Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hairy Situations


So, I've started this new hair plan: I'm going to stop relaxing my hair.

For an African American woman, this is a pretty major move. As Star Jones used to say on "The View" "Women don't obsess about their bodies; white women obsess about their bodies; black women obsess about their hair!" And we do. It's a primary source of pain and pleasure, a focus of beauty standards, and marker of race. The other thing is that we have so many choices about it. When I think of the black women I know, the hair ranges from weaves to wigs to Afros to braids to twists hot presses to letting-it-do-whatever. In fact, I discussed my hair care decision with some female students this semester, and many of them were in the process of an alternate hair decision themselves. One was in the middle of going natural and underwent "the big cut" (cut off the chemically relaxed hair down to the 3 or 4 inches of natural new growth). One had been natural all of her life and usually wore spirally curls or blew it out straight. One had stopped relaxing it but had it hot pressed regularly. One wore twists. One wore a weave (I think). It was a perfect setting to solidify my decision. They were excited and vowed to hold me to my promise to myself to change my hair style. Of course, I told them that I was not going to come to campus every day while this process unfolded. Who knows what my hair is going to look like with half relaxed hair and half new growth? No, I told them, I'll start this process in the summer when I don't have to stand up in front of people every day.

So I've just skipped my first touch-up. Normally, this is when I start to run to the salon for some chemicals. And when people start to ask when I have a hair appointment. My roots are thick and it's harder to comb my hair. The curls from my roller set won't hold very well anymore. But I'm trying to stick to the plan. After each of my babies, my hair fell out in scary amounts. I know that it was normal, especially since my hair was so thick and full and shiny while I was pregnant. It had to end, right? But after the shedding I expected, it just kept right on falling out. Until I was practically wearing a comb over. All around my hair line I was completely bald. With my daughter, I went crying to my hair stylist, afraid that the hair loss that older women in my family had experienced had been jump started by my pregnancy. "You need to go to the doctor, now," my grandmother told me. So I did; I made an appointment with the dermatologist forthwith. It helped, and the hair did eventually grow back, but it took about a year, and by then I was about to be pregnant again. I was really afraid that I was going to be bald. Now, with my hair all unpretty as it is now, I'm feeling a little panicked again.

This weekend, another interesting hair situation came up. The Babydoll graduated from preschool--so exciting by the way, there was a cap and gown and everything--and I noticed how much trouble the moms had gone through with the four-year-olds' hair. Many of them had straightened it or had curly braids put in. I wondered if I should feel guilty because I had not gone to such lengths. We had been cautioned not to put ponytails on the top or sides of the girls' head because the caps wouldn't fit if we did. So I put two thick braids in The Babydoll's hair and left the ends loose, thinking that it would look festive and cute and sort of grown-up. She likes that style, so she had so complaints. But I still wondered if I should have taken her to the salon for curls and hot combs and let her wear it hanging loose like a grown up. I think maybe I just wasn't ready to let go of her little girl-ness, even in her hair. I'm guessing that most of these girls will be getting their virgin relaxers in a year or two. And they'll probably keep doing it for the rest of their lives. That was basically my experience. There's nothing wrong with that, but I'm going to try a different way. If I can learn to handle my own hair, I can teach The Babydoll to do hers, too (although her hair is thicker and more compliant than mine).
A big part of the weirdness is that I don't really know how else to handle my hair. But even though I've decided to stop forking over hours (and hours and hours) of my time to sitting in hair salons, and goo-gobs of my money as well, I'm just sort of standing around confused. Ultimately, I'm probably going to keep visiting the salon until I can figure out how to take care of it myself on a much more regular basis.

So, here's my new hair journey. It feels rather risky and I'm not a risk-taker. At all. Maybe I'll go completely crazy and put some pictures up. Maybe.

9 comments:

Ink said...

Congrats on your decision! That's really exciting, the whole having-a-new-style thing. And the money and time you'll save? Priceless.

Re: your daughter, I that what you did was PERFECT.

Ink said...

I mean: I THINK that what you did...

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Ah. So this is the famous "hair plan." I have something similar, though I keep pushing it back: Since high school, I have dyed my dark brown hair a deep chestnut, which I love. But I'm nearly 40, and am finally starting to see one or two gray hairs once a month, rather than once a year. I don't want to be one of those "gray stripe" ladies, so I told myself that, when it started to really, really come in, I'd dye it back to its natural color, then let the gray grow in naturally.

I think I'm entering my last summer of redhead. So I'll be following your reactions to your own hair plan closely, so I can prepare myself for a big change after a lifetime of doing things one way.

At least I'll save a few bucks on treatments when the time comes.

evenshine said...

I always wanted the quirky, corkscrew curls that are so fetching and cute on black women. I would totally go with those. If I were black. Which I'm not, but as I sit here, I push a white-girl corkscrew out of my face....

Go for it, lady. And I, for one, would LOVE to see pics.

faemom said...

This is a fascinating post. Have you seen "Good Hair," the documentary by Chris Rock? It's all about what your post is about. I can't wait to hair all about your hair journey.

The Steel Magnolia said...

evenshine: If I can make that look work, I totally will. I think it's really cute, too. But I've already been warned that a whisper of humidity and it turns into a frizzy puff; The Babydoll's hair doubles in size after a day outside--and everybody knows that it NEVER gets humid in the South, right? :) We'll see.

faemom: I haven't seen Rock's film, but I've heard lots about it. I'm sure I'll see it soon enough, before I'm through figuring out my hair!

The Steel Magnolia said...

Ink and Notorious: I was sure that I responded to your comments already. Don't know where it went . . . . Anyway, thanks for the validation--I always need it! And NPhD--no turning back!

The Diva said...

faemom, "Good Hair" is hilarious--because it's true. I have never spent hundreds of dollars on a single purchase of hair, but if I sat down and added up the amount I have spent on weave in all, I would probably be so ashamed. Maybe.

Interestingly, I just saw some Indian hair in the store this weekend. It's great because you can wear it straight or you can wet it and wear it crinkly, wavy or in a corkscrew style (depending on the package you buy). I would have bought it but it was too short. But I'll watch and wait for longer versions.

Clearly, this hair issue is one that I can identify with, SM. I'm looking forward to your journey. And if it gets too much for you, there is no shame in weaves and wigs.

The Steel Magnolia said...

The Diva: Thanks girl! Us and our hair, huh?!