Monday, 21 March 2016

The Struggles of a Woman with Kinky hair


I've noticed that there is a natural hair movement, or so it seems...

I've always had hair so thick and tough that when I was growing up, I did not look forward to my hair being washed, or loosened or combed. In case you don't get that, I'll explain...a person of African descent has hair that is curly, kinky, curly, coily...so many words could go into describing our hair, might not have the pleasure of running hands through. When water touches our hair, it shrinks and becomes the toughest it can be.

I remember back in secondary school, school mates would refuse to plait my hair because of how thick, full and tough my hair is. So at the end, their fingers would hurt (well, that's what they said!). Bless my school mother, Anne, she would always come to the rescue.
As difficult as my hair was to manage, it was made worse because I could not keep plaited hair for more than a week as it would make me look untidy, well except it was plaited so tightly that it would give me little boils at the edges from how tight it was. I had to make that sacrifice sometimes sadly.


Everyone thought my hair should be relaxed, they all said I had no business with my hair being natural. I agreed to this, seeing that relaxed hair looked easier to manage. I had long, full, thick and dark hair. My mother on the other hand would not allow me relax my hair until I got into senior secondary school, that was our compromise. But I'm assuming she might have held if off longer. She always said the chemicals were quite strong and I was still growing. Anyway, when I got into senior secondary school, I started relaxing my hair during holidays...it made my life so much easier. But the part where I had to plait my hair weekly didn't change. In general, when I plait my hair, it finds ways to get out of the cornrows. SMH

My experience with relaxers was that my hair didn't relax properly. My scalp is tender while the hair on it is tough, there is only so long I could leave relaxers on for. My scalp always got burnt when I relaxed my hair, the edges wouldn't look nice for a few days until it would dry and peel off. It annoyed my dad all the time!  Then, two weeks after relaxing my hair, my hair would not be so sleek anymore and from there, it would just get worse. If I made a mistake to let water touch my hair, it would be another story. Except I planned to go to a salon where so much setting lotion would be put in that it would drip down into my clothes. I liked to relax my hair every two months, but at some point, my hair dresser advised that I relax my hair every six weeks because of the nature of my hair. This went on for years, I changed relaxers constantly as I was looking for a suitable one for my scalp and hair.

Eventually, my hair/scalp would not only burn but I would lose my edges once I used relaxers. The last few times I relaxed my hair, I noticed that the edges would disappear, all around, and my hair had stopped growing. So I decided in July 2013 that I would not continue. I decided to return natural but I had no clue how I would manage my hair. While I was looking for solutions, I mostly had the hair in protective styles. Each time I went to a salon, the stylists would complain about how much growth there was that needed to be retouched with relaxers. I intentionally turned deaf no matter how many times it was said to me. I had been looking around for people who might know how to manage natural hair as there were people with natural hair around, then I found a group on facebook! In May 2015, I decided to do the big chop...I cut off my relaxed hair and I was pleased to share this in the group. I was encouraged and told what to do. I learnt all the hair terminologies like the big chop, deep condition (DC), moisture DC, protein DC, inversion, bantu knots, twist out, hair regimen and so much more. I was excited. Then I started to see some who bashed people with natural hair and others who bashed those with relaxed hair. I wondered, why? There is enough room for all right? Just what is good for the goose might not be good for the gander.



Twist out
Dolled up for a photo shoot! My hair was the catch :-)
A Vietnamese friend of mine saw my natural hair for the first time back in 2010 and laughed so hard at it. She was genuinely stunned. My hair had been in a protective style with extensions. She came to visit me while I was taking out the extensions, then loosened the cornrows, the whole time she was fascinated. The minute I finished loosening the cornrows, like it was timed, she burst out laughing. I wondered at first then asked what was funny, she was choking on her laughter that she could only point. Previously, she had seen my hair in protective styles or it was sleekly relaxed. I struggled to explain how our hair is and she got curious but never managed to go to the salon with me. I've had people from other races talk about our hair, how we change hair styles all the time and how we seem to change with our hair. Recently, I had a Canadian, Dutch and French talk about my hair saying they always tend to meet me with different hair styles, we laughed about it. The French went on to feel the extensions I have on, and I don't remember his exact words, but my reply was "nature has been kind to you and you have it so easy". He didn't find that funny and was beginning to protest that nature was also kind to us. I laughed at him and told him that there was no need to get sensitive, nature had blessed us all in different aspects and it was laid to rest. 
People are a bit too sensitive for my liking these days, there shouldn't always be a deeper interpretation of what's said. Can't we just have normal conversations anymore? That's a matter for another day!

