On the surface level, it means he ain’t the one. But on a deeper level we must acknowledge that there are many men (and women) in our communities who share the same perceptions of natural hair. Nappy, unruly, unprofessional, child-like, lacking sex appeal, just to name a few.
Our society has made hair a qualifying or disqualifying factor in beauty and femininity. I remember growing up as a child and seeing ads for Vidal Sassoon or Herbal Essences and wondering why there weren’t any brown girls rubbing suds in their hair? I recall being 7 or 8 and laying in the bathtub while immersing my hair in the water, watching it gather around my face like a sea of tiny black ants and thinking to myself “Ooh, look at my hair. It’s so pretty and long!” I remember having length contests with my friends, stretching my neck and arching my back while pulling my plaits down. I can recall times when my mom would put beads on the ends of my braids, giving me an extra swinging affect that made me feel ultra cute. I also remember what it was like getting my first perm. I had begged my mother for it on countless occasions and I would often try dropping a Just for Me box in the grocery cart. When the day finally came, it burned like hell. I had scars and odd patches of matted hair in places. It was quite the process but when it was done, I had the softest, slickest edges, humidity-proof curls and I looked like the little girls I’d see on television. I felt like I had arrived!
Back then things were much simpler and it wasn’t until I began to really mature and become self-aware that I realized what I had been conditioned to believe about myself and my hair. When I decided to go natural, it was because I had been permed for so long that I’d not only forgotten my real texture, but I’d forgotten what it meant to love my God-given appearance. For years I enjoyed compliments on my wraps or roller sets but what was missing was the knowledge that I was being appreciated in my natural state. That I embraced and appreciated my natural state. It took me a while to come to the decision to wear my natural hair. I toyed with the idea but as I got older it became more and more important to me to see myself…on the daily. I wanted to see what I’d look like with no color, no flat iron, no blow dryer, no contacts, just me.
I’ve found so much power in embracing my natural state. Re-birthing my hair was, in some ways, a rebirth of myself. A rebirth of Jasmine. Of course, not everyone is aware of what most naturals go through daily to relearn their hair (for big choppers or those transitioning), the countless hours on sites from Klassy Kinks to Mahogany Curls looking for a texture match to get tips, then the time we actually spend doing our hair. It sucks that when we finally present our manes, some (not everyone) in our communities make comments that are insensitive, ignorant or flat out rude. I acknowledge that people are entitled to their preferences. But I’m not talking about preferences today. My intention is to bring awareness to the affects of what I will call “natural-shaming”. Examples:
“Oh, you should straighten your hair for interviews.”
“Its pretty but its just so wild.”
“That style looks a little ghetto.”
“You look like a little kid.”
“I hate when you wear your hair natural.”
“Your bush is wack.”
“Looking like a light-skinned Celie.”
For all the adjusting one may endure in an effort to reach this particular type of self-acceptance, ridicule from others in our communities, especially the men we date, makes the adjustment all the more trying.
If a Black man disapproves of your natural state, can he really love you? A better question is does he love himself and his people? That is the question I pose to my readers. Not rhetorical. I’d really like to hear your opinions.
Drop comments below!