February 22, 2012

Frustrations of a Curly Girl


Just a few things I've noticed since the BC that have made me frustrated at times with having curly hair. Who knew "natural hair" could cause so much drama?

one: Hair Etiquette
What NOT to say to curly girls.

I feel like afros just invite people to break all rules of politeness. I am not a very uptight person, so I won't hold a grudge, but there are some things you probably shouldn't do or say to someone with curly hair.  Here are some things that come across as offensive or irritating to me at least. 

This seems like it would be obvious. Especially for people who you wouldn't normally be touching anyway. This doesn't happen to me too often, but it happens. I realize it's usually meant to be flattering, like, "your hair is so cool that I need to touch it," but it is still very irritating. It is totally different if I invite you to touch my hair, but unless you ask or unless I ask... uninvited touching of anyone's hair is probably a no-no, and it messes up the curls!

"You don't wash your hair everyday?"
No. The only people who need to wash their hair every day, or every other day, are people with slippery oily hair. My hair is the opposite of oily, and washing/shampooing my hair completely strips my hair of any drops of natural oils or moisture I already don't have. I wash my hair at most twice a week, but usually just once every 7-10 days because that is all it needs. 

Words like: Frizzy, Nappy, Poofy
There are very few ways to use these words in unoffensive ways. Rarely do I hear these words used positively when directed at other people. One of my little sisters wears her hair in a curly pony tail very often and I hear family members pressure her into going to the salon and getting a blow out, or saying her hair is looking nappy all the time. They don't mean it to be offensive, but it is still very hurtful and I can tell it makes her feel very unpretty and ashamed of her natural texture. DON'T remind curly girls of their hard-to-handle frizz, and don't mislabel beautiful curls (that take hours to form) as frizz either, because what you consider frizzy, nappy, or poofy, may be the ideal curl for someone else. 

two: Texture Wars
"S*** curly girls say to relaxed girls" (and the other way around)

There seems to be this overarching animosity between people who choose to wear their hair natural and people who choose to relax or texturize their hair. This seems silly because a lot of curly girls have JUST gone natural (like me), meaning, not too long ago did I have a relaxer in my hair as well. Everyone has their reasons for doing their thing and no one's reasons are more or less valid than anyone else's. I don't think naturals think that they are better than relaxed girls, but I do think that many girls who choose to go natural feel a sense of self liberation afterwards. Yes, it is just hair, but hair carries the weight of many connotations and for many people, the act of doing something different with their hair can be the marking of a new chapter in their lives. 

The  confidence natural girls may get after going natural doesn't come from simply chopping their hair, it comes from being in a personal state that is better than it was when they themselves were relaxed. The act of going natural itself doesn't lead to self actualization, but I think reaching a point in my life where I am more confident and comfortable with myself is reflected in the act of cutting off my hair to go natural. But, going natural is by no means the holy marker of enlightenment. Nothing is. There is also a fine line between pressuring people into doing something and encouraging people to do something.  BUT, I can see encouragement easily turning into pressure if you are constantly on your friend's case about "Why don't you go natural? You are killing your hair. Your hair will never grow if you keep relaxing it," and dot dot dot. Being honest, I miss my relaxed hair sometimes. 

I think one of the problems is that we keep thinking of people as a "we." We assume every natural or relaxed person is the same, and that's not the case. Every head of hair belongs to an individual with their own thoughts and priorities. Just because one relaxed or curly girl gave you lip one day, doesn't mean everyone is like that. So we can either choose to be critical of each other or we can just be supportive of each other, which I think takes a lot less effort.

three: A Naptural Fad
"Natural Hair is the new Light Skin"

I read an article titled "Natural Hair is the New Light Skin." Even just the title is irritating. Maybe because I am light skinned, but also because all of the connotations associated with natural hair and light skin and "is the new..." So pretty much, simply letting your hair grow out your head and simply existing as a shade of tan is "trendy." If something is a trend it means people are actively going out of their way to do it. I am not going out of my way to have my hair texture or skin color. The light skin/dark skin topic is another discussion since this is about curly hair frustrations, but I think referring to natural hair as being a fad is kind of demeaning. 

