Learning to Love My ‘Good Hair’

I’ve got a few confessions to make. When it comes to hair I’ve got issues, just not the ones you’re used to reading about. You see, I’ve got what black folks call ‘good hair.’ That is, hair that forms into perfect little spiral curls when wet. Hair that straightens easily, doesn’t need any ‘ethnic’ hair care products or require hours of wrangling to look ‘presentable.’ (By which I mean acceptable to mainstream American society.) I’ve never had to sit for hours in a black hair salon while my hair is being relaxed. I’ve never worn a weave. And, until recently, I was pretty ashamed to admit it.

For most of my life I have HATED to hear the term ‘good hair’ used when describing me.
Let me tell you why.

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I didn’t pay much attention to my hair as a child, my mom, also a black American, has straight hair inherited from her Native American ancestors. She didn’t make a big deal about hair, and I didn’t either. That is, until I was about ten years old when we moved to my mom’s hometown. It was at that age that I discovered there was something unusual about my hair. The other black girls in school (my previous school didn’t have any black girls) commented on my hair texture, calling it ‘good hair.’ And they flocked to me. I was relieved. They liked me. Sort of.

They wanted to play with it during recess, taking turns braiding and twisting, or just brushing it. I sat still and let them do it, happy to be making friends in my new town, not really caring that the thing that made me so many ‘friends’ was also the thing that made me different. We all know that at a certain age being the odd girl out doesn’t make you popular, it makes you a target.

At around twelve years old things started to change. The girls no longer wore braids and pigtails & when I looked around I was the only one without a chemical relaxer (perm.) I asked my mom for one. She said no. They weren’t for my hair type. I should be happy. I had ‘good hair.’ Case closed.

Except, for a teenaged girl fitting in is priority number one. And I was the only girl in school who didn’t have a perm. I felt left out. I couldn’t relate to the long conversations about hair care the girls seemed to have in the bathroom. Instead of clamoring to play in my hair, like when we were younger, I got the side eye whenever I tried to contribute to the conversation. My opinion didn’t matter, which meant I didn’t matter. It was awful.

I gave myself a perm just as soon as I could, it didn’t seem to do much, but at least I had one so I could relate. I was part of the group. Right. Right?

Turns out that it would take more than a five dollar relaxer kit to erase the black cloud of ‘good hair’ hanging over my head.

I never got the hang of going days without washing my hair, it itched. I was ‘tender headed’ (slang for I wasn’t accustomed to the torturous pain most black women regularly endure when getting their hair done) so a weave never happened for me. And sleeping with a scarf wrapped tightly around my head was impossible (I still don’t understand how people do that.)

Still, I faithfully relaxed my hair every three (okay six) months. Making sure another black girl was with me when I went to the drugstore (just in case I needed a witness). I was resigned to this show for the rest of my life, that is until I moved south and discovered the Natural Hair Movement.

Say what!?! I don’t have to go through the rigmarole of perming my hair and I still get to be like all of the other black girls. I nearly had a stroke! I shaved my head and proudly declared that I’d done the Big Chop (BC). Uh huh, in for a penny in for a pound I always say. I was committed. Finally I fit in with the cool girls. I read the blogs, posted on the message boards, tried the strange bathroom concoctions. Thinking I had it made. Now they’ll accept me. Hurray for conformity!

Except, it turns out, it wasn’t that easy. I still get side eyes from many natural haired ladies. My feelings still get hurt when my opinion is brushed away with a ‘but you’ve got good hair.’ But wait, isn’t the natural hair movement all about accepting ourselves for who we are? This isn’t fair!

I’ve slowly realized that it’s really about ME accepting myself. No one else can do it for me. So fine, on the eve of my 28th birthday I’ve decided to do to ‘good hair’ what many have done to ‘nappy hair.’ Embrace it. Love it. If it makes me different so what, there’s beauty in diversity.

Ani Lacy is a single stay at home mom who blogs at simplesinglemom.blogspot.com

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