Hair Paranoia: Oprah Winfrey and the Rest of Us

The above image I “stole” from the Huffington Post. I don’t know who the photographer is. Sorry.

Wow! Imagine one of the only topic a twit(s) on Twitter could think of was to tell Oprah that her weave looks nice. She promptly had to tell the entire world that the so-called-weave was actually her own hair. Her hair is awesome. I nod my head in respect, and wonder: why do we seek to tame our hair when it doesn’t need it?

These are the times we live in. Everyone (okay, for the few that are thinking about it) believes black women, for the most part are bald, or close to it. If we happen to have a substantial amount of hair (take your pick: past the shoulder and thick, or between shoulder blades and blunt cut), then the hair on our heads actually belongs to someone else. It was not something due to nature, nurture or genes.

I’m not surprised that a woman, who is a billionaire, would have (a lot of) hair on her head. It makes sense to me. She can afford to have every single strand looked after. If she was bald, it would, in my opinion, have to be due to disease, or incompetence. I don’t ascribe a lack of hair on some black women due to being black. I know in my own past I simply did not have a clue of how to take care of it. Trial and error can take a lifetime.

I have to admit that for a natural hair Nazi (said tongue in cheek), aside from a quick glance at a person’s head, I don’t think or care whether the hair is real, weave, wig, glued in, relaxed, not relaxed, permed – you name it. People, especially these days, are preoccupied with other concerns, and they on average, wear horrible hairstyles. Most people, I suspect, simply don’t care either.

There are, however, exceptions.

My Hair Paranoia

I am afraid to wear my hair loose, blown out, or flat ironed in public. In the past, black women have come up to me to touch my hair and offer commentary on it. As a black person interacting with other blacks, I’ve always felt that we have the truly unfortunate habit of being too familiar with one another.

Never would I look at someone and speak loudly about their hair, clothes, complexion, weight, or appearance. Yet, this is something that black people love to do. It’s extremely rude, vulgar, low class, disgusting behavior, yet too many are proud of it.

The worse is, not only the loud, and public commentary, but this belief that they can touch at will as well.

Even on days where I think I wont see anyone (black) if I am wearing my hair out, I feel as though all-eyes-are-on-me. I wish it were my imagination. People think you don’t know that they are staring. I used to wake people up from a nap on the trains of NYC just from staring. Trust, eyes have weight.

I admit it: I’m hair paranoid. Rarely do I wear my hair out. The few times I have, there’s this niggling feeling that each and every time I do it, there’s going to be some loud mouthed, overbearing, heavy staring black woman waiting to persecute me. In order to fight this, I’ll have to wear my hair out more often, until the paranoia fades, as well as invest in a fantastic new iPod, and taser. Just kidding about the iPod.

For Example @ The Baltimore Natural Hair Expo

Props to the Organic Root Stimulator folks! Great products from nice and professional people.

I wear my hair braided at the root, with the rest twisted. I twist while it’s damp to moderately wet. I load it with product; I’m very heavy handed. For the time being (my mini personal challenge), I’m not blow drying, or using the flat iron. I sit under my dryer to finish. This results in nice tight, shrunken twists. I also wear a scarf to cover nearly half my head to pull the hair back and off of my shoulders.

So, one of the first things a vendor, who was supposedly selling a product, couldn’t wait to tell me was my hair is short, and that she relaxes her hair! Oh wow! Does that stuff seep into the brain? Does it lower the IQ? I wonder. Mind you now, this product only covers the hair, that’s it. The little, itty, bitty, vendor even went so far as to show me her long, long, long micros! And her scalp! It was as though I was supposed to be impressed with long, long, long, fake hair!

Have we not truly become a crazy group of people?

It’s just hair, and generally speaking, folks need to please keep their stupid, ignorant, and uniformed comments to themselves.

If, and when, I form my black female rap/rock group – we must call ourselves The Insane Hair Posse.

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Hair Care: Weaves


Company History

In 1998, L’Oreal (French) purchased Soft Sheen, a company owned and managed by African-Americans, which targeted the “ethnic” hair market. Making the move to dominate this market, L’Oreal followed up with the purchase of Carson, Inc. The resulting brand was SoftSheen-Carson.

