For ages black women have given and received messages about their hair being inextricably linked to their beauty, to their identity, and occasionally, to their strength. As well, anyone with access to a television or newspaper will have noticed that since the release of Chris Rock’s movie Good Hair, there has been a lot of chatter about the stuff on the heads of black women everywhere. Many of the unspoken norms for black women have been shared, style secrets have been spilled, and urban hair myths have been debunked. As a result, I feel a heightened awareness of the fact that, at any given moment, people could be staring at my head and wondering where my $1000 weave is. I travelled to Trinidad earlier this year and was awe-struck at the sights of some of the most beautiful natural hair that I had ever seen. Maybe it was the combination of the hair, the beach and Soca music, but that trip catapulted me from the “considering” phase that I had been in for two years, into actually planning my journey to go relaxer free. I decided to cut my hair short first to get used to the length and then stop relaxing. I was set. At the salon, my hair had been washed and I had told the stylist which Rihanna-inspired style I wanted. As he completed his first snip with the scissors, removing exactly 3¼ inches of hair – I had an anxiety attack. Suddenly I felt like Samson.
Samson (who would be played by me in this story) is a biblical character blessed with superhuman strength. (I’m a single mother. Enough said.) He is tricked by Delilah (enter conniving hairstylist) into revealing the source of his strength (his locks/my hair), at which point she hires people to shave his head while he sleeps. He wakes up with the strength of every other regular Joe, only to be blinded by bullies, imprisoned and destined to forever grind grain. Okay, there are some minor differences, but in that instant as I sat in the chair hyperventilating and wishing a plague upon this stylist’s home, I would have bet money that the story was the true account of a woman who had just come from getting her hair cut.
After about 30 seconds, I lifted my head from between my legs and regained my normal rate of breathing. The rest of the hair appointment went off without a hitch! (Much to the delight of the now traumatized hairstylist.) That was 6 months ago. I have since had half a dozen haircuts and am happy to say that I have been neither blinded nor imprisoned. 3 months ago I stopped relaxing my hair, as well. When I ran into a woman that I had not seen in quite some time, she stopped me to ask what I had done to my hair. “You used to have such long, straight hair! I remember it was past your shoulders.” She shook her head in disappointment, “Those who want it don’t have it and those who can get it, cut it off!” I smiled at her and said, “Maybe one day I’ll grow it back….or not. Who knows? After all, It’s just hair!” And to my own surprise, I meant it.
Lady J is the kind of chick you can usually find trying to learn something new. She’s learning about all this new natural hair on her head, learning how to make words dance and sing in her poetry and is also back at school to learn how to do her job in two other languages. Most recently, she has had her nose stuck in her MacBook, trying to learn how to improve and add to her new blog Pen to Pages (www.pentopages.blogspot.com)