June 25, 2012

A New Normal

My mom was from the “Old School” where hair was defined as “Good” and “Bad” and it was no secret that mine was the latter. Now, stop shaking your head and thinking that I should probably seek therapy because of such a sad childhood. The label wasn’t an indictment against my personality or intellect; rather it was an indicator of the amount of work needed to get my nappy hair under control. Sometimes that meant just combing through and detangling, and other times, it meant going to Miss Thelma, the beautician who would “press” my kinks straight with a metal comb that was heated -- the "hot comb."

By the time I hit my twenties, I tired of the hot comb routine and decided to chemically straighten out the naps with a “relaxer.”
This process not only changes the molecular structure of hair; but also forces a crazy bi-monthly game of whack-a-mole in an effort to beat the naps out of the nappy growth just as it begins to burst through the scalp. Sometimes, that eight-week period would sneak up and I found myself firing off frantic emails to my girlfriend saying something to the effect of “THE NAPS ARE HERE…THEY’RE TAKING OVER!! HELP ME!!”

It’s a never-ending process…and a kind of crazy one too.  But hey, my hair was straightened.

Despite years of hot iron combs pulled through my hair (and sometimes burned ears) and numerous chemistry experiments in a box, straightened hair felt natural. Natural. Like if I pulled a comb through my hair and hit some naps, it felt wrong, and I’d start jonesing for a relaxer touch-up. Relaxers had become to me, as Chris Rock called it – the Creamy Crack; and I was addicted. The root of the addiction (no pun intended) was the feeling that those tight curls, those naps

How much sense does that make? Seriously, how many black people have you seen with Paris Hilton wispy hair? I thought so. Even Beyonce’s luscious locks have undergone some kind of science experiment to get it in that kind of shape. My idea of normal was upside down.

The fact is that my normal is nappy hair. Don’t gasp, it isn’t derogatory: it’s what my normal – my natural -- is.

So, about two weeks ago, I left the relaxers and hot combs in the rear-view mirror. Now I’m walking around natural – naps and all.  Sometimes it feels strange and I'm still somewhat amazed when I get compliments. But I know that its healthier for my hair – and for my daughter’s view of herself.

That's something I hadn’t thought of until Georgia looked at my new mini ‘fro" and asked if she could touch my “new hair.”

“Ooooh, it’s soft, Mom. It’s poofy…kind of like mine, huh?”
“Yeah, hun it is. Georgia, do you know how pretty your hair is?”
“Like when you flat iron it?”
“No…just the way it is…how it grows out of your head in little curly-cues. It’s perfect just like that.”
“You mean perfect, like when you say that my eyelashes don’t need mascara and that I don’t have to wear make-up or need to go tanning because my skin’s the perfect color?”

“Yup. It's perfect the way it is...and all of that’s just normal for you.”

Still not sure what the big deal's all about? Watch this video.
It's eye-opening even for me...even on my third time watching it.