Maybe going natural is a fad in the sense that more and more women are turning to natural styles, but at the same time, calling it a fad undermines all of the thought that goes into going natural along with all of the work involved in maintaining a natural head of hair. If it is a fad, all the woman choosing to go natural will soon enough go back to relaxers and I don't think that will be the case. And isn't calling natural hair a fad backwards? The only time natural hair is considered a fad is if you have naturally kinky/curly/textured hair. If I had naturally straight, Caucasian looking hair and had been getting a curly perm my whole life and then decided to go natural, would this still be considered a fad? Maybe getting relaxers was "the fad" that is now fading. Besides, back in the day, fro's were the norm. 

four: The Naptural Statement
Hair politics?

This kind of goes along with the fad idea but instead of turning natural hair into something to sneer at, it turns natural hair into a political statement. Maybe for some people the act of going natural is held as a political statement or regarded as some form of activism towards a larger cause, and in many ways, I can see why this is. When people have asked me why I decided to go natural, I tended to describe going natural as a movement. I still do kind of see it as a movement and as a positive shift in the norm. 

I realize, though, that some people have been natural their whole lives and that not every textured hair person has been relaxed or has wanted to be relaxed. Some people just simply like their hair, period. I think calling natural hair a statement, is ascribing meaning that may or may not actually be there for some people. Just because you meet a girl who's got some twists in, doesn't mean she's got a "down with the system" philosophy stirring under her roots. I don't think it's wrong to see natural hair as a kind of collective movement, because it does function as a type of movement, shifting the norms in the way movements are geared to do. It can be a problem, though, to assume that just because someone doesn't like perms or doesn't perm their own hair, means that he/she thinks a certain way or is actively wearing a political flag on their head 24/7. 

five: Stereotyping
Surprise! I eat meat.

This could totally be in my head, but I feel like lots of people assume there is a certain lifestyle (or race/ethnicity) that comes with curly hair. But, not really.  

I am not a vegetarian. I have no problem with vegetarianism. I think it can be a good thing and I think it's important to preach and spread the word (in a polite way) about what you believe in, but I am not a vegetarian. For the longest time I didn't know why everyone says I "look like a vegetarian." My question was always "what do vegetarians look like?" I didn't picture me. But after listening to Those Girls Are Wild and A Curls Best Friend talk about hair etiquette (video below), I was like "Could it be my fro?" Maybe it's not, but I don't think as many people (if anyone) assumed I was a vegetarian when I had straight hair. Hm...

The Biracial Thing. I don't know if this fits here. But sometimes I feel like people who wear their hair naturally curly are either assumed to be mixed or kind of get put down for being mixed. Just because I am mixed doesn't necessarily mean it is easier for me to wear my hair curly. The other day I was talking about hair with my aunt and a cousin (who are both black) and she asked "well is your hair really black hair?" She obviously didn't mean to sound divisive, but it still got me thinking. I still have to wash, detangle, part, apply product, apply oils. The end results may be different, but all the motions are the same no matter what texture you are. Also, not everyone with curly hair is mixed, and that is an assumption I have been guilty of as well. One of my college friends who wears her hair natural happens to be a lighter complexion and I always assumed she was mixed. One day I asked her and she said no, both her parents are black. And like a moron I acted all surprised, like many people probably do. And I realize how obnoxious that must be, stereotyping curls as being biracial. We shouldn't assume that curly haired people can pull off curly hair only because they are mixed, and we shouldn't say that biracial hair "doesn't count" either. A curl is a curl. 

Those Girls are Wild and A Curls BF sum everything up nicely in their video about curly hair etiquette. See what they have to say below:

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