Today, weaves are an open secret.

I didn’t catch onto weaves until the last few years. I think my ignorance ended with Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce.

I used to think most, if not all, black actresses and singers had the greatest heads of hair in the world. These women were blessed, able to withstand relaxers, heat, and constant abuse that people like me could not. I thought if one was rich, or had the right genetics, they would have hair like the woman in the picture.

Hair Care

Primary beneficiary: the advertisement promotes caring for your weave like real hair.

Secondary beneficiary of this magic potion: the natural / relaxed hair beneath the fake hair.

Yet, black (hair) magazines never provide good hair care advice. There will be articles coupled with this product. I can only see this leading in one direction: baldness.

The advertisement builds on the fantasy that caring for the weave is tantamount to taking care of the real thing. No, it is not. Natural / relaxed hair, and the scalp, require tender loving care. A weave only allows one to neglect them – compounding the problems it hides.

Hot Enough for You?

As of this writing, it is 94 Fahrenheit degrees outside. I’m thinking: could I wear that thick and heavy thing in this heat? No. I’d be scratching my scalp off. My own hair makes me hot enough. Right now I’m sporting bantu knots to stay cool.

I can’t blame clever business people. They realize if some black women never want to show their own hair, they can convince them that synthetic material, or human hair, can be treated better.

Alright, then.

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I Would Relax My Hair, But

It’s been well over a decade since I relaxed my hair and I don’t feel like re-learning how to deal with my hair. Whenever I would consider making the change, a multitude of issues come up:

  1. The warning on the box still says eye and scalp injury. I’ve seen pictures of relaxer scalp injury. It ain’t pretty. It’s downright sad and scary.
  2. It burns! It burns! In retrospect, it was crazy of me to go through torture just to get straight hair.
  3. I’m cheap. I don’t want to spend money on salon visits or a ton of expensive miracle products – just to stop breakage and hope it makes my hair grow.
  4. I like my hair thick. I value my hair line and nape. I don’t want to worry about a relaxer causing hair loss in those areas.
  5. I don’t want to wait until my scalp heals after getting a relaxer, before I can do anything else to my hair or scalp.
  6. It smells toxic, which is it. It stinks too.
  7. I’m lazy. What may be convenient to others isn’t to me. I don’t want to follow any complex rules regarding my hair. These rules seem to grow. Here are some that may be required, before heading off to the salon: base the scalp with heavy oils, do not scratch the scalp, deep condition the hair, do not wash the hair, [another rule], etc.
  8. I enjoy my free time. I don’t want to visit a salon every 6-8 weeks losing an entire Saturday.
  9. Hair salons employ scissor happy staff. There are hair dressers who don’t (wont?) wash the product out completely.
  10. If it is supposed to permanently straighten my hair, then why must I use flat irons or certain techniques to re-straighten it?
  11. Using different relaxers is really tricky. One can love certain products only to have them discontinued. That’s cruel – I sense a conspiracy, yo.
  12. I don’t know, or care, about the differences between no-lye and lye relaxers. I wouldn’t want to risk eye or scalp injury or baldness just to find out which one works.
  13. After losing hair with relaxers, I view it as a gateway product (yeah, like a drug!) to weaves and wigs. If a relaxer was supposedly good for hair, then weaves and wigs would not be necessary. It is just going from bad to worse. (Don’t get me wrong, I wear wigs on occasion.)
  14. I am terrified of involuntary baldness. I’ve read the horror stories. That’s too much stress for me.

Outside of these hassles, what is supposed to be the benefit of a relaxer?

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Hair Again – High Maintenance?


I’ve never liked my hair worn straight. I have never liked the methods used to make it straight either – be it hot comb, flat iron, or relaxers. Although I was combing my hair since I was about 8 to 10 years old – I certainly didn’t know what I was doing – I never craved straight hair. All I wanted was for it to be long.

As a child, my natural hair never reached past my ear lobes. When my Mother pressed my hair for “special occasions” – it was only long enough for an itty bitty ponytail. Sad.

