Monday, January 10, 2011

Curly Headed Imogen....and her swishy-haired past

Hello Cherished Guest,

I'd like to declare today that I have curly hair!

(me, this morning, delicately shielding my face with an envelope )

("wow" you exclaim sarcastically...very exciting)

But this actually is very exciting news!

I've always worn my hair very long and very straight; coveting and basking in the glory of my long swishy locks that blew in the breeze...softly whispering of my Native American heritage. (I'm Metisse you see, which in the US, just means homogeneous"Black or African American"--which denotes a people who have the same racial heritage. But to me "Black" means very mixed, having the most diverse cultural and racial heritage ever).

Back to topic: I DID love my swishy hair... I loved being able to watch a Pantene commercial and then swish my hair around like the models. I loved the silky feel of my long ponytails and being able to whip them about me. But my hair wasn't unusual to me it was just a part of my life... all the women in my family have swishy hair...accept theirs is natural.

Growing up in all Black neighborhood, where swishy hair was not very common, I wasn't taught that I was "better" than my peers because of my swishy hair...but I WAS treated differently. As a child it was very odd and confusing to be treated differently because of my hair texture and length, it was almost as if I didn't belong.

Another thing that separated me from the other children was their curiosity concerning my Grandmother, who would often come up for Grandparents' Day or other functions. I was confused about why the children of my very urban elementary school called my Grandmother "Indian" and asked if I were Indian too..trying desperately to fit me, this chestnut colored girl with the long straight black hair, into a little box. Since it was the norm for me, my Grandmother's looks weren't unusual. My mother's very fair skin and silky waves of amber were more attributes that made me and my family stick out as a bit unusual.

During that time, I was sometimes I was adored...with girls wanting to comb and braid my hair...

Other times I was ostracized, intentionally: You're a Barbie! You've got Barbie Hair! Bet it smells plastic-y! Bet it's a weave! God! You're such a liar! that is not your real hair! Maybe I'll cut it! Let's pull it!

or unintentionally : "ooo, look at her! her hair just falls straight when she takes out her scrunchy! instead of being stiff! wow!"

But little did they know I actually had a head of very thick....very CURLY hair, that my immediate family had no idea how to handle...

All the women in my family have long, naturally straight or slightly waving hair. I attribute this to my various White and Native American grandparents and great grandparents. I, however, having a Creole grandmother or perhaps it was my glorious African heritage emerging... popped out bald, but later grew an unruly mass of curls on my little hazelnut head.

Instead of conditioning and then allowing them to coil and twist down my back, I think my female relatives were just a bit horrified, or at least at a complete loss on what to do with hair that poofed and curled, that snared buttons and pulled at rings.

So, they brushed, raked, oiled and straightened my curls. I suffered hot combs, hot irons, hot rollers, then later perms/relaxers. And for some reason, my hair did very well with these methods (minus the occasional bald period, when all the mirrors in my house mysteriously disappeared).

I grew to learn how to care for this elbow length swishy hair...never knowing the luxurious curls that were my inheritance.

After my marriage 3 months ago, I decided to chop off the rest of my relaxer (5 inches) and finally see what my curls looked like.

I was VERY surprised to see all the little curls, coils, and curly-Qs that framed my face like some sort of afro-angelic halo!

I have to say I love my curls. And my Sicilian loves them too...little does my family know, he prefers dark, curly hair...finds it mysterious and seductive.

Just last night I said playfully asked my husband:

"What if I said, I'm thinking of straightening my hair?"

Sicilian: "I'd say no, you are forbidden."

(Artistic Rendering of my Husband) ... (the Godfather by Paramount Pictures)

Me: "Why? ((pause)) But why?"

Sicilian: "Your hair looks healthier, naturally silky, and free. I like it"

Me: ((slow seductive smile and ready to take my Sicilian home and show him what comes of such sweet talk))--instead I give him a wink and finish our very delish, very expensive anniversary dinner <3

My family however, has said that my husband is just "humoring me, because he doesn't want to hurt my feelings..."

Yet it's THEIR sentiments that are hurtful! The fact that my FAMILY thinks my god-given hair is "wrong" and should be bound and tamed, just because it's different than theirs is hurtful... and can we say "Internalized racism" much? or is it something else????

I know my family is against my new found curly tresses, preferring the straight swishy hair I've had for so long. But Why? Maybe they want to proclaim our mixed heritage, maybe they want to say, through hair: we're just as good! we can have swishy hair too!

Or maybe through the years they've been brainwashed to think that curly hair is bad, unruly, too seductive, too ethnic, too voluminous....

To all the above I say: Pish Posh!

I love my curly hair! I'm tired of "fitting in"! And I see lots of Black women with tortured hair that's stiff, greasy, horrible looking, and just basically un-natural. And I think their hair would look so much better if it were set free! I begin to think how glorious Black Women would look with their natural hair, how majestic and seductive. (yes, seductive is one of my favorite words)

I think Black hair, is so very unique and versatile. And so many of us curly heads (white, black, korean, hispanic, whoever) are afraid to embrace it. You can do it! Your hair is beautiful and so are you!

Love, Imogen <3

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