I stood in Toys R’ Us, looking desperately to find my daughter her heart’s desire: A beloved “Peppa Pig” stuffed toy. As I stood in the store and was about to accept defeat, I spotted a little girl – no older than about 5 – who was staring intently at my hair. Even though I was now making eye contact with her, her fascination with my hair never changed. She seemed mesmerized by my golden-topped Afro and the puffiness of it all. I smiled politely at her mother as she noticed her daughter staring at me with wide eyes; “Come on, honey. It’s not polite to stare.” She then turned to me and apologized profusely, then commented, “Oh, your hair is lovely! I’m sure she was just excited to see your hair.”
Of course she would be excited to see my hair! Not often do you see women of colour let it all “hang” out, or puff out, if you will. I’ve had:
“Oh my gosh, your hair is so nice! Can I touch it?”
“Oh wow, Jodi! I wish my hair could do that!”
“Your hair is amazing! I just love your hair!”
I allow the touches, the remarks, the compliments, and everything that comes with having a ‘fro. I love my do. As a matter of fact, my ‘fro occurs from my inability to comb my hair (yes, say what you must, but I just cannot tame this thick, rich, healthy hair and make it do what I want. My hair is boss!). My roommate and I had a conversation recently that led her to explain to me that we change our hair (that is: relax, weave, braid, etc) because it would have been inappropriate or look unprofessional to let it all hang out.
While she may be right in a sense (society does dictate what’s professional and what’s not), it begs to ask the question: What’s the difference between letting out our hair when it is relaxed, braided, or when there is a weave in it versus when we let out or kinky, coily, rolly (or however you want to describe it) natural hair? My hair is mine, if you can feel proud letting your weave or your relaxed hair down, why shouldn’t I feel proud about letting out my natural hair? My hair, like Samson’s, is a symbol of my strength; a tribute to my womanhood, my uniqueness, my fabulousness (if there is such a word), and I have zero problems embracing that.
I remember my mum struggling daily to put the massive plaits in my hair. I always had the famous “cow horns” done in my hair simply because it was too thick to be caught in one, and too kinky to be done in multiple styles. I was known by those two massive plaits and it used to irritate me to go to school and see my friends with the relaxed hairstyles (even with the scars from the harshness of the chemicals). At one point, I even thought my mother to be drab and boring to be still wearing an Afro, her natural hair, in the 90’s versus the current Jherri Curl or Relaxed Perm. It was when I got older that I understood her reason to remain natural. It’s her identity. It’s who she truly is, and coming from a mixture of races, mom displayed more of her African heritage through her hair than that of her other races.
Yes, I have hell combing my hair and making it do what I want. It’s like training for the Hair Olympics, and the gold (goal) is to end up with a beautiful hairstyle. I fail 100% of the time, but it’s gratifying to know that people appreciate the ‘fro, the kinks, the colours, the natural beauty and actually think that it’s my intent for my hair to be in an Afro all the time. AND I’m happy to have the likes of my mom; my aunt Grace-Ann; my sister, Susan; and my natural relatives and friends who have helped me to recognize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with embracing the kinks in my hair.
Jodi-Ann is an Environmental Studies major in Nova Scotia, Canada.