I’ve always been different from others even as a child, and I hated it. I wanted so badly to be like others. Talk like others, walk like others, look like others, smile like others and even plait my hair like others. But no, village people will not let me shine. Being different wasn’t exactly fun for a child in the 90’s. Unlike now when everybody carry inclusivity for head. Back then, being different meant you weren’t fit for society: an oddity, a sell-out, an abomination. That’s how insecure I was about my hair. No one understood my hair, not my hairdresser, not my barber, not my mum, not even me.
I remember when my mum made me wear a low cut for Christams, with an artificial flower collecting real estate on my head, while my sisters had theirs beautifully braided. Wo, ain’t nothing merry about that Christmas because Jesus wept with reckless abandonment. Me and my artificial flower be looking like face-me-I-face-you neighbours forced against their will to live together. Hair meant a lot to me back then, still does. In fact, there’s no important story in my life without hair in it. If you see me looking sad in any family picture, that has to be the reason.
Okay, here’s a little profile about my hair.
It was not the typical African hair, it sits somewhere between silk, wool, rubber and hair. When cut, it looked liked a toddler’s leftover and grew back into a big fluffy afro in less than a month. So I got into trouble a lot in school for always having “bushy” hair. When plaited, it came undone and rough so fast, and after two days of getting it plaited, it looked like I’d been carrying the hair for two years. Plaiting it wasn’t value for money, so my mum made me stop. And that’s how she became my self appointed barber. Haaaa, my life!
But no sacrifice was too much to get my hair done. I didn’t mind the rancid odour coming from my Mama Nkiru’s “yonder” where she shoved our heads while plaiting. Her yanking my head in different direction could have easily been my favourite sport. Neither my burning scalp nor the bumps lining my hairlines – like frontline solders after plaiting my hair too tight – bothered me. I didn’t even mind losing my endangered edges to that experience. Is it your edges? Heck, she can continue cursing under her breath while trying to manage my oh so soft and slippery hair, shebi she will sha finish making my hair.
My sisters inherited my father’s thick 4c hair, the type that made combing a gruesome experience. Mine on the other hand has a little complicated history. I inherited my maternal grandmother’s hair, her curls and texture, but my edges was a late bloomer; a product of some genetic misunderstanding cos when they started growing they almost encroached into my eyebrows.
I looked at my sisters’ 4c hair and wished we could trade hairs. It didn’t matter what beautiful curls I had, or its smooth relationship with comb; or how caucasian it looked when oiled wet. I just wanted a hard head of hair, the type Mama Nkiru would approve.
Looking back now, I feel like cutting branch for my younger self, because quitting relaxer, artificial hair products, hot instruments and wanting to be like others is the best hair decision I’ve ever made. My hair is now thicker and fuller; I’ve long lost the curls tho (another genetic joke), and gained edges instead. I still don’t braid my hair because…village people. Guess I can forgive my mum, now I’m the one paying for it. Through it all, I’m grateful for the journey of self awareness and a healthy consciousness of my person and my hair.
So, you have it, my natural hair story. Next week, I’ll be bursting some natural hair myths and share some of my natural hair rituals. Till I come your way next time, I remain your go-to-girl for natural hair tips.
So, what did you like or hate about your natural hair growing up? Drop your comments below, let’s have a family meeting.