Sunday, 2 August 2009

What is with Black Women and Their Hair?

traditional locs

The asker was none other than my beloved Danish boyfriend, or the panda bear as I affectionately call him. I knew that question would come sooner or later. If I was a smarter woman I would have had a prepared answer, accompanied with articles, bible verses, and a powerpoint presentation complete with flow charts and pictures.

I knew for sure he would ask after the dozens of times I would announce, “I am washing my hair tonight”. Washing one’s hair from his perspective takes less than 3 minutes in the shower and is done everyday. For me, with my long traditional locs, it was an event that needed to be scheduled.

The first few times during the endeavor, he would call or text querying where I was. I would reply patiently that I was STILL washing my damn hair. I only washed my locs about once every two weeks. First I had to wash it with a clarifying shampoo for my scalp and then a moisturizing shampoo for my hair, condition for 20 minutes, and then thoroughly rinse out the conditioner to avoid build-up. If it was an easy week I would interlock, retwist and clip the roots which took about an hour and then sit under an inflatable portable hooded dryer, an invention he didn’t even know existed. I still remember the “wtf-face” the first time he saw it. If it was a feeling cute week, I set it on rollers or rods or braided it and sat under the dryer for 2 or more hours to get a good solid set. It was a commitment he clearly had no appreciation for, and why would he? I never tried explaining the mechanics of it all, I didn’t want to bore him or scare him, LOL. I just figured if he wanted to know he would ask but the question didn’t come.

About 6 months into our relationship I lopped my locks off in pursuit of sisterlocks. I went into the bathroom and cut off close to 14 inches of hair. I didn’t discuss it with him really, I just got it in my head ttwa big chophat I wanted MORE versatility. Something he also had no appreciation for, he gets his hair “done” 4 times a year, a quick trip to a barber who makes sure he doesn’t look like a mountain man; his hair is the epitome of low maintenance and my hair was its antithesis. To him, cutting off my hair that I had been grooming and growing for 5 years was like mega-emergency-sign-of-inner-torment-town. I assured him I was simply a woman, a fickle one at that, and I wanted a different set of locks. A “different set”, what on earth does that even mean? What was wrong with my current “set”? Did I really have to cut off all my hair to get them to look different; couldn’t I just comb them out? I really really was prepared for him to ask such things but he never did. He just loved me, nearly bald and all, and commented on how cute my ears were when I unveiled the new short cut after my shape up from the barbers.

Then came my install, imagine me explaining why anything with hair had to be installed, why it took so damn long and why oh why was it SO ungodly expensive. I don’t even think I ever divulged the actual pound amount but needless to say he nodded and continued to be loving and supportive. The question still didn’t come. I mean, MY WORD. Since the beginning of our relationship he was on girlfriend version 3.0, traditional locks then a teeny weeny afro and now these super small locks which just looked liked curls. When he didn’t ask after I complained of my head hurting after my install I figured I was in the clear. There would be no dissertation on the impact of a society obsessed with the pursuit of unattainable Eurocentric beauty standards on the fragile, impressionable self esteem and self image of a nappy headed little Black girl. No explanation on the need for reprogramming and how awesome it would be if Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey went natural or wore natural hair styles. No horror stories of me getting a press and curl and getting my ears burned or my scalp being chemically scalded whilst getting a relaxer, how my hair was constantly referred to as difficult or impossible and something that needed to be dealt with. No discussion regarding how my hair style is still not “acceptable” to some and how the most critical people of my hair are my own people.

Just recently during a trip to Berlin, I woke up early one Sunday and I decided I would check the blogs and photo blogs of fellow sisterlock wearers. He walked up behind me and glanced at the computer screen and saw pictures and pages full of Blababy sisterlocksck women talking about their hair. I showed him pictures of the same women with the same hairstyle from 20 different angles. I showed him sisterlocks at 1 day old then what they looked like 2 years later. I used words like journey, document, encourage, comparison shot, loc anniversary, comments, guestbooks, nappy, nappturality, acceptance, community, curl pattern, weaves, extensions, and if his brain wasn’t smoking then from the information overload and culture shock I informed him that I too had a hair photo album and was considering blogging about my hair ::GASP::
The panda bear after one year of casually observing the hair habits of his Black girlfriend asked the unthinkable but totally expected.
“What is with Black women and their hair?”


  1. Wait, I'm stuck on, "complained of my head hurting" . . . SO,

    IT HURT YOU TOO???? This is kinda important for me. I am tenderheaded and thought my install was almost horrific (in the hurt dept.). Then Dr. J said "It should not hurt AT ALL and should be a pleasurable experience"!!!

    What's up?

  2. My install didnt hurt during the install from what I remember but it hurt after. two women were working on my head and it was 'tight'. my second retightening hurt. no rhyme or reason i suppose

  3. lmao!! This was one of the best written posts I've read in a while. All in all, though, a fair question. My friends (black or otherwise) look at me strangely when I say I have a hair blog. And by strangely, I mean curious, blank looks. So, I keep most of my goings-ons under wraps.

  4. You are really gorgeous (and I love your traditional locs).

    Sisterlocks install should not hurt. I was sore for a few days afterwards (like the soreness you get after new braids), but the actual process of installing or retightening should be essentially painless.

  5. Great blog! I used to live in Hannover and now an in Norway. check out my blow when you have some free time :)


  6. My install did not hurt, but sometimes my scalp hurts a day or two after a retightening.

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