Gonna cause some hype: In Regards to 'Her' Hair
Zachary M.C. Harris
Saturday, March 16, 2013
And when I talking her, I mean the Black woman [or Black women in general]. Now, we all should know, if we already don’t, that hair is a very sensitive issue with Black women, but you know, it’s something that needs to be addressed periodically in hopes that we can rectify some of the issues in regards to having a positive Black identity.
What made me come back to this particular subject was a conversation I was having with someone I know right before we saw the movie “A Good Day to Die Hard.” Somehow, the issue was brought up about one woman [by her] and the fake hair that she was wearing, and that is also one of those issues that I eschew when it comes to Black women. As we talked more about the subject in general, she told me of how someone was interested in talking with her because of her looks, and for now, one of the most recognizable features of her overall looks is her lovely tress of light brown locks that she obviously has been growing for about seven years. She posed the issue that this man was interested in going out with her simply because of her hair, because at present he has not even known anything about her or what was going around in her head. As she revealed she shears her hair off every seven years, so it will definitely be interesting how some people who look at her hair as part of her identity will react and look at her then.
Now, my history with Black hair has been pretty much typical for someone born at the time that I was, which is in 1970. It was at the tail end, if not the middle, of the “Black is beautiful” movement and in my early days, I still remember Afro-comps and Afro-picks; the latter either with green and red side covers and/or a peace sign in the middle and the Black power fist at the end of the handle. I remember Blue Magic, Dax, and a number of other hair pomades, some of which were medicated or contained sulfur, but they all had that strong scent that you never forget. I remember seeing women getting their scalps greased, as well as straightening their hair with that dastardly beast, the hot comp.
I remember when cornrows were all the rage and you could easily catch women either cornrolling each other’s hair or a man’s hair while sitting on their steps or in the living room, if not the kitchen.
I remember when braids were hot and women [and some men] manifested them with multicolored and/or clear beads and occasionally some Cowrie shells.
I remember when the Jheri Curl was introduced and pillowcases as well as bus and train windows were safe no more. Then there was the S-Curl, which I even tried but with no success; I should’ve never done that as it really changed the condition of my scalp for years to come.
During the 60s and 70s, you saw a ton of ads in magazines such as Jet and Ebony for appliqués which would make hair grow longer which was followed by all of the relaxers in the 80s and 90s which would straighten that kink out, and they even had kiddie versions.
Back in the day, both Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson (Cleopatra Jones) were both sex symbols, regardless of race. Oh, and as far as the image of Black men, Jim Kelly rocked it, especially in his role in “Enter the Dragon.” Did you see him hit that dude before his afro moved? Even Bruce Lee admitted that the fastest hands he saw were on brothers; remember, they did a comic with Ali fighting Superman. And I am not even going to talk about how he ordered like five babes and was like, “I have to get my rest.” Can anything more be said?
The one thing that I rarely saw was a man with a conk, or straightened hair. But when I look back, I do remember Harry having one at one time.
For men, the choices were normally one of those styles that you would see on a poster in the barbershop which was either damned near no hair, a very short style, or a small shaped afro that you always had an uncle who rocked it, with or without porkchop sideburns. But again, you could always get the curl if you dared. Oh, and it was always a blessing to have someone in the neighborhood who knew how to cut hair… even if he learned it while as a ward of the state (that means having been imprisoned).
On the flip side, and I mean back to the women, my experiences were a little more involved than many other Black men. My sister went to cosmetology school, so she would not only do my mother’s hair, but also that of neighbors. Hell, I remember when the product/process known as Jazzing came out! My best friend’s mom owned a hair salon and sometimes she would do someone’s hair at her house; she normally cut her own sons’ as well as her husband’s hair. After college, I wound up helping someone in their hair salon which had me also rendering shampoos to female clients. I then dated the first salon owner that gave this person their first position and wound up giving her a shampoo that was better than any she had in the previous twenty years; keep your head out the gutter folks. I would then date another woman whose grandmother was a beautician, and since she had a bowl in her basement, I would routinely wash her hair.
