Growth Update!
Monday, February 08, 2010 | 6 comments

It's been two months since the last update! Sorry for the hiatus, lovelies. We'll be updating more frequently now. Anyway, I am one month away from my first year ful...

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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!”


An East. St. Louis, IL native, Jacquette “Ms. Quetta” Smith is an author who writes regularly for www.nappystl.com. She has a BA in English and future aspirations of publishing her first novel. Nappy and the City is a natural hair care blog that chronicles her “Natural Hair” journey and has features on various hair products, local salon reviews, and interviews with other natural women who love all things nappy. Jacquette currently lives in St. Louis, MO.

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6 comments

Sarah Brooke says
October 22, 2009 at 10:29 PM

this is so true!!! People don't know that when theu say negative things about a child's hair that it could put a perception of how they see their hair and the children instills their opinion in their mind forever. I have nappy hair and I refuse to let people treat nappy hair as its a bad grade of hair.

Anonymous says
October 22, 2009 at 11:15 PM

Good read! It's so true. Our family, especially our mothers, make us believe whether our hair is ugly or pretty.

Shannon says
October 23, 2009 at 9:02 PM

Agreed that our experiences make an impression on how we feel about our hair, but it is also the "beauty standard" that we see advertised that cause our mothers to view their hair and their daughter's hair as less than beautiful. Too blame mothers alone is a tragedy as they too are effected by society. We have been taught to hate ourselves and others like us. But building positive images at home is DEFINITELY the place to make the change. This is true of hair and any other issues. Great article!

Danielle says
October 25, 2009 at 1:53 AM

* I know this is long, bear with me ;) *
Very good read!!! I can totally relate to your story...only in my case it was my grandmother's approval that I sought. From birth, I had a head full of veeeeeeeery thick hair. My mother started relaxing it when I was in Kindergarden, so I have no early memories of my natural hair texture.

For the first few years my hair grew a lot; I loved going to church with my grandmother and hearing her friends comment on how pretty my hair was. By time I was 10, my hair was breaking off, shedding, and thinning all over the place. My hair no longer received the praise I was used to getting. Instead of pretty press outs, I starting gravitating towards braids and other extentions.

In the 5th grade, my mother, a slave to relaxers, gel, and #4 clip-on ponytails, shocked us all and went for the BC. At first I was embarassed for her; my grandmother made remarks to her like, "Your hair sure did look better before you cut it all off!", and when she got it twisted for the first time I remember my grandmother saying, "Girl your hair sure do look crazy!"

I know those words hurt my mother, because in a way it hurt me too. I admired my mother's courage, but I was in no way interested in feeling her pain.

In 2007 I finally woke up and took a good look at my hair. At 17 years old, I was no stranger to perms, dyes (permanent, semi-permanent, henna, rinses, you name it), bleach, hot irons, blow dryers, all types of weaves, and other ridiculously harmful things for my hair. My hair was THIN. It had no body it all. It was missing in some places, broken off and uneven EVERYWHERE, and my edges were disappearing. I knew that if I wanted to maintain what hair I had left, I could not get another relaxer.

I grew my hair for about two months and I went to a barber to get it all cut off. The whole time she tried to persuede me not to do it; "I can just cut the back down low and keep your sides long, that's a really popular cut right now!", she said. I told her to just keep cutting.

28 months later I can honestly say that it's the best thing I could have done, not only for my hair, but for my SPIRIT. I can take pride in my hair because it is MINE, THE WAY GOD INTENDED IT TO BE! I can't remember my hair ever being so soft, long, full of volume and body, and of course, FULL!

I know I made it sound painless, but believe me, during my first year there were plenty of bad hair days when I seriously thought about running to the nearest beauty supply store and buying a relaxer. When my grandmother saw me for the first time, she didn't even say a word to me. She shook her head and walked away. I also decided to do this in the middle of summer school, right before my senior year in high school (oh yes, senior year).

More than anything it's a lesson in self-love. If you love yourself you take care of yourself, right? Right! So if you love your hair, take care of your hair! Learn what your hair's strength's and weaknesses are and learn to work WITH them! A little effort goes a long way...it might seem like a chore at first, but that's only because you haven't figured out your "hair secrets" yet. After a few months you'll have a couple of routines down that you can get through in no time. Once I entered this stage in my hair journey, I truly fell back in love with my hair. I saw how versatile it was, how fast it grew when unmanipulated, how easily (and sometimes difficultly lol) I could try different looks, people started complimenting me everywhere I went.

A few times a week, someone will ask me, "Is all that your real hair?". I just smile big and say, "Yep. It's all me!". I occasionally get the negative comments (mostly from my grandmother), but they don't hurt anymore; I'M PROUD of my NAPPY, KINKY, CURLY HAIR, AND I WOULDN'T TRADE IT FOR ALL THE HAIR WEAVES IN MALAYSIA!!!!

www.nappystl.com says
October 26, 2009 at 1:46 AM

Thanks everyone for your comments on the post and I'm so glad you enjoyed the article (and I hope ya'll weren't laughing at my baby pictures...lmao)!

@ Sarah: that's right girl, let it be known that nappy hair does NOT equate bad hair!

@ Shannon, I definitely agree with your comment! It's certainly not something that was started with our mothers, but mothers have the first opportunity to break the horrible cycle.

@ Danielle, your hair story sounds similar to mine. Its only been a little over a year since my BC and I've learned so much, but self-love has been the top lesson over any hair tutorial or product review anyone could have done or shown me. I was expecting a new look and a new way of expression from my newly natural hair; I was by no means expecting a major boost in confidence and a pride within myself that is indescribable!!!

I'm still learning to brush off the negative comments, which I'm recieving much less the more confident I become with my hair. I've always had confidence, but it didn't radiate from me as it does now. So, anyway, I'm looking forward to new growth and longer, healthier hair. I'm just glad that I'm able to show my mom (and anyone else who thinks negatively about natural hair) that it can be styled flawlessly and that nappy hair is nothing to be ashamed of!

Thanks for commenting!

Marian says
December 6, 2009 at 10:27 AM

This is a great piece,very very thought provoking.
kiss,
Marian

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