Thursday, September 11, 2008

One Thousand Disappointments Part 2

I like my hair. It's so me. I wear it up; I wear it... less up and all with minimal fuss. I wash it. I let it dry. I oil it. And, if I feeling particularly bouncy, I comb it. Otherwise, I run my fingers through it until I don't catch any tangles.

Perfect hair for a lazy, lazy woman. Except, I have to wear it different on interviews so that it conforms to the standard of "neat." And my family, excluding my husband, hates it. Even people who seem to like it treat my hair as some sort of experiment or trend.

When I visit my family in my hometown, they always seem to do the same thing - they squint at my hair and reminisce on how it used to be. Oh, it was so straight and long (it was down my back). It used to be so pretty. I find myself covering my hair with a scarf more and more when I visit them. They do not get that I intend to wear my hair natural for a long time. They do not get why I would choose to wear my hair natural. In fact, now that I think about it, I think I'm the only woman on my side of the family with natural hair (with the exception of an aunt who is biracial). The little girls get their first relaxers at five or six years old.

I know one reason why family is so possessive of my hair, but that's off topic. The other reason, though, might have something to do with relaxed hair being, well, not black.

I have come across many black people who seem to be afraid to be too black. They resent the darkness of their skin, the thickness of their lips and hips, the wideness of their noses. To them there is an acceptable range of these qualities and an unacceptable one. I have never gotten this. Probably because I fall outside the acceptable range on all fronts.

What evidence do I have that my family is ashamed of being too black? Well, not really evidence, just a summation of experiences. Such as the young adult girls wearing colored contact lenses, not light brown or hazel, but blue and light gray and whatever other color is the furthest from brown. They also have this preoccupation of not tanning too much. I see them comparing arms to see which one is the lightest. This tradition has followed me all the way back from high school where one of my classmates asked me which one of us was lighter. I was confused as to why she would even ask, but, when we laid our hands side by side, she said triumphantly, "You're darker!" Okay? That's nice. Can I go now?

Natural hair seems to be one of those "too black" things. I don't get blonde or red streaks or extensions or ponytail weaves. Yet, I am not dismissive of women (or men) who wear them. Why are they so dismissive of me? I'm back and forth on this issue. The little bit of psychologist in me that I failed to excise sees this as some past holdover from when blacks were slaves, and everything black was less than nothing, blah, blah blah - stupid Mississippi. The bigger part of me with more common sense sees this as women being cruel. The highest standard is what the majority picks, and the majority is white. So, the rest follows. It's just a way people make themselves feel better about who they are.

However, the women of my family seem to be confused about who they are. When I first met my husband, I thought it was so weird that he used to wear locks. Later, when I met the rest of his family, I saw that they showed no hesitance in accepting natural hair. His mother had locks, his brother later locked his hair, and even his little nephew has started growing locks. I believe his sister has had every natural hairstyle under the sun. Whoa, a new standard.

Now my little girl can see both sides of the picture and not think that there is only one choice or be forced into one as I was. I will not relax her hair until she is old enough to decide that for herself. I will not let my family influence her into making their choice instead of her choice. I hope they come around on accepting my hair choices. It would be a sort of weird thing to disown them over, and, if I have to, I'll do it. Or at least make them feel really, really guilty.

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