Saturday, February 02, 2008

HER/HAIR PEACE

(Photo taken New Years Day 2008)

I am a woman who notices parallels.

I notice them whenever they occur and in the last year or so I have stumbled quite by accident on an amazing parallel in my life. It is the parallel between coming to terms with my hair and coming to terms with myself.

Coming of age as a black woman is much like coming of age for anyone -- wrought with twists and turns that with hindsight seem inconcievably trite but while traveling through appeared to be if not insurmountable, an awfully long row to hoe. Self-esteem, so essential to this coming of age proces is a tricky thing. Ultimately, it is controlled by self but until one realizes this fact, most allow others to control self resulting in self-esteem being anything but controlled by self. The end result is sadly obvious.

In the case of many black girls, much of their self-image is wrapped up in their hair. Whoopie Goldberg alluded to this fact in her amazing stand-up show many years ago when she created the character of the little black girl who desired "long, beautiful, golden, blonde hair". The hallmark of classic comedy is that it provides a mirror of the souls of us. Unfortunately there are no photos available to prove this, but I was born essentially bald headed and with a strand of grey hair. Two years later, I was joined by a sister who in contrast was born with "Shirley Temple" ringlets. As we grew up, my fine strands of hair never grew long or luxurious while hers on the other hand rivaled the length and thickness of Oprah's oft questioned locks. Looking back on pictures from my childhood, I often tease my mother that because I did not have long, luxurious hair like my sister's she didn't exert much energy keeping it neat and that when she did comb it, she put these giant, heavy barrettes on the stubby little ponytails to make them move when I moved. Yes, you guessed it, I was Whoopie's character who dreamed she would one day have long, beautiful, golden, blonde hair.

As the ritual goes, I went through the hair rites of passage of most black girls. Press and curls from about five years of age onward, thinned already fine hair. I loved these press and curls, because they made my hair smooth and now I could have curls and bangs. I was getting closer to realizing my dream. Thirteen brought my mother's approval for a perm which moved my cause even further along as I continued my quest for long, beautiful, golden, blonde hair. Somewhere in the middle of all this, things started to really get warped.

All of the hoops I was jumping through to realize my quest came with added responsibility. Press and curls dictated a maniacal avoidance of the summer sun and water that I loved dearly being a water-baby born under the sign of the fish. Perms required a major investment of time and money and a life spent at the mercy of beauticians who had little if any respect for my time or money. In my quest for long, beautiful, golden, blonde hair I had found that I was becoming someone other than who I wanted to be.

Going from bad to worse, enter BOYS! A girl and now a woman who has a craving for the brothas exclusively, I was willing to have my physical appearance somewhat dictated by what those beautiful black boys and later men, found attractive. Now this was not apparent on the surface as I was a dedicated tomboy and swimmer who projected the image of not giving a damn what anyone thought about her appearance. However, whenever I did change my hair it was never without the thought "What will the boys think? Will they think this is attractive?". There was never a time when I failed to "get the guy" that the thought that "If I had longer hair he would have found me attractive", didn't find its way through my skull in some format.

Next, enter corporate America. Trying to get in where I fit in came with problems of its own. Having gotten closer to fulfilling my quest of obtaining long, beautiful, golden, blonde hair by graduating from the perm to braided extentions left unraveled at the ends and subsequently able to be curled, I now wondered as I prepared to interview whether or not they would be considered acceptable in the lily-white corridors of corporate America. Adopting a better-safe-than-sorry attitude as I tried to secure a baller job that would ultimately deliver a key to the Vice President's bathroom, I removed my extensions and opted for a more commonplace and conservative version of my previous perms.

Worse however was not as bad as it could get as weaves exploded on the scene. "Wait a minute", I thought. "Here is the answer to all of my prayers. I can have long, beautiful, golden, blonde hair if I want. I can. I really, truly can." So I did just that; minus the blonde that is.

It was shortly after this phase began that something happened that changed me. I ended a relationship that had been on-again, off-again for the better part of fifteen years. I was just a few months shy of my 39th birthday. I finally began to see myself for myself for real, perhaps for what was the very first time ever; and I did not see the person I would have expected to see based on what I wanted for me.

I am a woman who is a lover of all things natural. I am at my best when gorging myself on all the texture life holds. (Bandana photos taken today, February 2, 2008)
I am casual, and in my natural state, quite low-maintenance to boot and above all else, I understand that life is short and therefore should be savored. I get that we are each given our own individual blessings and if we take the time to notice, understand, and appreciate them, they will give to us everything they were sent to bring.
Why then, I found myself asking was I going through all of these kniptions with my hair considering that in all the time I had been caring for and making decisions regarding my hair I had never once been satisfied with the result; nor did I ever feel it was representative of me or the image I choose to project. This was when I first saw the parallel between learning to be at peace with me and learning to be at peace with my hair. It was the same journey. A journey that required enough life experience to get to know who I am, what I am, who and what I want to be, and what it takes to realize all of those things.

My mother turned my hair over to heat and chemicals before I ever had the chance to become acquainted with it. I pretty much did the same with myself I realized now as I look back and recognize all of the times I tried to be what I thought others wanted me to be instead of choosing for myself who and what I was. I chose to continue that pattern until those processes controlled my locks and my life for the better of thirty-five years. Now, I have chosen to eliminate these elements from my haircare regimen and also from my life. It is ironic to see the amazing growth spurt my hair is undergoing now after all the years of hearing how my hair was too fine, thin, and fragile to grow long and strong like I desired. It is just as amazing to see the change in myself as I become more and more comfortable with and enamored of the woman I am becoming. Since allowing and encouraging my hair and myself to return to our natural states I have been introduced to textures I didn't know it had and freedoms I didn't know existed. At the same time, I have discovered truths and falsehoods about myself that I would have sworn before could not exist inside of me.

