“New growth is a good thing. It represents rebirth, life, strength. But why did new growth have such a negative connotation when I was younger? Was it that I was resentful, afraid of the fact that the real me was rearing its ugly head and peaking through the cracks of my relaxed façade? “
This is an excerpt from yesterday’s post and I want to revisit this discussion because it is beginning to elicit some interesting feedback and pulling up lots of my forgotten reactions. As I little girl, I seriously doubt that I was thinking about issues of authenticity. Instead, I think that I was so upset because new growth, in my mind, meant that my hair was no longer going to be pretty. The popular girls tended to have long, straight hair (including the Black girls). I remember one little Black girl named Makeeba J. She had beautiful, long wavy hair that she’d wear in two plaits. I wanted her hair so bad! It was glossy black and I thought she must have been mixed with Native American because I’d never seen a Black person with hair like that. I’m 99% sure that her hair was natural (I never asked) but all I knew was that for my hair to look like that, I’d have to get a relaxer. Makeeba seemed to be the little girl that all of the boys liked and I attributed it to her silky hair. Even though I was at the age when I beat boys up, I still wanted that kind of male attention. I wanted to be coveted, fawned over, dreamed about. I thought that my hair was a barrier to that kind of adoration. Thank goodness for my Mother and Father. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my parents made sure that we knew that we were beautiful girls, both inside and out. However, messages that I was somehow inferior, not good enough “as is” still crept into my psyche. Now, I still had a marvelous child hood. Please don’t get the impression that my hair sidelined me in life. That is not my point. My point is that hair attitudes affected how I perceived myself and others, how I identified with MYSELF and as a Black person.
As I got older, I do think I struggled with revealing my authentic self as it relates to my hair, meaning, I did whatever I could to conceal my new growth. In my next post, I’ll talk about why this was such a struggle for me. Also, I'll share some other reactions that illustrate that Black women may not be the only women struggling with these issues.