Confession: “lye ’til I die” has been my personal hair mantra for years. Referring to the active ingredient in many hair relaxers, this mantra is how I chose to express my allegiance to straight hair. In light of the many discussions about natural hair and relaxers, I thought I’d take some time to share my hair journey with you.
I grew up in a very Afrocentric household led by a militant single Black woman with natural hair. What do I mean by Afrocentric? Picture this:
- posters of Marcus Garvey, not MLK or Malcolm
- Frankincense and Mryhh instead of Glad plug-ins
- Morningstar Farms instead of Murry’s
- wearing African medallions and clothing way before Public Enemy
- Afrocentric curriculum task force gatherings instead of Tupperware parties
- grocery shopping at the local food co-op (s/o to Glut) and other health food stores rather than Giant or Kroeger’s
- Evening Exchange with Kojo Nnamdi instead of Family Ties
- bean pie, not apple pie
- spending Saturdays attending lectures by Anthony Browder and Dr. Charles Finch instead of going to the mall
The list goes on and on, but you get my point. My mom took great pride in doing our natural hair in elaborate braided styles, yet when I was 12 and wanted a relaxer she acquiesced. Despite my mom’s support for my newly straightened hair, our fellow sistren and brethren (my mom’s friends “in the struggle”) made it clear that they did not. I remember overhearing a couple of the sistas audibly gasp and whisper about my assimilated ways. I’m sure my having light skin didn’t help matters. I felt like an outsider. The one adult (besides my family) who accepted me ‘as is’ was my mom’s childhood best friend (yay Auntie!) who also had a relaxer, so I aligned myself with her as she too was often given shade for not being down enough for the “cause” . As a result of this experience, I was determined to show folks that my light skin and straight hair was in no way a measure of my level of consciousness.Thus the mantra was born.
Fast-forward years later and having a relaxer just became part of my routine…..that is until about a year ago when I was convinced by my new stylist to grow out my relaxer. My stylist’s comprehensive knowledge of hair care, maintenance and styling coupled with weekly visits = healthy, low maintenance hair! I’ve even picked up a few tips along the way. I continue to get my hair straightened but am enjoying my hair’s natural texture and body which was previously dulled by the relaxer.What’s next in my hair journey? I don’t know but for now, bye-bye lye!
My hair, as with any physical attribute, is but a fraction of the whole that is me and I refuse to be boxed in by myself or others based on how I choose to wear it. Cue music:
If you are in the DMV and are looking for a stylist, I more than highly recommend my stylist Tucci and his partner, Khadija, at First Avenue Hair Design in Silver Spring, MD. You can find them on the web at http://www.firstavenuehairdesign.com/.
How would you describe your hair journey? Did you watch Evening Exchange? Do you prefer bean pie or apple pie? Leave your sunshine below.
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