All Articles Tagged "permed hair"
Though the black community would have you believe every woman who relaxes her hair hates herself, I think I speak for a lot of us permed ladies out here when I say the choice to slap on the “creamy crack” every so often is more about convenience than contempt of self. That being said, for as many things there are about perming one’s hair that make it easier to maintain, there are still a few inconveniences (read: problems) that come along with opting for this styling choice. Let’s talk about them, shall we?
This past Saturday, I actually had time to treat myself so I headed to the hair salon. While I was there I saw something that really hurt my heart. I saw a little girl who was in the chair getting her hair permed, she could not have been older than 8 years old. The stylist had her on a booster seat so her little body could be high enough that she could reach her. She looked so small in that seat where countless women sat before her undergoing similar processes. Her mother was also there, ironically also getting a perm. As I looked over at the little girl I couldn’t help but notice that she was squirming in her seat with a look of displeasure on her face.
It immediately brought me back to when I was her age. When I was that age I hated when my mother would do my hair. I would run and hide whenever I saw her gathering her hair tools. I would cry throughout the entire process, wondering why I had to endure such pain for hair. It got to the point where my mother became fed up and just braided my hair. It wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I took matters into my own hands and figured out how to do my hair myself. I was more than happy to get away from the hands that had burned my scalp for years. To my surprise I found that it wasn’t my mother’s fault it was the chemical processing of the perm. I had a very sensitive scalp so I was burned by my perm every single time. I have tried every name brand and method under the sun, all to no avail. Flashing back on these memories I knew that little girl in the stylist’s chair was enduring some serious pain. Her mother would check on her and ask her if she was okay, “Let me know if it’s burning” she said. The little girl was small and meek you could tell she was not the type to say anything even if her head was on fire. And just like I thought she never said a peep until the stylist came and washed her hair.
The question popped in my head, why does she have to get a perm so soon? I am sure that the little girl’s normal texture is manageable. It may take some extra time to do it, but there is no reason why her little hair follicles should have to go through such stress. I am sure there were other options than just slapping a perm in her head. Personally, I did not get a perm until I was 12. I went with no perm through all of elementary school, my mother used a hot comb instead. (Which explains me hiding under tables.) Even though I was 12 when I got my first perm, I was not ready nor was I informed on how to take care of processed hair. It took me years of going through breakage and dryness to figure out exactly what taking care of processed hair meant. I see little girls all the time ages 9 or 10 with a perm and extreme breakage. The same breakage I had because I was mistreating my hair. It is this same breakage that will send you into years of trying different tactics to get your hair healthy again. It will lead you to try different styles like weaves, braids, twists and even going natural.
I understand the need to get a perm. When you are younger you want to look like everyone around you. You don’t want to be called nappy or brillo head. But I feel like it is the parent’s responsibility to take care of their daughter’s hair. It is no secret that hair is a huge topic in the black community. We spend millions of dollars a year perfecting our coifs. I just hate to see under aged children, damaging their hair. Now that I am in my 20’s I know exactly how to treat my hair and what is best, but it took years of trial and error. That little girl in the salon will leave there very happy because her hair will be soft and straight, blowing in the wind. I just hope that her mother teaches her proper maintenance habits so she doesn’t end up with split ends at age 8. Moments like these make me realize that when I have daughters of my own, I will instill in them all the nuggets of knowledge that my hair drama has taught me. I will try my best to treat their delicate tresses with love and tenderness. Most importantly I will want them to know that doing your hair doesn’t have to be a painful, uncomfortable process, but it can enhance your natural beauty and bring out the woman inside of you.
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So I caught the latest addition to the Isht that So & So Says meme called Isht that Natural Hair Girls Says and I got a good chuckle out of it because it just reminded me of how sometimes the whole fascination over natural hair gets to be ridiculous.
It reminded me of the time a couple of years back when I was at this conference, waiting for elevator with a bunch of other Black women. Anyway, as I was standing there, leaning against the wall wishing for this slow-behind elevator to hurry up, one of the women, a lady with a TWA (Teeny Weenie Afro for those not familiar with the hair lingo) decided to strike up this conversation about my hair. She asked the customary questions that I usually get from curious gawkers: how long had I’d been growing my dreadlocks, do I do them myself, what kind of products do I use, you know the normal stuff. I don’t have a problem with folks asking me questions; in fact I am flattered by the attention.
However the conversation took a drastic change from pleasantries to outright offensiveness when she started talking about her own recent “big chop.” In between gushing over how wonderful she feels to be free of chemicals and how long she agonized over the decisions, she started doing what a lot of newly converted natural divas do: defame and attack women, who choose not to wear their own hair. She actually felt like she was sharing some sort of camaraderie with a fellow natural sister-in-arms; however, what she was actually doing was drawing the unnecessary scrutiny and alienation from the other Black women, who stood around us in annoyance at her hair prophesying. And you know what? I was annoyed too.
Like most ladies, I love my hair. However unlike most natural converts, I am not, nor have I ever been, sentimental with my hairstyle choice. I don’t know its birth date, I didn’t document the stages of hair “growth” and I never thought my transition was a “journey.” In fact, the only thing I remember about my hair “journey” was getting on the subway’s Broad Street line and making my way down to South Street to get my hair done. Hell, if I am really going to be honest, I don’t even twist my own hair. I pay someone else to do it because I do not have the time or the patience (also known as lazy) to diddle around with my hair.
And yes, I love my dreadlocks. But mainly because it’s versatile enough that I can dress it up, dress it down and never had to worry about rain or humidity. However natural hair isn’t more or less maintenance than any other hairstyle I had. I still have to get it done, when I wash my hair at home, it takes forever to dry and I still have to find ways to style it, just like I would with any other hairstyle. And while I have grown to appreciate my hair in its natural state, I can’t quite say that I have reached some heighten sense of hair consciousness to feel that I am somehow superior to all of those “other girls” who still relaxed their hair.
There is nothing wrong with celebrating or basking in your newly defined and accepted natural beauty. However, some women, not all but some, treat natural hair like it’s some sort of secret society sorority club where membership is exclusive and password protected. In fact, they are on the same scale as the Born-again Christians, who post uninvited Bible scriptures on your Facebook wall and recently converted Vegetarians/Vegans, who go on and on during your lunch break about how much energy they have and healthier they feel now that they stopped eating hamburgers and pork chops two days ago.
In some of these natural hair circles, some women do more than just trade hair care tips. They actually use these grounds as some sort of nappy-jihadist recruitment/training camp, where they attempt to enlist a legion of hair cops to hand out tickets to those women, who defy the virtues of the Afro-Gospel. I see these women on various blogs, Twitter accounts, among friends, family and as strangers in supermarkets, lay down their vicious authority on women, who do straighten or weave their hair. Oh and don’t think that just because you are natural you are excluded from the inquisition. Just ask any woman, who was “caught” using the wrong product, wearing a wig while in “transition” or not having the right grade of naps to be considered a true natural.
When it comes to African-American hair care, there’s always been a little bit of a beef between au natural women and women with relaxers.