"I Want Hair Like Mommy's": What Natural Hair Means to Me

by Tanya Allen

My oldest daughter is nine years old and has a mane of long, thick curls. I (and almost everyone else she meets) think they are beautiful and unique. She thinks they are too ‘poofy’ and hates how much time it takes to wash, condition, detangle, and style her hair. But I see the slight flicker of pride in her eyes when she is complimented on her coils and in the way she whips it around on the odd occasion she lets me leave it loose. But it wasn’t always this way.

A couple of years ago she hated her hair. She saw how easy it was for me with my relaxed, straight hair in the mornings. And how her friends could brush their hair in mere seconds in the mirror of the school restroom during break time, or how they could go swimming and not have to worry about the long aftercare process.

She wanted straight hair.

I tried to tell tell her how beautiful her hair is and that she should love it. But I was coming to realize that my words meant nothing if my example said otherwise. I loved my long, straight, thick hair. I couldn’t imagine not relaxing it and getting rid of the fuzzy regrowth. I couldn’t even remember what my own natural hair looked like, having had my first perm at around nine years of age. At 14, I switched to relaxers and—apart from the inch or two of regrowth between touch ups—had not seen my hair’s natural texture since. How could I possibly teach my daughter to love her hair as it is, if I wasn’t loving mine?

This question bothered me. A lot. I had my last relaxer in August 2012 and during the months that followed, I struggled to learn how to cope with the transitioning phase. I watched hour after hour of YouTube videos of other naturals and their hair journeys. Sometimes it was the only thing that kept me from reaching for the nearest tub of relaxer. That, and the knowledge that it is my duty as a mother to instill pride and self worth in my daughters.

In May 2013, I went for the big chop. I wish I could say that I loved it right away. The truth is: I was kind of shell shocked! It was liberating in a way to have so little hair to deal with, but as my hair grew and all the various textures became apparent, I had a hard time loving it. Some days I’d want to cry with frustration as I battled to make my hair do what I wanted it to. I felt less attractive and I missed long hair that I could tie back on a busy morning. My whole image was so different to what I’d always known it to be. Others could not understand why I cut off my long straight hair. And at times, neither could I!

But over time, as I have learned what works for me and what doesn’t. I have grown to love the thick, unruly, do-whatever-the-hell-it-wants hair that grows out of my head. And I have shown and taught my daughter that it’s okay to be different and stand out. I have taught her to wear her hair as it grows out of her head and love it, regardless of what society says. Even more, I’ve shown myself these lessons. This journey started out as something that I felt I needed to do for my girls—I didn’t realise that it was something I needed to do for me too.

My youngest is only 3, but the other day she insisted on wearing her hair loose instead of in its usual plaits.

She insisted, “I want my hair like Mummy’s!”

And all day, she refused to have it put up, even when it got in her she. We both wore our afros with pride.

This is what natural hair means to me: My daughters growing up and loving who they are, and me loving and accepting who I am, naturally.

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Tanya Allen can be found on Twitter and Instagram

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