My Kinks Are Like

Growing up, I remember the hushed tones in which my Grandmother would speak in regards to my nappy hair. I remember the way my mother would impatiently tell her that she refused to put any chemicals on my head. I remember the anger I had at my grandmother for not pushing the issue of making my mom press or relax my hair. I remember the anger I had towards my mother for being so stubborn.

For whatever reason, in Panama I didn’t really have to suffer that much. I think that hair and race were issues, but I think they kind of expected little black girls to have crazy, kinky hair. I was never really teased for having my hair natural. I was told that I couldn’t be “Penny” from “Inspector Gadget” when we were playing one day in class though. Little Ricardo offered up his impeccable logic: I couldn’t do it because “Penny’s” hair was straight and mine was not. I was a little devastated, but I guess I had to understand, even if I stubbornly continued to plead my case. Again, my hatred welled up inside of me for the hair on my head. Arriving in the United States was a rude awakening. Until today, I feel the main reason I ended up on the bullies’ radars was due to my little nappy headed self. I won’t get into the actual bullying too much, because that’s for part two.

I remember being called such inventive and colorful names as “Crisco Naps,” “African Booty Scratcher,” in addition to being laughed at for having “beady beads” and a “kitchen” in the back of my head. If you’re wondering if the taunts came from white kids, they were not. They came from African-American kids, popular and not so popular. I was confused that they would come down so hard on me for being me: black with natural hair. It was as if my natural hair was offensive to them. I was to be reviled and teased for my hair, among other things like my big lips. That’s also for another post. The white kids really didn’t know any different and they had little to say, if anything at all. That was even more confusing. Imagine the culture shock I had experiencing such verbal abuse from black kids.

I finally caved in and begged my mother to relax my hair. One day, I walked past the ethnic hair aisle in the grocery store and threw a tantrum. The smiling faces of the little black girls with their silky and versatile hair on the “Just For Me” relaxer box made me all the more angrier. My grandmother was there and I think that was the catalyst for her asking my mother one last time to get my hair relaxed.

A few weeks later, during the summer of 1993, right before I went into middle school, my mother made the appointment. We used to go to this lady named Miriam’s salon. She was not very nice, and very condescending. I was so happy to be there, but as she started to put on the caustic substance on my head, and it started to feel like I dipped my virgin scalp into a vat of acid, I began to regret my decision. I soldiered on thinking that my life would be fabulous with my relaxer. I would daydream that all my bullies would apologize and invite me into their inner circle. In my daydreams, I would then laugh and fight off suitors who would invite me to movies and to the mall. I would no longer be awkward. I would be loved and admired, all while my hair would flow in the wind like silk. Yeah, right!

On the first day of seventh grade, I got off the bus and nothing changed. I got a few stares, and a few mediocre compliments, but the bullying began anew. It was, of course, more violent.

Unfortunately, we had no idea how relaxers worked, and months came and went before I got a touch up. My mother didn’t even know that I was to wash my hair. I don’t know how long my hair went unwashed. It certainly wasn’t conditioned. It looked terrible. It looked like one of those old school brooms.

I did the Toni Braxton at thirteen years old, back in 1995, and never really grew my hair out. I didn’t want to. It was unhealthy and I didn’t have the patience to deal with it, but for fourteen long years, I subjugated my hair to chemical torture off and on.

In 2008, I made the choice to stay away from any kind of chemical period. Back in 2007 when I decided to go natural and stay natural, I even made excuses for using a texturizer because I didn’t know how to take care of my hair. When I did my big chop in September of this 2008, I vowed that not one chemical process would come anywhere near me or my strands, and I have stuck by that vow. I could do this forever and I intend to. I will.

I look back with all the knowledge I have acquired from being fully natural these last few months, and I don’t blame my mom for not knowing what to do with my natural hair. I don’t blame my grandmother either. They weren’t really given options. It was either go straight or be screwed. While my mother has been natural for decades, I don’t think a lot of black parents had the resources to fully arm themselves and their kids from the “straight hair movement.” Keep your daughter’s hair natural? Oh, the horror!

It’s funny because I always felt guilty for giving in to my abusers and “haters.” I had a deep knowledge of self, but I felt incomplete. Some of my most empowering moments came with my hair natural, actually most of them did. I won’t lie, being the only black chick in Seattle to sport the “Kelis” circa 2006 was pretty cool too.

Getting back to my (nappy) roots has been like finding a prized heirloom in the rubble of fire. It’s been a way for me to forgive myself for caving in to children who had nothing else better to do but take out their own self-hatred on me. It’s also been a way for me to realize that I shouldn’t be too hard on my younger, more impressionable self, because after all, I did go back to my roots. The taunting didn’t ultimately work because I went back to being who God wanted me to be.

My nappy, “lowboy” or TWA (teenie weenie afro) is strong like I am in tough situations. It’s kinky just like me. It’s thick and it’s luscious just like I am, especially in a black pair of leggings and some badass boots. It’s black and beautiful like me. It’s just me.

The opinions expressed in this editorial feature do not necessarily reflect the position of or any of its employees —— By: Seattle Slim


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