So at 42, soon to be 43 I am finally and at long last doing what I do for me. I sometimes hear sistas I respect make comments about the nappiness of my hair; their comments bead up and roll off me like rain off a freshly waxed car. My boss and corporate America are falling in line as I have left them no other choice; the decisions here are mine to make. As for those beautiful brothas I spoke of, many will and have decided to pass on me and the napps and you know what, that's alright with me as I'm quite sure in my own hard-won self-esteem that those particular brothas don't have the strength of character necessary to hang anyway. As India Arie sings so eloquently,

"I AM NOT MY HAIR".


However, now that I have attained HAIR PEACE, I am more me than I ever was before which means now I can allow my self to have HER PEACE.
INDIA ARIE AND I WISH YOU

HAIR PEACE TOO!
(So do you, whatever that may mean ;)
Click HERE for the poetic version of this journey which I have entered into a poetry contest on the amazing blog
"Bloggers' Delight...To Write"!!!


12 comments:

LadyLee said...

What an assessment...

A microphone moment indeed...

*Lee cueing up India Arie's "I'm not my hair" on laptop*

Sojourner G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sojourner G said...

Many a treasure has been passed by, stepped on, completely missed and even discarded by those lacking the gift of discernment.

Ultimately, that is to their detriment and your preservation and the increasing of your value. You are the one who is "more precious than rubies" (Prov 3:15). Only he that recognizes the jewel in whatever form it may currently be, is worthy of the prize.

Safa said...

I love this post. We do have hair issues and whenever you find hair peace, it's a good thing! And for real, it really does PERMeate our whole beings and how we carry ourselves.

chele said...

Great insight. I really enjoyed this.

Nikki said...

I have no idea why Black women as a whole are obsessed with their hair, but if we can find the beauty within ourselves, how we wear our hair or how much of it is on our head, is not an issue.

DJ Diva said...

I hate doing my hair now...so I can't imagine what it would be w/o a relaxer!!!!!

But I like your hair Sharon...it doesn't look like napps to me....

It's so funny that I read this post today...when i put on my first half weave...in a year!!!!!

I got a Hair Piece! LOL

Rose said...

Sharon you are so right. This past weekend I removed my braids and decided to wear my hair. First thing I did was put a perm in my hair. Now my head is blistered all over. I have a sensitive scalp but I do not like myself with natural hair. Our hair is tied into our self esteem. When I see all the women wearing weave, I know that this is true. I don't think people are ready to admit that wanting long hair is the reason we do everything to our heads, but I think if we really assess ourselves as you did we would get the same results. Enlightening indeed.

RPM said...

Beautiful. Your post, the energy within it, and your loveliness.

Sharon said...

@ Ladylee: Finally I get my microphone back...Now can I get that damned semi-retired crap removed from my link on your blogroll? Huh? Huh? How 'bout it? :)

@ Sojourner G: Oh my how you make me blush! I have to admit that coming here and finding a comment such as that one simply reinforces that I am at long last on the right track and brothas like the one I hope to find one day do indeed exist. Your SO is a very lucky individual and so am I just to have had you cross my path! AND you used scripture from Proverbs to make your point...just the kind of woman I strive to be ;)

@ Safa of the clever word games: I'm loving that you got into the groove with the word play...Ain't nothing like having something PERMeate the membrane and penetrate to the core!

@ Chele: Thanks for stopping by...as I wrote this, I thought of you b/c last week in one of your posts you spoke of possibly cutting your hair off b/c of your frustrations with it...been there/DONE THAT! :)

@ Nikki: That is one of those truths it would be so great if we were BORN KNOWING!

@ DJ Diva: In the time I have known you, you have been in and out of weaves so many times I have lost count. Do YOU girl...whatever that be! As far as napps, I assure you that is completely relative just like everything else and my head is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate as you can find strands of all textures from wavy to curly to down-right MANDINKA and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE each and every one of them FINALLY!

@ Rose: I am so glad you stopped by! I have been missing you an awful lot these days ;) I feel you on the braid removal followed by perm...been there done that too...OUCHIEEEEEEEEE! I really believe at this point that we all need to just figure out what it is we are comfortable with and go with that. I refuse to become one of those natural hair fanatics who look down their noses at those who use chemicals. My decision works for me and it is that simple! Send me an email if you get a chance; I'd love to have you join me to attend the Book party for Bloggers' Delight at Lucas Park Grille here in the Lou on 2/23...my Bday by the way ;)

@ RPM: What can I say to my much more beautiful twin other than thanx as always for stopping by and leaving some of your grace :)

DJ said...

Well you know...I have always thought of weaves as accesories...Having always had long think azz hair...Sometimes it was nice to change it up!

It's strikes me as funny when poeple speak negative about weaves. That the person wearing them is trying to be this or that. How is it different than say a culture that admires tattoos, or paints their faces even blacker or adds rings to their necks?....we all have different ways of making ourselves feel attractive and I don't think it matters how we do it.

One of the best things I liked about the India Arie video was her trying on the different hairstyles and not only looking fabulous in them but completely comfortable. I, like others, was guilty of only seeing her in the "earth mother" character...dreadlocks or natural hair and minimal makeup. It was seeing her in a weave that finally made me see her in a different light. It also made me (although I am completely comfortable in my own choices for my appearance) feel better about choosing to wear a weave despite the negative backlash.

Last point- My husband loves my weaves. Unlike most black men, he loves the different variety and looks that I (and he) get to play with. I have never put much stock in what a man wanted me to look like...as long as I was always Diva...whether in my hair...or some hair I brought!

Granted a weave is not for everyone...and lord knows some folks just go overboard...but I certainly don't think that folks should hate on them constantly....

Shai said...

oh what happened to my post.