I may have been the only girl in high school with an afro. Almost every girl had relaxed / pressed hair that was shoulder length or longer. I was a hold-out until junior year, then I finally broke down due to peer pressure.

I got a relaxer a few times, but I hated being forced to be one of the crowd. It made me so cranky, I got the nickname “crabby”. Damn right I was. I enjoyed being quirky and different. I can’t stand conformity. I despise anything that requires group think or everyone must do the same thing because some idjit is doing it.

My hair strands are rather fine. I could never get a decent thick afro. I always needed to pat it down. I didn’t like relaxing my hair, because the thinness was accentuated. It made me self-conscious. And who wants to feel the wind tickling the scalp? That sensation alone put a chill down my back. Yuck.

I wore an afro for a number of years, before my aunt and uncle from the UK introduced me to the jheri curl. It was nice for a couple of years, before the product starting disappearing off store shelves. To make a long story short: that product also thinned my hair out. It made it long, but it also fell out in clumps periodically. Wasn’t that a blast?

I read a lot of comments where black women are going through something called a transition to grow out their hair from a relaxer. I suppose some of us are so self-conscious about our texture that we feel the need to transition. I understand. Well, not really, but I can pretend to.

Um, I just cut my hair to a few inches and rolled with it. I remember the next day I showed up to work; the director of our department marched down the hall and came to my office door.

He looks, seems satisfied, nods, and says: “Your hair looks nice.”

I smiled, somewhat cheekily, and said, “Thanks.”

And that was that.

My hair has been a pain in the ass. I used to wish I knew how to take care of it and comb it. I wasn’t educated about it until I started reading natural hair care books. The biggest breakthrough came with the advent of the internet.

Now, I sympathize with black women who say that they prefer to relax their hair. They believe it is for low maintenance reasons. Hey, whatever floats your rationalization boat.

I don’t care how knotty and uncooperative my hair has been. It will never compare to the misery of going through: the chemical process, the hair salon wait (all day!), the scissor happy / unsympathetic (rough handling) hairstylists, the expense, hair breakage, bald spots and receding hairlines (alopecia areata), and the terror of worrying about permanent scalp damage!

I’m grateful for the forums that educate me on how to manage my hair. That is what I have always wanted. Best of all my hair is very low maintenance, cheap and easy to comb. Okay, most times easy to comb.

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Hair Confession: Nappy Head Check vs Relaxed

I do not believe that black women who do not relax / perm their hair are more politically or socially aware, or even nicer / friendlier than those who do. Nope.

People are complex, complicated beings. A hair style doesn’t tell me anything about them.

I think a number of people do make interesting assumptions. Think of the evening news after a mass murder has been committed.

What do the people usually say? “But he was such a nice, normal guy.” My favorite is, “That doesn’t happen in this kind of neighborhood.” I always want to slap the person who utters that kind of nonsense. They are so caught up in their idea of specialness. Anything can happen in any neighborhood. Sheesh.

I do, however, make assumptions with regards to relaxed versus natural hair styles. My thoughts relate to health and normalcy.

I read my share of magazines, and the first thing I do is seek out pictures of black women. I’m always curious as to how the media is portraying us lately.

I’m moderately pleased to see that natural hair is quite popular. The hair styles range from nappy kinky coily curls in Afros to twist outs big or small. All of which I regard as normal.

Yeah, I said it, normal. My internal programming says that a black woman with a natural hair style is normal. Whenever I see relaxed hair, I regard it as abnormal. I’ll explain why.

A relaxed hair style makes me think: Wow, I hope she’s okay.

I know that may be out of the norm thinking. In fact, a hair study shows that relaxers don’t make black women sick. In an age where coffee is good for you one day and bad the next, I’ll take that report with a truckload of salt.

This report comes about because researchers have found that a particularly aggressive breast cancer targets black women more than white women.

I’m not making any assertions that relaxers cause breast cancer in black women.

I automatically think there is a connection: I can’t help myself.

To recap my hair fixation, if I see a natural hair style I think: she looks normal. If I see a relaxed hair style, in the back of my mind, I’m hoping that the woman lives a long and productive life.

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