Sometimes we see the world too simply, not because life is not complex, but because we fail to pay attention to details. Details bring individuality to stories and make them specifically ours. When we slack in attention we start losing purpose. Life is about the little things, the details.
It’s Not Just Hair
“I have a friend, she tells me that she doesn’t know what her natural hair really looks like
Because its been straightened for as long as she can remember
Look at your childhood pictures I suggest
My hair was straight in those pictures also
The loss of the curl, the kink, the nap, all going down in hair salons, and homes turned hair salons
My family told me to straighten my hair as much as possible to get my curl pattern to loosen up and turn into “good’ hair, white hair, and turn away from “bad hair” and “black naps”
This is a small portion of a larger poem my friend wrote and her friend was me. (Visit her blog for the full poem which is coming soon)
It was three years ago when I did my first big chop. Not consciously to go natural but because flat ironing and bleaching was causing my hair to fall out. Even after the cut I continued to regularly straighten my hair because I believed my natural hair did not curl and lacked beauty. My friend would always ask me, “why don’t you leave your hair out after you wash it.” “It’s a big Afro that does not curl, I don’t like it.”
My friend was my number one encourager to the journey of finding my curls or Jamerly in her natural state. She knew that there were curls in there somewhere and she knew that we had to find them.
Turns out that the hair on my head was not my natural hair but a result of endlessly trying to get “good” hair “professional hair.” Since I was a young girl I was taught straight is the most beautiful way to contain my hair. If my hair got a little poofy, my grandma would immediately advise me to go to the salon where I would spend at least five hours on a Saturday morning morphing my natural state.
I vividly remember conversations with my friend where I would express how much I hate having my family members point to my hair and laugh, ask me if I was going to the salon soon even offering to pay the bill, ask me if I could pass a comb through it, and if I thought my big, poofy, hair was going to get me a job. I hated it. But I would just smile at their comments as I texted my friend how offended I felt by the very people who genes gave me this hair.
She assured me that it was beautiful. That life was not about them anymore. And we would relate stories because keeping our hair in its natural state seemed to be the worse thing a Dominican woman could do. We were meant to be kempt and curls were not that. But we were, Dominican women that is. Not because we were taking this pledge to be outrageous and embrace our natural hair, but because we embraced our natural hair. Yes it is true, there are many Dominicans with straight hair and that does not make them less Dominican, but straightening mine did.
I was less Dominican because instead of using water and letting my hair air dry, I used mainaise and avocado hair treatments, rollers and a dryer. And I will not lie, I felt beautiful. But looking back now, I know it was not exceptional beauty, it was spoon fed beauty. I wanted to define beauty within my own terms and conditions and I did, the day my friend took me to the salon by her house for my second chop. It was three days after when I washed my hair that I saw curls. And for the first time in 19 years I saw a natural curl. For the first time in 19 years a met myself. And that was a week ago. A week ago when I looked in the mirror and said no I cannot pass a comb through my hair so do not even try to run your fingers through it. And no it is not professional, but look who defines professionalism. And no I may not get a job. But yes I will stop anyone who tries to run their fingers through my curls. And yes it is professional because I am. And yes I will not have a job, I’ll have a career, traveling with too much hair in my face for you to see me, my Dominican self, but knowing I’m there because you are incapable of staring away from my confidence.
And you will question the love I have for my hair and I will answer, “I learned to love it, and you will too.”