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February 28, 2014

Femme Problems 117: Unbeweavable or Naturaliscious?

I’m pretty sure heaven has a beauty supply filled with little giggling grrls and bois picking out beads and barrettes. While I definitely did my share of happily picking out adornments for my hair, I never grew to love the journey to getting them onto my head. My grandmother did hair to keep my aunts and uncles fed when my paw-paw was injured on the factory line. My mother did hair to put herself through nursing school.

I never learned to do hair. However growing up in Detroit when it was the hair weave capital of the United States, I was no stranger to sitting for hours in a chair or wincing in pain as a hot comb melted grease the temperature of molten lava across my scalp. But it was worth it because after, I always left looking and feeling flawless. When I was old enough to get a relaxer, I was thrilled and ready to get hooked on the creamy crack. The white smelly mess they mixed and smeared across my head burned like hell; made worse of course by the masks and gloves my stylist wore to protect herself from the chemical concoction made to take paint off wall or straighten my proclaimed “bad hair.” I didn’t understand the hair shaming. I liked my tight naps and my straightened weaves equally, but I resolved to keep my head low, pretending to agree with the doctrine of straight hair.

Over time, a cycle of destruction would occur. Relaxer would cause huge hair loss, so I would get a weave or protective hairstyle; then new hair would grow, and I would get another relaxer. I began to study natural hairstyles, finally making the decision to loc my hair. However, I quickly realized it came with unexpected responses.

Work and conversations around it became strange. Suddenly, I was being called “eclectic” or “quirky,” where before I was labeled poised. My mother suggested I begin investing in wigs with poker straight hair, concerned my new hairstyle would limit my employment options. My relationship with strangers changed. They were fascinated with my hair, often attempting to touch it. I became very comfortable swatting people’s hands away from my head. I also became very comfortable shutting down men attempting to lecture me on hair care. Perhaps most importantly, my romantic relationships changed. The studs at which I’d always batted my eyes became less interested. Others who had barely noticed I existed were suddenly engaging me. Through all of this, I still felt no change within myself. I loved my hair, same as always. Only now, there was more of it on my head grown by yours truly.

Do I love my locs? Hell yes! Do I miss my long extensions and relaxers? Sure! I think if I’ve learned anything from going from “unbeweavable” to “naturaliscious”, it’s that while the way the world sees me may be highly changeable, I myself am just the opposite. Same femme, different hairstyle.


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