perspire which only makes it frizz easily and ridiculous to wear a weave or wig. I had to ask myself the hell do people expect. Who has time to do their her when she is focused on achieving the goal of a lifetime? Gabby and Simone will have plenty of time to get glammed up but they will never have another opportunity to compete in the 2016 Olympics.
Black women have always been judged by their hairstyles though.I looked at the sisters on the track team. These women had their hair braided in dynamic patterns or pulled back in slick ponytails if they had perms. I guess that’s the reason the gymnasts were talked about and the track team was not. The Gabby and Simone didn’t slick their hair down well enough. It’s ridiculous that their exceptional accomplishments have to be foreshadowed by what some people thought of their hairstyles.
Unfortunately, this is such a typical experience for black women. The pain is more severe because it is usually other black women inflicting it. We all have different ideas of what a queen looks like and shouldn’t judge when another queens’ beauty doesn’t fit our own. That type of oppression has been inflicted on us for generations. We have to stop doing it to each other. I have made love for those talented Olympiads and I feel their pain. No one should have to experience that type of disrespect.
I remember when I used to critique myself based on those narrow standards of the masses, until I went natural. Many say it’s not for them because they don’t find their hair texture appealing or the care is intimidating. I’m here to tell you, Sistah Queen, it’s no more of a hassle than changing the molecular structure of your hair follicles. That’s what happens when you put relaxers in your hair. I know it’s not easy being kinky at first; but once you get the hang of it, it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. (Read my last article for tips about training your coils so they’re manageable.)
Seriously, I don’t have “good” hair. I used to get mad at my hair all the time until the last year when I learned how to make them “pop”. The styles I tried out from YouTube or Instagram hardly ever worked out. The products that worked great on other people’s hair had the opposite effect on mine. My hair wasn’t long enough for some styles. It was too thick for others. It was severely damaged and had to be cut twice. I still didn’t go back to relaxers though. I no longer want anything that toxic on my body. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against straight hair. I’ll flat iron mine from time to time. I’m concerned about the lye and in relaxers. Please stop buying the lye. Even if you’ve been natural for a while and have been thinking about relapsing on the creamy crack (another name for relaxers), you can still revitalize your natural hair journey. Don’t the buy lye. Live your T.R.U.T.H.
The T.R.U.T.H. will set you free.
Trust – Nature doesn’t create anything ugly. I don’t care what texture your hair is, you need to know its uniqueness is gorgeous on you. As long as it has the right balance of moisture, your curls will be healthy, bouncy and shine gloriously. Learn about your hair porosity and you can manage it using the right products. Check out my last post about training your curls by clicking here. Even if you perm your hair, the information will still help you retain moisture to keep those tresses healthy. You can do this. It’ll make your hair happier, stronger, longer, and healthier.
Respect – your journey and the fact that it’s unlike any other Curl Friend’s journey that you will meet. Honor yourself and every strand on your head. Limit the use of harsh chemicals like sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, guanidine carbonate, guanidine hydroxide, thioglycolic acid, lithium hydroxide, parabens, sulfates, and some silicones. Be tolerant and accepting of your curl pattern. Don’t pull, yank and comb it excessively. Deep condition it often and keep it moisturized. The more you condition it, the fewer tangles you’ll have. If you respect you hair, I guarantee it will respect you back.
Unity – Get yourself some support. We have to come together, Sistahs. You need an accountability partner, a support group, a mentor and a bail of cheerleaders. It’s time to inspire, encourage, cheer, teach and learn from one another. There is no reason for you to travel this journey alone. There are so many opportunities to connect with other natural sistahs. Find or start a natural hair group. Curl Friends are hooking up all the time to talk and celebrate our kinks, coils, curls, locs, and braids. Go to a meetup, a workshop, a parade. You’ll get hooked up with products, jewelry, accessory and clothes. There are thousands of natural hair groups on social media sites like Facebook and Google Plus. There are plenty of natural hair enthusiast who blog and vlog about natural hair products and techniques on Twitter and Instagram.Connect.
Things – You need things to make your hair journey successful and to keep your resolve strong. Things include hair products, equipment, supplies, and most importantly accessories! Handbands, clips, barrettes, flowers and beads will make any hairstyle pop. They set off your outfit and your makeup. There’s nothing like a shiny accessory. Not only that, on those days when your hair didn’t turnout like the YouTube tutorial, an accessory will come to the rescue. Pin those frizzy tresses to the back with a flower when your twistout didn’t dry all the way. Make it a funky puff with a headband. Roll and tuck those dry ends with a rhinestone clip in the back until you can get a trim. The right “things” can turn a bad hairday into a quick masterpiece. Trust me. I have more failures that rebound than successes.
Hope – Finally and most importantly, the truth begats hope. We have to hope that one day we learn to completely accept our hair journey and that of other sistah queens. It’s time to give each other hope. We do that when we stop beating each other down emotionally because she has straight hair, or nappy hair, or weaved hair, or now hair. Once we do that we can began to hope that other people will stop beating us down emotionally. Gabby Douglas has enough support to eventually heal and become stronger from the attacks on her hair (not her character) in Rio; but the bottom line is, she shouldn’t have been harmed in the first place. The harm we to others who aren’t as strong, confident, and supported as Gabby can cause irreparable damaged. Our hair should not be a weapon used to harm each other.