written by Jacquette of Nappy and the City
“Oh, girl, your hair is NAPPY,” is what my mother yelled out to me as I walked in her house for our weekly family dinner. As soon as I heard that, it’s like I had a full, out-of-body experience, and I was watching a little girl get her hair pressed, holding her ear as her mother struggled to turn her hair, full of nappy curls, into long, shiny straightness with the blazing hot pressing comb. “Girl, you got some nappy hair,” is what I heard when I was a little girl, and its what my mother fails to realize, still sparks up a little hurt every time I hear her say it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my nappy hair. I, myself, call my hair nappy because the word in itself doesn’t make me afraid and it doesn’t hurt me. I embrace the word (I have a blog, Nappy and the City, titled after it), but when I hear my mom say it, it stirs up a totally different emotion.
During the past few weeks, I’ve been writing and discussing “Texture Envy” with my friends (texture envy is a term I use when someone is envious of someone else’s hair texture), and we realized one major factor: How we feel about our hair primarily comes from our mothers. We start straightening our hair, in many cases, because it is more convenient for our moms to comb our hair when we’re little. They say, “You’ll look so pretty,” or “don’t you want to have long hair?” And moms don’t fully know how much those things really cripple us when we’re that young and impressionable. Speaking from a more personal note, I always sought out my mom’s approval when it came to my hair.
I am in full understanding that our peers hold a strong influence on appearance, but imagine if you had a different influence at home. I waited to do the BC because I was so afraid of what my actual hair looked like without chemicals. I can remember back when I didn’t have a relaxer, but the only memories I have of that time regarding my hair is having it pressed or braided. I could not, for the life of me, remember my texture of hair. On top of that, I cannot recall my mom having an enjoyable experience combing my hair. I was one of those tendered headed kids, so everything hurt me! I would rub my scalp, or try to move the comb, or shield my head whenever I got it combed, and every time I did that, it resulted in me getting the back of my hand popped. So the thought of going natural was a scary one for me. I wondered what started this awful cycle. I knew it didn’t start with my mom. I imagined that she got it from her mom, and her mom’s mom, then her mom before her. On my search for a deeper understanding, I ended finding some interesting information.
Hair in Black America isn’t a new “hot-button” topic that was created with the filming of Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary. It goes back to the first arrival of Blacks in America. In the documentary 400 Years Without a Comb, there is a scene that shows a little girl looking on to her mother combing the hair of the slave owner’s child so effortlessly, the black child began to become envious of the comfort and pleasure her mother got from combing the straight hair. The mother says to her daughter, “See [she] doesn’t cry when I comb her hair.” The narrator goes on to say the girl couldn’t help but notice the enjoyment her mother received from combing the straight hair over hers, whose hair was difficult to comb and had to be pressed straight then covered with a head wrap. This sparked a sense of embarrassment and hatred for her hair. This scene helped me to realize where texture envy must have truly emerged for Blacks in America.
Most mothers may not realize that constantly showing our children what a displeasure it is in combing they’re hair can lead to ill fillings toward the nature of their hair. Telling our children, “you have nappy hair,” can’t be used derogatorily. We should teach our children that their hair may be different from some of the kids in they’re class and most of the people they see on TV, but its beautiful in all of is curly, kinky, and nappy glory! I may still seek my mom’s approval with my hair, but when she says, “girl, your hair is nappy,” I make sure she includes, “and nappy looks good on you!”