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Coming to the End of the Road: Bald Spots and Still Relaxing

At a certain point in my life, I was still getting relaxers but questioning myself about why I was subjecting myself to the process.As I’ve mentioned before, hair is linked to femininity and attractiveness.I remember I was at a local DC club (Zei Club in Zei Alley…yes, I’m showing my age as I’ve heard the club has long since been gone).I had just gotten my hair relaxed that morning but it had come out too straight so I put on a cute hat.I met a handsome guy and after talking, dancing, and exchanging numbers he reached up uninvited and pulled my hat off of my head.He then said something to express his relief that I didn’t have a knotty head of hair.I was stunned.I mean, “REALLY!?REALLY?!”The nerve!Anyone who knows me (especially my guy friends I grew up with), is probably waiting for me to say that I clocked him in the head right on the spot.I didn’t.Instead, I was relieved that I’d gotten my hair relaxed because if he’d seen my hair, oh, 14 hours earlier, he’d likely have ripped up my phone number and walked away.

Perhaps I continued to get relaxers because I thought that I’d be unattractive to Black men if they saw me in my natural state?I’m NOT saying that all Black men want women with straight hair.I am saying that in the mid-1990s when I was dating, it seemed like the “in look” was long straight hair.Hits like “Bump and Grind”, “That’s the Way Love Goes”, “Weak” and “Whoomp There it Is” filled the air waves and the women dancing in the videos had weaves down their backs.It was only a matter of time before I noticed more and more women wearing similar styles.My girlfriends and I lamented the fact that we were single despite being attractive, educated, kind people.It felt like there were eight Black women for every one Black man because almost every woman I knew was single while every guy I knew had two, three or even ten “girlfriends”.When I reflect back and think about the high demand for men and the sense that my natural hair might put me out of the “running” (not to mention perceived convenience, style, family input, etc.), it is understandable why I continued to get relaxers.Not making excuses, just trying to understand my thinking at the time.

Yet, my hair continued to fall out.This was a time when I was grateful for thick, thick hair because I just had to style my hair in a certain way and the alopecia bald spot was covered.After a while though, the insanity of the situation made me rethink my relationship with my hair.Heck, my relationship with ME.

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New Growth Meant Not Pretty

New growth is a good thing.It represents rebirth, life, strength.But why did new growth have such a negative connotation when I was younger?Was it that I was resentful, afraid of the fact that the real me was rearing its ugly head and peaking through the cracks of my relaxed façade? “

This is an excerpt from yesterday’s post and I want to revisit this discussion because it is beginning to elicit some interesting feedback and pulling up lots of my forgotten reactions.As I little girl, I seriously doubt that I was thinking about issues of authenticity.Instead, I think that I was so upset because new growth, in my mind, meant that my hair was no longer going to be pretty.The popular girls tended to have long, straight hair (including the Black girls).I remember one little Black girl named Makeeba J.She had beautiful, long wavy hair that she’d wear in two plaits.I wanted her hair so bad!It was glossy black and I thought she must have been mixed with Native American because I’d never seen a Black person with hair like that.I’m 99% sure that her hair was natural (I never asked) but all I knew was that for my hair to look like that, I’d have to get a relaxer.Makeeba seemed to be the little girl that all of the boys liked and I attributed it to her silky hair.Even though I was at the age when I beat boys up, I still wanted that kind of male attention.I wanted to be coveted, fawned over, dreamed about.I thought that my hair was a barrier to that kind of adoration.Thank goodness for my Mother and Father.As I mentioned in an earlier post, my parents made sure that we knew that we were beautiful girls, both inside and out.However, messages that I was somehow inferior, not good enough “as is” still crept into my psyche.Now, I still had a marvelous child hood.Please don’t get the impression that my hair sidelined me in life.That is not my point.My point is that hair attitudes affected how I perceived myself and others, how I identified with MYSELF and as a Black person.

As I got older, I do think I struggled with revealing my authentic self as it relates to my hair, meaning, I did whatever I could to conceal my new growth.In my next post, I’ll talk about why this was such a struggle for me. Also, I’ll share some other reactions that illustrate that Black women may not be the only women struggling with these issues.

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