Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The story behind the wavy orange hair

As I've been finding old photos, all the stories behind each style come back to me. Every style I tried was an attempt to find the style: A 'do I could maintain, that would make my hair grow, and that I could feel good about wearing. This hair style was one of those stories:

It started out during 10th grade. I had recently gone after my hair with kitchen scissors and cut it short except for five braids I liked to put beads in. I loved the clink of the beads, but if I turned my head too fast, they'd swing around and hit me in the teeth.

I decided that in order to grow my hair, I needed to choose between either coloring it, or relaxing it (not realizing that because my hair is so fragile, neither is an option). Since I'd been relaxing it and that didn't seem to work to get it to grow, I thought maybe coloring it without relaxing might be the key. At the time, I didn't realize that lightening hair was nearly as damaging as relaxing. Looking back on it, I see how unhappy I was with just about everything my hair was. I wanted honey-brown hair, and I wanted it straight. I couldn't imagine wearing my own dark and curly hair (funny how things have changed, because I now can't imagine wearing my hair any other way).

So I lightened my hair with store bought color until it was a honey brown color, and wore it curly that school year (photo on the left). I actually began to enjoy those little curls, and I even started to think that maybe having curly hair wasn't so bad.

That summer I visited my mom in Kentucky. I spent a lot of time hanging out with my grandmother, who lived two houses down from us. I didn't know this at the time, but my African-American grandmother did not like curly hair. She tried to talk me out of the curls. I told her I actually liked them, and my hair was easier to take care of this way. For weeks she tried to talk me out of the curls, but I held firm. I wanted to keep them. They were my curls, and I saw nothing wrong with wearing the hair I was born with (I still wasn't quite there with wearing the hair color I was born with, but this was a big step in the right direction).

Then one day she tried a new approach. She asked me if there was anything about my hair I'd like to change. I said I did wish it was easier to comb. And then she had me. She said she knew how I could keep my curls, but would make it possible for a comb to just glide through them. That sounded heavenly, but I was worried it would take away the curls. And she said to me "You see, hair like yours can never have all the curls taken away no matter what. The only thing that will happen is that they will just get softer and easier to comb." Those were the magic words. I believed her, and I agreed.

My grandmother got a family friend to put the chemicals on my hair. Throughout the process I asked several times if I'd still have my curls, and she said yes. It wasn't until the process was over, and I was standing in the shower running water over my hair that it began to dawn on me what had happened. My hair hung down like a defeated cloth. I tried scrunching in curls as it dried. Nothing. My hair just fell back down. It lay there. The joyful curls were gone, and in their place hung crinkly orange straw.

Soon after, 11th grade started. The stringy hair hung in my face, so I cut the front down to about an inch with kitchen scissors (photo on the right after lots of scrunching. My hair was much lighter than it looks in the photo). Damaged beyond hope, the ends got lighter and lighter. When they approached a platinum color I'd cut them off.

I have since learned many things about my hair. One of them is that our hair is not lay down hair. Combs do not pass easily through spirited coils. That's just a fact. But the rewards for spending the time it takes to gently comb through wet and well conditioned hair is enormous. It is worth every minute of time I spend with the Denman to have the hair I have now. Hair with spirit means that it is happy and healthy. It sure beats limp and broken every time.


Gem said...

Aw, that's horrible! :-(
Stories like that make me really sad. When I first went natural it was because of hair coloring too. I was like, well my hair won't be as damaged if I stop relaxing and color it. Now, I don't ever ever ever ever want to color it again.

On my Denman, the rubber part with the bristles keeps sliding out of the rest of the brush. I ordered it from some random company so I may order it from Amazon to make sure I have a quality one. I still love it though!

Have a magical day!

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Hi Bohemian Bookworm! Thank you for reading! Yes, this isn't my happiest hair story, but it seems to be a common thought that we can get away with coloring (as well as the "chemicals will make our hair easier to comb" myth).

I've had some Denmans in the past slide out of the base, and others have stayed in there just fine. I'm not sure why. I hope the one from Amazon behaves.

I hope you have a wonderful day as well!

Chanel said...

great story! I really love your blog :) I've been transitioning, so the Denman doesn't work too well on the two textures. But I use it on my sister's natural hair and it really is a brush from heaven!

Michele D. said...

Boy, we sure do go through some stuff over our hair. I have had many many years of disliking my hair. Then I stopped fighting with it and started accepting it.

I stopped relaxing my hair 10 years ago and it is the BEST thing I could have done. I finally got the "good hair" I've always wanted. Others now describe my hair as beautiful. Imagine that!! Looks like we have very similar textures. Mine is not as long but it's getting there.

Great blog!

Michele D.

Maria said...

What does your family think of your hair now? My mom actually apologized to me for putting a relaxer in my hair.

Anonymous said...

wow that was horrible... its amazing how much hair really means to someone~ may i ask is your grandmother you speak of in this post black?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering the same thing as Maria... How does your family feel about your hair now--especially your granmother?

Disassociated Press said...

I am sorry but your stories make me crack up because I can identify with them.

Former Mushroom-Haired Child said...

Chanel: Thank you so much for reading the blog! I'm glad the Denman is working on your sister's natural hair, and hopefully in time it will work better on yours. Congratulations on growing out your chemicals!

Wild Magnolia: Yes, it is such a huge revelation to stop using chemicals and discover the hair we had all along was beautiful! It turns out how we are often taught to care for our hair that makes it seem so awful, but our poor hair is innocent. I'm so glad to hear you are loving your beautiful hair. Thank you so much for liking my blog!

Maria: My family really loves my hair now. In fact, my mom is all natural now. That's wonderful to actually hear the apology from your mom for using the relaxer. I'm so glad to hear your mom has come around!

ra and Anonymous: The grandmother in this story was my mom's mom, so she was black. Sadly, my mom's mom passed away a while back. I do often wonder if she would have learned to like my hair now that it's so long. My mom really likes my hair now.

Msday: Thank you for liking these stories, and I'm glad to hear I wasn't alone in all the dramas that went on with my hair (and because of it).

Anonymous said...

Just swinging by to show some blogger to blogger love. Your blog title cracks me up! I like your site and will definitely check back more often. Keep doing what you're doing because there are many of us out there with the stories that are as similar as they are different.

Unknown said...

It's so sad the things we are told to do to our hair to make it look better than our natural curls.I had a similar experience in which i was deceived by a friend(african american) to color my hair and i had a relaxer already in my hair.I didn't know i was causing suicide to my hair.My hair just kept falling off in big clumps and breaking off just like that.I was loosing so much hair i thought in a few months i would go completely bald.So i ended up cutting off all my relaxed/colored hair and my hair has never been healthier.It's short now but i am loving every minute of caring for it with your wonderful techniques!!keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I like your stories very much! I was about to color my hair which has become healthy after a long time. I still have some relaxers on hair (last time was in August). It was nice reading that I was about to damage my hair again. I will definetely keep my color.

Pennerad said...

were you on speaking terms with your grandmother after you realized the ruse???

chickem said...

I am 15years old, and i am mixed and have naturally curly hair. My grandma would always braid my hair ..and she used my knight hair grease and water....when i grew older, i wanted straight hair. i went to the hair salon and the woman relaxed my hair. it was so horrible. since then my hair is back naturally. yet after the relaxer alot of my hair began breaking off rapidly.