Little kink-haired girl, you inspire me.
Sitting with your texturally diverse friends while wearing your puffs and braids with casual confidence makes me feel so proud. I know that you just think that your barrettes are pretty and that you hate sitting still while Mommy does your hair, but to me, your indifference to your texture reveals that something incredible is in the works.
When I was your age, I didn’t know my hair. I only knew my relaxer. I knew my favorite brand and the smell of its chemicals that my hair was only “nice” when the relaxer was freshest. I knew that the reappearance of my natural texture was a problem and that a relaxer was a magic elixir that would solve it. I knew the little girls on “kiddie perm” box had pretty hair because of what was in the box. I knew that if I was really diligent with my relaxers that maybe I would one day have pretty hair like them.
When I was your age, I didn’t know my hair.
I was barely acquainted with my kinky hair. We’d only met briefly. I only missed it when my mom one day, apparently nostalgic for the days of ribbons and barrettes put me in pigtails to go to school. My once thick, full braids were now a limp, short semblance of what they used to be. I cried. Being “bald-headed” was the worst fear of every black middle school aged girl that I knew, and I had happened upon it. Processing and manipulation ruined my hair, but being unaware of this contingency, I blamed the only visible culprit, my hair itself. I had the “stupid” hair that didn’t grow. My hair was the problem, and it had to be put down.
I graduated to adult relaxers and became good enough to apply them myself. I always got the super strength because “that’s what it takes to knock these naps out!” I would joke to my friends. My natural hair was bad, possibly the worst. It had to be “fought” and “handled” and “tamed”. So I became the “nap tamer”. I would fight though my kinky new growth and the stinging and the smell to arise victorious over my blasted natural texture. My hair was good again. See you nappy newcomers in six weeks.
My natural hair had to be ‘fought’ and ‘handled’ and ‘tamed.’
My hair didn’t grow, but that’s not something my hair was good at. It was thinning, but that made it easier to straighten. It was weak and breaking, but all hair did that. I was finally fine. My hair was finally fine. I knew it in and out. It was mediocre, but I knew it in and out.
Then my sister cut of all of her hair.
So terrifying that despite the fact that I loved her hair, I refused to go natural for another two years, because I didn’t want to face the villainous texture that I had worked so hard to defeat before.
Before then wearing your natural texture as a grown-up was completely foreign to me. Wearing your natural texture was the antecedent to permanent straightening, and nothing further. I wasn’t for it. And it wasn’t for me.
But my sister disagreed. And cajoled. And nagged me…
And suddenly, the kinks and I were reunited.
I then realized what you already know, little kink-haired girl; my natural texture is a part of me. And it really isn’t a big deal. I don’t have to fuss about it, or beat it down, or change it in any way. I just have to wear it. And that doesn’t have to be hard. One day it won’t have to be a stand, or defended, or scrutinized. One day wearing my texture won’t be seen as courageous, or subversive, or political. One day my hair will just be my hair. Just like it is to you.
One day wearing my texture won’t be seen as courageous, or subversive, or political. One day my hair will just be my hair.
I hope that I can be more like you, little girl. But more than that I hope that you represent a change in America forever. I hope that you continue to not have to think about not getting hired because of your hair, or losing the battle and your hair to relaxers, or being “bald-headed”, or not being pretty enough because you are different. I hope that you when you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine that you see beautiful and powerful representations of yourself everywhere. I hope that you and your kinks never part and have a long and happy relationship together. I hope that you never change and that you remain carefree, never feeling like you have to choose between a hairstyle you can’t afford to maintain and looking “unpresentable”. I hope that your generation represents a new attitude towards the “other”. I hope that your generation has no “other”. I hope that you can continue to teach me how to accept who I am just by being your cheerful, vibrant self everyday.
I hope that you when you turn on the TV or flip through a magazine that you see beautiful and powerful representations of yourself everywhere.
You are already light-years ahead of me when I was your age.
I hope that one day I can catch up to you.
This was originally posted on kissmycurls.com