I have been nappy since 1993. While there are some people
that contend that Black women with natural hair love
themselves more so than women who don't. I don't subscribe to
that notion. There are some women with natural hair that
like themselves, others who hate themselves, the same
goes for women with perms.
The last time I straightened my hair, I had an interview at
Spike DDBO for an administrative assistant job. For
someone reason I thought that I having straight hair
would increase my getting a job. It was Spike Lee's ad
agency, if I was going to be able to have a job as a nappy,
it should have been at his agency.
I was 22 and looking for a job, I didn't know any better.
My boyfriend at the time flipped out. When my hair is
pressed, I have big James Brown-esque curls. This
boyfriend, Black Bill Clinton, irritated me about my
newly straightened hair so much, that I ran my hair
under the shower to show him that it was a temporary.
He learned really quick that the water will turn back the
naps. I was livid and tired. Latoya Peterson,at
Racialicious wrote recently about the politics of
telling your partner about going nappy.
She recounts sharing her decision with one of her friends,
“What did your boyfriend say?” she asked carefully.
I was kind of shocked that this was the first comment from my pro-natural, all organic food eating, anti-make up, womanist, vegan friend. However, she was simply expressing a sentiment from her own experience - sometimes, something simple like transitioning your hair can end your relationship. KJ still felt the sting from prior relationships that were seemingly full of love, trust, and shared personal politics - except when it came to the issue of her hair. In that case, she was encouraged to conform to a beauty standard she did not believe in to please her boyfriend with a long sheet of silky hair - after all, she’d been growing it out for years, so it should be really long by now, right?In many ways it reminded of the ways in which,
historically Black women's bodies and their hair
specifically have been seen as family and or
community property. Latoya speaks to this notion when
Of all the stories I heard from the women I spoke to, it is the incident at the wedding that stands out to me most. Two women expressed the desire to have natural hair and yet would not do it because of the perceived social cost. And that saddened me, because two women subverted what they wanted to do to please others.Latoya also mentioned how older Black women can
sometimes feel like a thick head of natural hair is
"a waste" and that it should straightened to see how long it is.
I remember how in the eyes of my mother I went from a
person with a "whole lot of hair sticking up on my head"
to someone with a thick head full of hair and that "I should
let her press it out." Long hair is capital in our society, in the
same way, lighter and or white skin is. In the book
Tenderheaded Mariame Kaba explains one of the
reasons why Black women straighten their hair. She
Kathy Russel, co author of Color Complex: PoliticsShe goes on to say that,
of Skin Color Among African Americans. Black women
"take the heat" to achieve access to the economic and social
resources within American society. (Of course there are
other powerful incentives for straightening ones hair, which
have more to do with gaining social acceptance from family,
friends and men). And the usual results from pressures within
the community, but that isn't my focus here.
While these notions have some validity I find them lacking.When I was in middle school, and admiring the b-girls
My research suggests that if they are also practicing a white
standard of beauty then it is a means to an ends. Anita, a 32 year old
housing specialist, offers this insight, " I wear my hair straight so
that I can fit in. My mother said that if I didn't have good hair,
I would have no hope of getting a job, a husband, or any
real respect in society.
at Skyline high school who were natural and the women
with twists that I would see in Berkeley, a woman
who lived in my building told me "My hair is good,
it ain't never hurt nobody." I love that because it speaks
to how our hair is just hair, but also loaded and full of historical
meaning as well.
I went to a predominantly white prep school high
school in San Francisco. It was at this high school that
I broadened my idea of what African American
beauty was. Ironic, no? In some ways, my white peers were
more receptive to my natural hair then the people
in my family. They thought it was "cool." My brother always thought
I was weird. My dad thought that I was completing my transformation
into a vegetarian hippie,and my mother thought it was just a phase.
My sister thought it was awful and offered to send me to "the shop."
Everyone had an opinion about my naps.
I was also reminded of this when I read about the
Chris Rocks new film, Good Hair, which was inspired by
his daughter asking him "whether or not she had good hair?"
Any conversations about napps lately?
How much do you spend on your hair per month?
For men/women, who date women, do you have
a nappy/straight preference? If so, why or why not?