I mean let’s be honest, we as women of color can all remember the first time we were shown as little girls of color, how much our hair really mattered to everyone else as much as it did to ourselves, if not more than it did even to us personally. However, I do believe that the potential internalization of trauma that can come from this intensified scrutiny of our hair is a real issue, more brushed to the side than is admitted or shared amongst us, and it’s about time we address this at the roots. So this is for every colored girl who ever had the problem of considering unwanted opinions of her own damn hair!
I can personally compartmentalize my life in the stages that my hair was in or transitioning through looking back now, even just back to the start of this summer. I remembering being around the age of 5, and my hair finally being “too much” for my mother to wash and treat for herself via the tub any longer. (This was about the time I got introduced to “Just For Me,” my first perm).
Suddenly my thick, coarse, afro spread hair, was “easier,” long flowing down my back instead, and I soon became Chloe with the nice long straight hair down my back, soon to be, “ms. long hair don’t care” up through my high school years.
My hair would soon define me not just more than my other features, but absolutely, without regard for my best qualities that I consider to be from my inner. Styles never strayed from more than initial shirley temple curls, to twists in the summers, followed by ponytails pretty much every other day of the year, because it was manageable for all those doing it, without regard for me. I can even remember the “life altering” realization when I shared with the other black girls in my middle school that I didn’t wrap my hair at nights as they did. Their reaction alike many others for a growing girl became so impacting, that I would never not dare wrap my hair again!
I can even remember my own Sweet 16 a few years later, and not being able to take my thank you card photographs until my hair was just right as it had been on the actual celebration day. Soon my hair had truly become my identity for me. I had become complacent in the protection that having “beautiful” hair in everyone else’s’ mind primarily provided me. I mean as a young woman of color, it was the one thing that could always be fixed just right, even when I had a space between my two front teeth, bushy eyebrows, uneven breasts, and was inexperienced in everything that had to do with boys, I still had my hair.
But what was all of that in hindsight but just more that would come to change for the better, and that I would grow to love for the better as well! Still, it was only before entering Spelman in the summer of 2012, that I can recall honestly having a breakthrough as to what my hair had been- a safety net for myself, and an appeasement to all else in that way, and I was so much more than that, I was better than that, and at last I knew so too.
That summer I cut off all my hair, and would begin experimenting with colors, braids, weaves, and other protective styles while transitioning back to my natural state as I had once been at the age of 5 as a carefree black girl, though now learning to love my thick, coarse, afro spread hair, just like I had been encouraged to do, when it was easy for others to do the same for my own hair!
As of now, being a rising senior at Spelman, I can say I have boldly, independently, and resistantly against the opinions of family, friends, strangers, employers, and the like, learned what to do in order to discover what works for me, especially when it comes to my hair, and I take great pride in that! In fact, it symbolizes my greatest strength, that I consider to be my versatility, in the gifts I have to offer, and my feasibility in being able to adapt to the uncomfortable and the new in whatever circumstance. In fact this is now when and how I thrive most, and I would arguably say that it has been with the greatest risks, that I have not only succeeded the most personally and professionally, but down to the roots of my soul from the crown of my head, with reclaiming the power of defining my hair journey!
And so in essence what I would like to encourage through the sharing of my own experiences, is to do you boos, especially when it comes to your hair. Consider your greatest strength, and exude and express that through your hair the most. Your hair as a colored girl, is the political and personal resume of your very being whether you like it or not, 24/7, so why not let it be authentically you!? It has to be!!
Once you learn to be comfortable with you, it is your obligation to force the world to be comfortable with all that you are, and that includes within the workplace, let me rephrase that, especially within the workplace. Side note: If you wouldn’t remain close with someone who didn’t truly care for you, why would you work for someone who doesn’t?, you wouldn’t or shouldn’t!, and that’s really how simple it has to be when it comes to your hair as well, because it’s just as much of you as anything else and can’t be hidden.
The point is now, at 21 years of age ladies, I know that to know me is to love me, and that’s to have assurance in that I know what’s best for me, since I know me like no other, and that means for my hair as well! Remember that- you know you, and what’s best for you, which includes your hair too!