‘You have a statement you want to make? Make it after you get the job.’ E. Richardson, friend and hiring manager, speaking to other African-American men who interview with him wearing braids or locks
‘God loves you, and I’m sure your family loves you, but if you want to move up, eventually, you will cut your hair.’ E. Graves, Founder and CEO of Black Enterprise Magazine, spoken to a young African-American male teacher sporting long cornrows.
The quotes above are real-life experiences for me, and people that I respect and admire who state in their own way that there is a code, so to speak, of what is acceptable for an African-American professional, at least in certain work environments. There is a scene from the movie “Good Hair” in which a group of law school students sit together, and one young lady addresses another Afro-clad sister, stating candidly, “I don’t think that, with that hair, anyone is going to take you seriously.” She was alluding to the code. Unfortunately, the styles that I often see promoted as the latest and greatest in natural hair don’t agree with the code.
I see a number of styles that are more common, and therefore, I assume, more acceptable, in metropolitan areas that are predominately African-American.
In my local area, we have a homeschool community of moms with natural hair, but they either don’t work, or don’t work for someone else. Amongst my own homeschooling circle are, among others, an attorney and a biologist, both with permed hair.
Perhaps the biggest question mark in this entire transition back to my God-given hair is, how will I wear my hair once I’ve gotten rid of my perm? That question helps me understand why so many refer to their transition as a hair journey. The change from one style to the next really isn’t major. What has far more reaching impact for you personally is all those thoughts that you obsess over during the months that you are waiting for this new, unfamiliar hair to grow in–how will others see me, how will I see myself, what statement do I want to make, what statement do I need to make, what if this doesn’t work out like I planned, etc. The list grows on and on. Bear in mind that when I say “see” here, I’m not talking about visual connection as much as I’m talking about a connection that moves past the outward appearance and desires to know who’s on the inside.
With<1 inch of new hair, a long-term style isn’t a major consideration for me right now, but as my hair grows and breakage becomes more of a factor, I have to educate myself regarding how to style my hair with less heat, and more focus on allowing the new hair to grow out healthy and strong. Much of that education has come via a new (or rather, new to me) favorite natural hair website, NaturallyCurly.com. I’ve been able to see sisters with a number of variations in style, and get some ideas as to how I might change my own look from time to time (once I have enough hair to do it!) It sounds silly to think that I’d locked in mentally on one style, but for someone who hasn’t spent much time with her hair since the kids came, an investment of this type of time and energy is new for me–hence, the much-needed education.
Since I made a decision to let my natural hair grow out approximately 9 weeks ago, I’ve continued to care for my two-textured hair as if it were all one texture–permed. And though I didn’t flat iron my new roots, I blow-dried all of my hair and then flat-ironed the ends for my normal lengthier look or an optional ponytail as the curls fall out during the week. Then this week, after reading about deep conditioners that are good enough to eat, I used the avocado-honey-olive oil mixture and I saw these beautifully shiny, S-shaped curls growing out of my scalp, the same ones I marvel over in my younger daughter’s hair. It’s a shame that I’ve worked so hard to get rid of these for the last 30+ years. Had I paid more attention to them, I might have made different decisions.
One bit of wisdom I did pick up was to work and master one style before venturing into multiple hair don’ts, so I started with a twist and curl.
My husband kept making jokes about using my head to get HBO with these things in.
Now he keeps trying to show me his “antennae.” 😉
Seriously, this is a totally different look than I’ve sported for the last 10 or more years. After our second child, our son, I just didn’t take the time to sit for hours under a dryer, or to experiment, period. So this has been me since about my early 30’s:
I will continue to work on my twist and curl, determining the right combination of twist and curl. I also need to see how long this style lasts before I start to look like a hot mess. My gauge right now is about 3-4 days.
This morning I conducted my own unofficial poll on natural versus unnatural hair wear while attending a faculty meeting. In a room of approximately 200 people, about 20% of the population was African-American women. I saw lots of what I assume are perms, and probably a few weaves. There were three women wearing their natural hair, and two of the three wore teeny-weeny afros (TWAs). By this time next year, I wonder what I’ll wear?
After talking about how hard it would be to “fire” my stylist, I called her to check in and to let her know why she hadn’t seen me since mid-December. Her suggestion was that, once I had a head of natural hair, I could come in and let her flat-iron it every two weeks. Guess that season is over after all.