Sunday, September 28, 2008

Knot I

Ok, I must confess. I locked my hair out of desperation, not by design. However, I have opted to keep it by design, rather than by desperation. Interesting twist - of fate and hair - isn't it?

My hair reflections started earlier this week as a friend sent through a picture of me - this was graduation, 1985! Looking at me then,
made me think about me now. Man, how things have changed. Most of all - you guessed it, the hair! You name it, I have been through the whole good hair, bad hair days cycle:
  • Sunday evenings as a teenager having my hair pressed, straightened what ever you want to call it. I still remember the hot kitchen, the tons of hair oil and the dreaded pressing comb. The sizzle as grease meets the heat, the blue black smoke - or was that my imagination - and the occasional nip of the pressing comb coming into contact with my ears or the nape of my neck; you prayed for dry weather for the week as one drop of water would send that hair style back to natural in a second!
  • And then there was the perm! My perm was anything but permanent! Short of caustic soda my hair really wouldn't budge. It simply refused to.
  • And then embarrassingly, but yes, must admit, the days of jheri-curls. Suffice to say I am still traumatized by the memory.
It was actually my pregnancy that made me wear hair natural. I hated the smell of everything familiar - I cut my hair (hated the smell of the jheri products), I changed my toothpaste, I changed my deodorant, couldn't wear perfume. I still remember walking into the barbershop and saying to the poor bewildered guy 'bald it'. He double checked to make sure - and to make sure he understood I said 'cut it like yours'. After that there was no turning back.

The barbershop became a regular routine on a Sunday - quicker than the hair dressers and far less gossip. This was efficiency at its best. Hair washing became a part of my shower routine and not an activity I had to plan before. Oh the freedom.

The reaction was better than I expected too - not many women wore their hair natural then, or that low. The best compliment however came from an old Rasta man who saw me one day, came over to me and said
' Sista, mi nuh really like the bald head yu know but yu head a tek life!'

Post pregnancy, could tolerate smells once again and did go back to some of the usual stuff but left my hair natural. It slowly grew from a bald head, to twists, and sometimes plaits - never braids. I only decided to locks when I moved to Holland. Reasons being:
  • couldn't find a sensible hair dresser; always left the salons feeling I really had wasted my time and money;
  • didn't want to cave in and add any chemicals (again).
Furthermore Holland was sufficiently liberating and liberated to allow me to locks - this wouldn't be something I would have done in Jamaica. Contrary to popular belief, all Jamaicans are not dreadlocks, and finding persons wearing the hairstyle in corporate Jamaica was limited to the entertainment sector.

My mother had a fit - visions of me becoming a broom-selling natty dread? Hmm, sadly that - along with the ganja smoking was the common perceptions of 'rastas' in Jamaica then. She however soon came around when she realized that this was still me. This brings me to another point - I am not a Rastafarian. Wearing the hairstyle - and being Jamaican - has brought me into contact with many Rastafarian, and has also prompted me to look more at the religion which I hadn't taken the time out to do before - will share my reflections on that in another post though.

Flipping through some picture this week I smiled when I saw them at the various stages - short and funky, a little later a bit more settled and with a life and direction of their own. Now just past my shoulders I can do anything with them - plaits, twists, cornrows. Wouldn't trade them for the world. They have become a part of me now. Not sure it I will wear them forever, but at this point they are a part of my expression of self.

Was reading a fabulous book this weekend entitled "
Authentic Hair: Photos, Poems and Prose Celebrating the beauty and versatility of natural hair" written by Ademola Mandella. There is one poem that I particularly liked.

i lost my mind
when i lost my fingers,

in the brown forest.

thick thickets,
of bushes unkempt;
tamed examples of coiled love;
mixing together without white moralities.

my* hair is how
we embrace
nightly and

sometimes in the morning;
sometimes ...
for lunch.

Poet: Tyren (GRFX)
* original poem said 'her' and not 'my'


Kajsa Hallberg Adu said...

Hi Dee, what a fine piece of personal history. I always wonder why people have their hair one way or the other, use make-up or choose not to or have embarked on a particular clothing style...

I always had girly long hair but just recently cut it off. And then I come to realize what India Arie sings "I am not my hair".

I am free!

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

I agree with Kajsa about the rich and beautiful history there always is about hair and hairstyles. Yours makes for compelling reading, Denise. Great piece.

Denise said...

Hi Kajsa, I do like that India Aire song too - though I like to think that while I am not my hair, my hair is in fact a part of me. But yes, a big difference between both perspectives. Had actually thought of using it in this post until I came across this poem.
The choices we make about hairstyles, uh? Any particular reason why you cut yours?

Denise said...

Thanks Nana Yaw!

TheAccraJournal said...

The knot signifies naturalization at its best

Melville Mcintosh said...