Growing up, I was one of millions of Black American girls’ hair care stories. Many of us can tell you about those days of hotcombs on the stove, and getting our hair pressed and curled for Easter Sunday. Those moments of Grandma, Mom, or our local beautician having us sit in the high chair, as the hotcomb got just right. Was just the right temperature and texture. Pulling our ears back so that our ears didn’t get burnt, as our womenfolk were ensuring that those hidden tight curls were straightened out in the way that they “should be.” Or squenching and closing our eyes as we got our “kitchen” pressed. Being still and hoping not to move, so that a part of our neck didn’t get burnt. Yes! Those were the average, hair care stories of Black American girls. There stories of protection, nurture, tenderness, and our bonding as a community. Just as barbershops, Black American beauty parlors were (and still are) our therapy centers. The beautician was more than just a hair stylist. She is a counselor, as well.
As time continued to fly, we went from little girls to young women. Which means that hair care became even more important when it came to the realms of dating, social mobility, and being. . .feminine. Some of us went from hotcombs to perms. Others substituted their hotcombs for flat irons. It means that having “straight hair” was a priority. The social dynamics of straight hair were akin to civility, being professional, feminine, and more attractive to the opposite sex. The irony of it is that we, as Black American women, didn’t grow straight, silky hair, in these United States of America. Our hair was tightly curled, embodying the image of DNA. There are different varieties, of course. Nevertheless, it was a different kind of beauty. One that defied gravity, and reflected different aspects of nature. Beautiful, wouldn’t you think? Unfortunately, that is not how many of us perceived ourselves. Not our natural hair, anyhow.
In the minds of too many Black American girls, our natural hair was viewed as a curse. Ugly. Unfeminine. Unkempt. And a host of other un-s. While we had those stories of love, tenderness, and being in the midst of that feminine knowledge, there was also that other aspect. One that was more negative, hostile, and abusive. Those stories of being brutally teased by other Black American, little girls, who took no mercy on those of us, who wore our natural hair, or had hints of those tight curls showing. This inner hatred, by too many young girls in our community, who viewed their natural hair as monstrous. A monster, who needed to be tamed. It was painful, to say the least. Painful is actually an understatement, if we want to be truthful. It was down near grueling. So, grueling that going to school could be more than a nightmare.
When that time came, where we blossomed into young maidens, there was the understanding that straight hair was the essence of our femininity. If you didn’t perm your hair, it was certain to not last as long; especially, when it was hit by one of the most natural, and important, elements. . .water! After getting our hair done, there was often this fear of it raining. Of course, one of those fears being that the style our beauticians had acquired for us, would be completely washed away by nature’s desire to cleanse herself. Yet, the main fear was of having one’s unpermed hair go back to its natural, curly, and kinky state.
Yet, when looking back, I began to see how much we missed out on, by not experiencing those precious moments of letting our hair be soaked by the rain. Enjoying our natural curls and their shape of being caressed and nurtured, in the rain. An experience of womanhood and ecstasy of receiving pleasures from nature. Beautiful, indeed! Treating our hair like flowers, that were not afraid of the Earth when she decided to nourish herself. Seeing the rain as just another ritual for Black American girls to experience our Earthly, feminine presence.
When I delve further in examining this whole notion of “not wanting to get our hair wet,” it feels so unnatural. Very unnatural, to be honest. It feels fake. Like dry plastic, that must be shield from our natural aura. Toxic, if we want to be honest. Such statements and others, which demeaned our natural beauty and aesthetics, removed us from the shining of our feminine being. It contributed to us being hardened, and therefore, not appreciated, or viewed, as women. Moreso, like imitations, which are not. . .real. Of course, societal issues and the historical attributes have a role to play in that. Yet, we are overcoming them. Which means that, its beautiful, to let our hair get wet.
Not only is it beautiful, but it is intrinsic. There is something healing about it. There is something aesthetically pleasing about letting our hair. . .get wet. It means that there is life in our hair. That we should treasure this life and value its sacredness. Value the reality that our feminine attributes are connected to the Earth, as well. That’s the beauty of it. After, I went natural in college, I made it a point to let my hair. . . get wet. If water happened to sprinkle on it, so be it. Live in that moment. Treasure in that moment. That’s what the rain is for. Restoring us to our dependendence on the Earth, as she reminds us of her sense of humor. Things which are unnatural to her being, should be washed away. I guess that’s what we can say are her take on things.
As I began to embrace my natural curls more in college, and later on, the thought that they were unnatural became ridiculous. How could one even think that our natural hair was “ugly” or “unfeminine”? Its soft with a different texture. A different touch. Unique, but that didn’t make it ugly. What was “ugly” about it, was the very suppression of its existence! Rainy days have now become a special haven for me, and other Black American women (and girls), who find it an adventure to get our hair wet, when it rains. Its fun and invigorating. Seeing how our tight curls re-style themselves and link themselves, together, when water touches their surface. Funny enough, I recall in college a dormmate telling me how much my hair “liked itself,” when I hired her to braid my hair. It felt great to come to the realization that my hair had a life of its own. A personality, pattern, and design, which reflected my own womanhood and nature. Hair is telling, isn’t it?
With this new wave of natural hair care, and it being allowed in the workplace, Black American women are truly vibing the love for our tight curls. It is real because it feels real. It is authentically part of who we are. Our tight curls are part of the hair stories of our mothers, our grandmothers, and all of our foremothers, who have come before us. By showcasing our hair, we are also bringing our humanity, our womanhood to light. It is all part of the process of re-claiming our humanity. This is a journey that we have consistently had to do for decades. It is tedious work. Sometimes, that work has been painful; especially, when it comes to going against the push back, of those who have tried to hinder, or punish Black American women (via media or the professional realm) for daring to sport our natural hair. Yet, the work is worth it. It is worth celebrating! That’s the beauty of it. Because after all the preserverance, one is starting to see the fruits of one’s harvest. Being who we are, and not being ashamed about it, has been one of the joys of Black American women, in the wearing of our natural hair.
Hair is powerful. Hair is telling. Hair is knowledgeable. The shape, design, and overall structure of our hair, are clearly signs that are happening in the inside. Not necessarily related to a health issue, but also emotional and spiritual issues. Which then means we are treating hair, and what we put into our body, as spiritual beings. This was something that I began to observe when it came to observing many natural-haired, Black American women also being part of the vegan and natural eating movements. How they nourished themselves was also evident in the outcome of their natural hair. Full, soft, and smooth in its own tightly-curled way. Their hair resembled the vegetation of nature’s delight. It felt alive. It felt, right. Which means that because it is aligned with the Earth, it needs water for its continued growth. Justifying the rationale of how ridiculous, and unnatural, it was for some of us to even think that we shouldn’t take the opportunity to “get our hair wet,” during a rainy day.
So, on one of those intruiging days, when the Earth has decided to hydrate herself, rainy days have now become happy, playful days. Going out into the rain, in order to experience that level of freedom. Its satisfying! Its the essence of being a natural woman. Being an Earthly woman. While reveling in the audacity to do, so. The next time you spot a rainy day, ladies, go out and revel in water’s esssence, in a curly essence. . . of you!