BodyThe Self

The Culture of Hair

Honestly, it's possible I started this post several months ago. There's this interesting documentary called Good Hair that Chris Rock and whoever put out a while back and I'd just watched it. According to what I understand, there isn’t much hair out there quite like black people hair and black women go through a lot to manage their locks. Chris Rock travels through barber shops and other places and I learned a lot. I also learned something I doubt he intended; that he isn’t just a black person, he’s a man. I still don’t understand where relaxant comes from but I’m confident black women rarely, if ever, use it to have hair like white people {as he theorized}.

I adore seeing people with long, thick curly hair and often fantasized about having an afro of my own; my hair doesn’t do that. I’m curious why anyone thinks black women want hair like white people, or better yet; why isn't all hair celebrated? My mother's hair was thick, long, curly with a medium texture. It was amazing. She didn't pass on her hair genes to me, however and when I haven’t combed my hair for a few days, the long fine stands become knotted together and I’d better have it all saturated in oil to protect the overall tangled mess from combing out into the trash. Not that it would all come out, but I might wish it would for all the breaks and split ends I created as it’s dried out. The lightest of breezes has my hair flying all over my face, sticking to my lips and getting ridiculously tangled. Oddly enough, though, all hair is made from keratin; which is a type of protein. The hair we end up with is something a genetic gamble, which is why I didn't get my mother's awesome mane. The cells that are my hair are different than other hair types, but in comparison to other cells; it’s all hair and we've all got it, with a few exceptions. On a cellular level, there's likely to be minimal difference between human hair and animal hair.

I’ve never been much of a hair enthusiast and generally only get really focused on mine when it’s long. Roughly speaking, my hair is about 12 inches—which means it reaches halfway down my back, when it’s not up. I can’t get my hair trimmed regularly, so I periodically snip the ends when they look too dry or split. Coconut oil and Renpure {conditioner and shampoo} are my only hair care products. {Update; I got it all chopped off, a few months ago and now it's about 5 inches of pure fluff when it's clean.} Anyhow, when I was little and learning about my own hair {which was quickly becoming very different from my mother’s amazing mane} I was told that there are 4 types: straight, wavy, curly and ‘black’ {I grew up in such a white neighborhood}. According to Wikipedia, some dude named Andre Walker says: straight, wavy, curly, and kinky are they types of hair and texture is fine, course, medium, tight, loose, soft, or wiry. I can only imagine if I had ‘tight, curly’ or ‘wiry, kinky’ hair, a few days of not combing is likely to knot it so bad I’d have to shave it off?

Some people are born with naturally amazing hair and the only maintenance required is basic cleaning and trimming. Since we likely inherit our hair, some cultures are full of amazing hair and others, not so much. According to what I’ve learned about the human hair market of the weaves black women favour, Indian hair is a fabulous blend of ‘thick, yet fine’ which is easy to style and enjoyable to wear. My fine, thin hair is very enjoyable to wear sometimes—emphasis on some times, omg lolz

Humans aren’t the only beings with hair or furry fluff that sprouts from our skin. Equine hair is much different from poodle hair, which is all very different from the hair of cats. Sheep have wool or fleece instead, but much of this skin-sprouting fluff is comprised of the same cellular materials.

Much like our skin which varies from walrus to elephant to hippos to…Squeaks pawing at the window as mama sits outside writing and he’s stuck inside. Cells and protein, in varying genetic structures, make our hair so different or similar.

Blonde, fine hair seems to have been marketed as ‘the most desirable’ since before the age of advertising, in a variety of communities. I theorize that some of this stems from weird ideas that angels have fine hair and therefore the best of Christian men sought it in their wives—feeling as if these women must be more gracious, tolerant, obedient and willing to sacrifice anything for the men in their lives.

Cinema is likely to blame for some of the ‘afro fears’ that still thrive in today’s culture, perhaps even more so than decades ago. Somehow afros, or naturally big hair, make people feel as if this person is unrefined or ‘primitive’ as if straight hair is the essence of refinement. Perhaps people are simply off-put by the personal power somebody must feel to wear their hair like a headdress or wide crown—perhaps people feel intimidated or awestruck, yet are taught these are feelings to be ashamed of.

Wearing a tight corset to achieve the look of a more feminine waist, filling up a bra to give a flat chest cleavage; where is the line when a person feels like their body doesn’t reflect their inner image? How is it any different when a man wants top surgery because those boobs don’t belong to him, than black women enduring 6-8 hours to have their natural hair wrapped up in braids so weaves of someone else’s hair can be sewn in?

That's a fascinating comparison, Teta, what's your point? Ice-T is a big part of the commentary section and when they were on the topic of weaves, he complains about black women with full weaves "don't shake that hair like you own it" he says and I found myself feeling slightly annoyed. During the handful of decades I've been living in this body, my hair has always been an important part of how I feel about myself: for good or ill. I've typically worked with it in cycles, since my hair type is 'fine, straight' and grows at a steady speed. In my younger days, I was a great fan of colouring but never had the patience to sit still for a perm. Anyhow, at this length {12 inches or so} let's say I've been encouraging my hair to grow for 3 years.

Long hair is a pain to take care of, which is why I've been known to get it hacked to a pixie when I've had enough.  I have always fantasized about having long curly hair instead, because my hair will hang limp and horribly if I don't do something to help maintain body. With that pixie cut, I'll enjoy life free from the annoyances of "wait. I need 10-20 minutes to do something with my wet hair" and embrace being able to wash my hair in less than 5 minutes.

At some point, once I've 'had my fill' of pixie length and my hair begins to creep around my ears or hang closer to my shoulders, I begin to consider deeper reasons why I don't want to take care of my long hair. A few brutal truths go like this: long hair is perfect for pulling, you might even get to wrap the length around your hand. Long hair is also cherished by my spousums, which means he loves to play with it.

Ain't nobody playing with or pulling my hair now and it's sitting free, scattered across my shoulders and stuffed under a hat. I'm working solo, just me and our cats, the fuck I care if my hair looks fabulous? I'll wash it later, put in some curlers to help it dry fun so it will be sexy later. I'll have to trim off some split ends, though, and while having a professional do it for me would be convenient and {s}he would likely do it way better! I can manage on my own. My mother cut her family's hair; some of it, anyway. She didn't cut her own hair, but to trim the ends periodically. Mostly she'd had that epic mane of hair for 30+ years by the time she unleashed us upon the world, and probably either figured it was easier to care for the mass {thick, loose, curly} than constantly get it cut. She also probably figured it was a big part of her identity and certainly that head of hair was part of why she was a wildly beautiful woman, even in her twilight years. 

She didn't cut her son's hair either, which grew and grew. There's an old story that she did, once, when he was probably not even 12. If you're wondering if my older brother had this wildly long hair as a young teen, he didn't. According to legend, mama had a love affair with a black musician and her pregnancy was something of a scandal. Years later, this little boy has got this hair that's "even worse" than hers {by who's standards, I'll never know, my hair was ideal but I grew up resenting it for the care required-she'd put Paul Mitchell de-tangler in my wet hair before brushing it. I was a great doll.}

For the time being, since my own head of hair has gone through so many changes while this post has been sitting in drafts, I'll publish it with this final snippet. These days my hair is short and styled in a way I've never kept it in all my life; this is 'my 40s' look' I keep saying as I'm 39 since June and striving for better patterns/habits. Some of our greatest life changes come with a new hairstyle, you know