This is not a Single Life post. But I was asked a question about black hair, and the difficulty black Nice Catholic Girls in growing their hair long. (This was in response to my observation that more men are attracted to long hair than short.)
Now this may make black NCGs hit the Comment button in indignation, but I actually do know what it is like to worry about real hair versus fake hair because I have extremely kinky, fuzzy hair that grows only so long and then stops. If I didn't keep my hair as long (and therefore heavy) as I could, it would rise up and froth around my head in an afro.
Black girls with afros look great; white girls with afros look weird and inappropriate. And yet I spent long agonized years of my childhood with a short afro. Today I have to think about my hair every single day to make sure it does not turn into its natural frizzy kinks. If I neglect it--dreadlocks. Heck, I have a dreadlock right now.
O dear. I just remembered the summer I was super-lazy and my hair was all dreadlocks and I got my mother to undo them all. I can't even begin to tell you how much that hurt.
There is something called "the politics of black hair", and unless I am getting this way wrong, its central question is "How come black girls feel so much pressure to have hair like white girls?" And that's a good question. The one thing I have to add to the debate is that not all white girls have hair like white girls. And nobody took a hot iron to my head until I was 33, and it was a REVELATION, people!
I'll never forget it. I was approached in a cafe by two hairdressers from the Caribbean-Canadian salon down the street, and they basically bullied into making an appointment. They washed my hair, and combed it out (with much scolding), and moisturized it (more scolding), and partially dried it, and then blew-dry it straight and then took the hot irons to it, and for the first time in my life, I had "white girl" hair. It cost just over $100.
I could go and on about my hair. It is one of my life's obsessions. It is responsible for so many random encounters. Four examples:
Black girls on the bus (in Toronto and American cities) sometimes lean over to me saying, in hushed voices, "Pardon me for asking, but are you mixed race?" ("Oh look," said one Caribbean woman at one job I had. "There's a new black girl. I must meet her." Then I turned around, and she was stunned. If you're confused, many black women in my city dye or bleach their hair auburn.)
In Boston, if I wore my hair in a bun, I was invisible to black men, and if I wore my hair out, black men--bus drivers, students, guys walking down the street--would engage me in conversation, and one made me take his phone number.
Also in Boston, two white construction workers working away on the edge of a university began to sing "Ebony and Ivory" as I walked by. I was flabbergasted. I didn't know if I should have reported them or what, since the university had a no-tolerance policy on racism.
In Toronto, an elderly lady at my theology school asked me if I had a straight-haired sister there. I explained that I had discovered the magic of straight-irons (thank you, Dionne!), but that I couldn't afford to be ironed more than once a month. And the elderly lady said--hold onto your coffee mugs--"Well, I guess sometimes you have to be wild and woolly."
Wild and woolly? My blood froze. It utterly froze. My grandmother, who was born in Chicago in 1904, had hair like mine only thinner and brown. Racism was a positive psychosis in Chicago before 1975, and as a child my grandmother was called "N--- Wool." Staring at that elderly lady, "wild and woolly" ringing in my ears, I understood in my bones for the first time in my life what racist attitudes towards black women and their hair were like.
Anyway, what I have to say is that not all white women have "white women hair" and so it's not just black women who feel pressure to live up to the standard set by Rapunzel. And also, my attitude towards natural versus fake is that you have to figure out what is right for you and then tell everyone else to bug off.
It is not easy to go through life with a big afro, but if you want to, you should. It is sometimes infinitely easier, if majorly more expensive, to go to the salon and have your hair cut short, ironed flat, braided or extended. The bad part is people accusing you of not being true to your roots, no pun intended.
Personally, I love braids, and I think they look amazing, with extensions or not. I would never use extensions (which have become very popular with white British women) myself because they are absolutely murder on your real hair. I hate chemical straighteners, and I have never, and would never, use them. My grandmother fried her hair with harsh chemicals.
Bottom line: figure out what's right for you and then do it. Tell critics to shove off. If you look best with short hair, have short hair. If you look best with long hair and you are willing to have the work done, get the work done or do it yourself.
Time for photos! So as not to look completely self-obsessed, I'd put in a photo of my baby sister, too, but she'd kill me.
MANAGED HAIR: See Blog Profile photo. To get that look I washed my hair, dried it in loose braids, redid the braids tightly and then took them out when I got to the restaurant without combing my hair. I just ran my fingers through twice. The photo was taken within half an hour after that.
IRONED (i.e. FAKE) HAIR: Oh, actually see the video on the side. That is freshly ironed hair. It's not as flat as it could be, but it is very flat. I screamed when snowflakes began to land on it. Snowflakes are made of water. And water is the enemy of ironed hair.
An authority figure once called my ironed hair "professional hair" and I was almost overwhelmed by the temptation to tell her I was mixed race, for then she would have died of white liberal guilt.
NATURAL HAIR: I love costume parties. At costume parties--and anything 1970s revival--I can just be me. By the way, as far as I know, I am not mixed race but 100% northern European, and my hair grows only that long. Of course, it looks longer when ironed.
Feel free to sound off in the com box about the part of your local beauty standard that makes you do nutty or expensive things.