Growing up, I never knew what to do with my hair. It was long, but I felt it was super course and “nappy” so at a young age I resorted to putting it back into a ponytail. My earliest memories of my hair are full of pain and shame. I remember my mother straightening my hair for communion and it taking hours because I wouldn’t stop crying. It was excruciating. Neither my mother nor my sisters taught me how to style or take care of my hair.
As I grew up I never knew that I subconsciously began to hate my natural hair. So at ten years old when I got my first perm(relaxer), I began the endless cycle of straightening and manipulating my hair to conform to society’s perception of beauty.
I felt beautiful only when my hair was permed or when I had a weave. Growing up in a lower-income neighborhood only added to my negative views about my hair. The girls around me mostly wore wigs, weaves or long extensions. Black girls would ridicule other black girls for wearing out their natural hair and so would the black boys. Self-hatred was rampant amongst the black community I grew up in.
Once I left that environment. I began meeting other black women who wore their hair out in natural styles and although it was shocking to me, I began to admire these women. These women were vibrant and confident and celebrated their natural hair. I also saw how other men and women responded positively to them. I began to wonder what it would look and feel like to wear out my own natural hair. Although I still find it difficult to style and display my natural hair, I’ve started to transition into wearing natural-looking extensions and twist outs.
I believe as black women, we’re conditioned to believe that our natural hair is “ugly” and “tough,” but with healing and time, I personally believe we can begin to redefine the perceptions and stereotypes of our hair. I am in the process of learning how to love my God-given hair and with the support and encouragement from my friends, I believe I’ll soon be able to wear it out with confidence and pride.
By Christine Lule