It’s just hair.
I’ve always been a natural hair advocate, and although the topic has been exhaustedly debated over the last few years, when my daughter recently insisted on wanting straight hair, I was beyond myself.
Ever since she was born, also about the time I transitioned to my natural hair, I vowed never to straighten or use chemicals on her hair. As I’ve learnt to love and embrace my natural curly fro-like hair, I was hoping it would rub off on her as well.
But when she suddenly dropped the straight hair bomb on me, I felt defeated.
All those talks about how beautiful our natural hair is and loving the texture of our hair, exposing her to various perspectives of hair types and continued debates about how the strand growing naturally from our head (without it being manipulated) is part of our identity, seemed to have been forgotten.
I knew one day she’d want to experiment — she’s always had a mind of her own, and although it’s been fun sharing this journey with her I was excited for her to get to experience her own hair journey ... well, perhaps 10 years from now.
How foolish of me, because here I am sitting in the living room clutching the chair so hard my fingers start to ache as the sound of the hairdryer in the background reminds me of a painful time in my life. I remember spending hours at the hairdresser forcing my hair into a straight look with chemicals and hot dryers.
A time when the relaxer was meant to contain my misbehaving hair, made it more manageable and showed how long and beautiful my hair was.
We know that our hair grows upwards and in all directions, we love our hair, always feel comfortable walking around with our fros, so why wasn’t she as mad as I was? How could she possibly smile and be excited about the outcome?
In that moment I realised I’m doing exactly what I promised I would never do — enforcing my idea of beauty onto her, the same way society determined it for me.
As a teenager my beauty was defined by my long straight hair — and when she shared her desire to have straight hair, it took me right back to that dark place. But she’s someone who embraces being different, knows that having a beautiful, kind heart is all that matters — not how your hair looks!
Although my natural hair journey was liberating and a reminder of my heritage and identity, for her not everything is about hair. Instead she found confidence in being different.
She’s already pushing the natural hair boundaries and embracing who she is by wearing her afro with pride, rocking her two puffs to school and with straight hair showing how versatile our hair can be — what more could I ask for?
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