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 Vanessa Newton - Tweenies

…I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!…

(Song from the movie "Hair" directed by Milos Forman based on the Broadway Musical of the same name)

 I’m reading a book titled Tenderheaded: a comb-bending collection of hair stories full of African American women hair’s stories. At times it is really funny and sometimes makes us think, especially to those of a different race. The issue of hair and its problems and glories is not exclusive of African Americans, we all have suffered and keep on suffering but at the same time enjoying our manes.

tenderheadedWhen our hair is straight, we want it curled, if it’s dark we would like to be blondes, if it’s short we wish it was long, and so on. I haven’t found a woman that feels 100% happy with her natural hair. And if we talk about the suffering we endure to get what we desire; hours of pain and work to get it relaxed or curled, depending on our hair, combing, brushing, dyeing, cutting. etc.

I also got through those times in which I was never happy with what nature gave me. My hair is very fine and straight, and I wanted it full of curls bouncing up and down when I walked. When I was a child I wouldn’t let my mother cut it and I grew it very long, below my waist. Because of all the hard work that it was to keep it untangled and in good shape, most of the time I wore it in a plait or a ponytail.

When I reached adolescence, I tried to make my dream of having very curly hair come true, I loved frizzy hair. Hours spent at the hairdresser, and lots of perms to finally never achieve what my imagination fantasized. Now, over  time, I accepted my hair as it is, and the only thing I want is for it to be easy to maintain; I don’t want to spend time worrying about it, or taking care of it, life is too complicated and busy.

Varnette HoneywoodAbout the stories of this book, they reflect what we all go through but in the heads of African American women, with their frustrations, challenges, small victories and finally acceptance. Sometimes it’s hard for a black woman in a country mainly white with beauty standards that are not adapted to her race, to accept herself and to be accepted. With a past that still weights too much, and sometimes criticized by men of her own race, it takes a while to reach that point of self acceptance, to love her own hair as it is and to do with it whatever she wants without feeling a traitor to herself or her race. Luckily, nowadays, black women feel more free to do with their hair whatever they feel like, leave it natural, straighten it, shave it, braid it, dye it or add extensions. I like this book very much because it’s not only for African American women, but also interesting for those of us that don’t have "kinky hair". It made me think about how I will face the subject when I have a girl, not only to take care of her hair, that’s the subject of another post, but also to make her love her African nature, and to teach her the freedom to be able to do what she wants when she gets to be a woman herself without caring about what others think, and not to feel conditioned to straighten her hair to get access to a certain position in the society. What matters if what you have inside your head not outside, and sometimes you have to fight the system to get what you want, but it can be done.

In the page List there are some books about African American hair, from history to care. I still have a lot to learn and talk about hair.