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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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My relaxed hair Nirvana

Yesterday’s post was important to me because I wanted to share a link to a wonderful documentary by Brittney Henton: also wanted to touch on the importance of how we teach our children about their ethnic hair.

Now, I want to return to my hair journey and talk about my personal experiences when I got my hair relaxed.As a young girl, my hair was described in many ways:nappy, puffy, bad, kinky, rough, tight, disobedient, tough and on and on.So, there was a dual sigh of relief when I got my first relaxer, one from my Mom and one from me.I think my Mom was relieved because she no longer had to deal with me fussing (well, trying to fuss…my Mom just didn’t play that) and crying during the weekly hair care process.Plus, she may have felt that it would be easier to maintain my hair in less time (e.g., put it in a cute ponytail and be done in two minutes).

I was just happy to have hair that was bouncing and behaving.It was nice to look in the mirror and see a pretty head of thick hair shining back at me.I loved to shake my head from side to side and watch the hair fly back and forth. I loved the way that my hair bounced up and down when I jumped rope. I loved the way that it felt when I rubbed my hand from the crown of my head to the ends of my hair, smooth like silk.I loved the way that one ponytail holder could contain all of my hair, so that it looked neat and glossy.An attempt at that when my hair was in its natural state would inevitably lead to a snapped ponytail holder and/or a puffy, messy looking little ball.Even worse was when I struggled and finally got one decent puff.Then, as the day went on and I sweated, I’d realize that the band was slowly losing its grip and my puff was getting smaller and smaller so that more of my hair was outside of the holder than in it.In other words, I looked like I had an afro with a little rubber band bean on the top.I loved that my Mother could wash, condition, blow dry and style my hair in less time than it used to take just to wash it and comb it out.Yes, I thought I had reached Nirvana.Little did I know about a new archenemy:new growth.

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