My preference is that you wear the hair that you are born with; it just feels natural to me. I have dated sisters with locks, twist, braids, afros, short hair, medium length hair, and long hair; and it was all theirs. I have dated sisters who could just throw some water on their hair, comb it out and be ready for the day. There have been times when someone has donned a wig [much to my chagrin], but it was simply because they had so much hair and didn’t feel like doing it all the time. Oh, natural hair wins out because you can “get it in,” and then easily sculpt it however to go out into the world I have dated/known Latina women with hairstyles of all lengths, and I have dated/known white women with hairstyles from short to very long. I have even dated a woman of East Indian and Jamaican descent who had that grade of hair that [some] Black women have been buying in droves since the late 80s; God I hate that Yaki.
Point: the length of your hair means nothing without a good style for you, and all that doesn’t matter if I really have no deeper attraction to you at all.
Now, back to the crazy issue at hand, and that is all of the women wearing the wigs and the weaves. Why ladies? Because if that is what the man is really looking for, then he’s not really looking for, nor seeing you; I am reminded of that line in Avatar when she says “I see you.” There is a newfound surge in fitting a certain mold that only detracts from, and hides, the beauty that you have inside. Too many women are looking at folks in music videos and movies, whether they are the main talent or just bodies on the sideline (filler content) as a prototype for how they need to look, and in some cases act. The true joke is that when you get right down to it, there are a ton of women thinking the same thing as you, and if that is one of your best assets then you are easily, as well as very, replaceable.
Mothers are doing it to their children at an early age, corrupting that girls sense of her true beauty and self-worth, which in the end sets her up for a lifetime of shallow and non-productive relationships until she finally sees the light and embraces herself, pros and cons.
This is just one aspect of what I call the “Mister/Misses Potato-Head Syndrome” in which people are adding on a number of cultural fads to fit in and be accepted, when if they really want to shine, their personality, talents, abilities and intellect will make them shine and sparkle. Just ask Gabby Douglass. And what brother wouldn’t be proud to hang out with Michelle Obama?
As India Irie sang “I am not my hair,” that is a message to wake up and realize that you have more to offer than wearing someone else’s shorn tresses, which they got rid of to spiritually cleanse themselves but you take on in droves to enhance you. That old saying comes to mind; “what’s one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
And sisters, I am not beating up on you; I can’t stand seeing all the brothers with the raggedy beards out there looking like the mugshot you always see on the news; talk about being followers. You have so much to offer, regardless of the length of your tresses. Shine through with a combination of both your inner and outer beauty. Truth be told, most of us are insecure in at least two areas, whether we are brave enough to admit. Some people cling to religion because they have not the willpower to control their actions. Some people need to be part of a group, because they aren’t strong enough to stand alone and walk to their own beat. Some people need to always patronize expensive things, because they are truly worthless inside. Some people need to become physical behemoths, because they are truly small in their minds. Some people need to go from lover to lover, because they have nothing that any person wants to hold onto for life. Some people need to resort to the physical, because their mental game is really menial. Some people need to be the center of attention, because they are lacking in self-assurance. Some people need to get crazy, because they either can’t deal with the normalcy or depravity of their lives. Some people need to be and act ignorant, because they are too lazy to learn and apply themselves. Some people need to cite other accepted forms of authority and authentication, because they have no thoughts or experiences of their own. I hereby call these the Beatitudes of Zach.
But the reality is that when it all comes down to it, we love you. We love you for being connected to us like no one else can. We love you for feeling right, through sense, smell, touch, taste and comfort. We will stand with you as long as you are honest and genuine. You are the other half of us and what has kept us alive through the trials and tribulations since being abducted from our own lands, and even before that.
Be you, but be real, no matter what you do. No one is saying that you can’t do things, but don’t let it define you. No one takes any issues with George Clinton, and in his immortal words, “free your mind and your ass will follow!”