Then and now.
When I was seven, my mother killed my hair. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
She’d had enough of trying to force it into submission and had grown tired of burning my ears every Saturday night with the pressing comb. Being a tenderheaded crybaby had driven her to her wits end with me, and she was not going to negotiate with my scalp any longer. She made the appointment, dropped me off, and while the rest of my family was out on a swimming trip, my hair was killed in a Care Free Curl kit.
Sure, go ahead, get your giggles out. I’ll wait.
You done? Great.
You see, I’m used to the laugh. Its obligatory of anyone born before the mid-90’s. Anyone who endured the Soul Glo era of plastic caps and activator bottles, or the dreaded activator bottle/hair pick combo, and has lived to tell about it is sure to let out a chuckle or two. I know that you laugh because you understand. So, its okay.
The curl was thought to be a solution to the hair problem in my house. My mother didn’t want to relax my hair, nor did she want to continue killing herself to maintain it, and the curl seemed to be a hassle-free alternative. Send me to the shop, let them throw a few chemicals in there with some setting lotion, sit under a dryer for a while and voila, no more tears in the kitchen on Saturday nights. In fact, I don’t think she ever really thought about the chemicals, nor did she really find out what went into setting a curl. So imagine her surprise when my hair began to break off and shorten.
Pre-curl, my hair reached the top of my back. Because of it’s length, my mother could be pretty versatile in her styling. She could put pigtails all around, with pretty bows and string, or she could braid it all over and put what felt like hundreds of barrettes on the ends. When she didn’t feel like any of those things, she could at least slap a bit of gel on the edges and brush it back into a couple of ponytails. The possibilities, if she was willing to endure my hollering and fighting, were endless.
Post-curl, was a different story. For a while, my hair could still be put in ponytails, and then there were the occasional banana-clip styles. By the end of the summer though, the ponytails got a bit shorter, and my versatility stalled. Come November, we changed curl kits, and soon the entire length was waning. By Christmas, the bright idea of the curl, had staled, and my hair could reach the nape of my neck at best. Soon, the curl was out, but so was my hair.
For the next ten years, I fought and fought with my hair. I never could get it to grow with any real substance. When I did achieve length, it would be brittle and thin. If it were full, it was still weak, and broke off with little effort. And every, single, time I would look back at my hair from younger days, I would get angry. I’d had healthy hair! With length and volume, and versatility. And now I was old enough to do it myself and couldn’t because there was no way that I knew how to style short, damaged hair. I wondered what my hair would have been like if she had never thought to send me to the salon that day. Would I have had longer hair, better esteem, greater confidence?
I washed my hair yesterday. As I stood under the water, I gathered my hair in my hands to wring out the excess shampoo and suddenly it dawned on me that I was fully gripping an entire bushel of hair! I could hold in m hands, a thick, ponytail-length bunch of my hair and still have enough left over to reach my shoulder. My hair had been reborn! I know it sounds melodramatic, and a bit fanatical, but seriously, after years of only feeling hair on my back when it was in synthetic braids or weaved out of control it was an unreal feeling to know that the heavy wet strands on my back came from my own scalp.
I know that at the time, my mother made a choice that was helpful to her, and was supposed to be beneficial to me. I’ve long ceased jokingly reminding her that she murdered my hair, LOL. But there was something about that feeling I got yesterday that sent me back down hair memory lane. Sometimes, I do still get frustrated maintaining my hair. I get tired of sitting still, and I still am pretty tenderheaded. But I tell you the truth, when I look in the mirror now, and see just ME; no gimmicks, no brittleness, and no chemicals, I wouldn’t trade it. Not for all the convenience in the world.
So take note Mamas, when that baby girl is showing OUT on Saturday night, and you really want to throw up your hands and give up, Don’t Do It! Pop that neck with the back of your comb if you have to, and tell her to hush. When she is draping at fourteen, and doing her own hair instead of yanking glue or braids out, she’ll have you to thank for it.