Now, my edges are yet to fully recover but I am managing, I have learnt how to care for my hair and I am still learning, it has been a journey indeed and yes, I change my hair a lot because our hair cannot be sleek and nice without relaxers. In its natural form, it stands right up there. Even with our hair, there are different hair types, I am still unsure which I have but I think I have 4b in some places and 4c for the most part. More people are aware now that there are ways to care for and maintain their natural hair, even for people like me. I have heard things like 'hair brings out the feisty side of you' or

The time I tried cinnabuns or something similar... Bantu knot out

'it must feel like a new you, more powerful'. For me, it's just hair! Just as there are other parts of my body, my hair is one part. I am only excited that I can groom my hair and not lose all my edges, I am happy to learn how to care for something that is a part of me, I am happy not to keep my hair a certain way that society expects but how I please.  There have been stories of women like me losing jobs over hair, really?! I think it is rather shallow minded to expect people of all races to look the same. The races are different and all races come with different packages...More women of African descent are standing up to this injustice, see two of such stories here and here.


In it's shrunken state
Hair for me is not a movement, it's not a political statement, it's hair. The big deal is that more people have become aware of the constraints we have and how much time and energy have to go into us maintaining our hair. More people want to maintain their hair in its natural glory and not be pressured to make it look a certain way. But when we have a bad hair day, please bear with us, it's not as easy as grab, twist and tuck. It sounds more like deep condition, do the LOC/LCO (Leave in conditioner, Oil and Cream), twist or make into bantu knots, leave overnight, loosen and fluff the next morning. Or if I need to make a protective style, I'll sit in the salon for four to eight hours, if not more. So, before talking about hair being a political statement or a movement, remember that we did not choose our hair type, we woke up like this, we were born this way. So it is more about recognising that there are differences and letting everyone just be the way they are.

Also featured on Bellanaija


17 comments:

  1. Great write-up. I wish more people understood this.

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    1. Thank you. They will eventually I hope.

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  2. Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing with us. I,on the other hand, have had a different reaction from Caucasians. They love my hair however they fail to understand how different it is from theirs. I think it may be because African textured hair wasnt a common feature of black people.
    We all need to unlearn and relearn

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    1. I get that reaction too. Learn and unlearn, I agree! Thanks for stopping by Tonia.

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  3. Crazy to know what women go through with that kind of hair and we definitely don't know all the struggles. Thanks for sharing. All natural hair is beautiful!

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. I love the way you write. I feel even more encouraged.

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  5. Hey Ene,
    Such a lot to admire here! I really enjoyed reading about African hair, what water does to it, the perils involved in relaxing, your experiences and your attitudes – then and now.
    I think ‘relaxer’ is a misnomer. To me it does the opposite. It stresses hair into straightness.
    As for your many styles, you look stunning in every picture.
    I also like that you have reached a position where you are genuinely looking after your hair, naturally, and that you feel good about it. But you also accept that others do different things with theirs, and that’s alright.
    As for me, I am just a little envious, in a gentle way. I can have my hair cut, have it shaped, sort of, I can even put lemon juice in it (I did that once but I liked the excitement of it rather than the result!), but there’s not much more a guy can do. So enjoy your variety of styles!
    Great feature and talking point, as always.
    Eddie

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    1. Many thanks Eddie, I enjoy reading your comments.
      Like you, many other Caucasians envy how we are able to do various things with our hair. No race has it all, we all have something to admire in the other :-)

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  6. Ene you make it look soooooo easy! Now it feels like the rest of us should just do the 'big chop' and go with the flow of keeping natural (chemical free) hair! Well done doll, it's sure working for you. I envy the fact that you can be more adventurous with hairstyles, doing it just the way you want! Anyway, at least I know who to consult if ever I get the courage to go natural :-) You go girl!
    Efua

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    1. Thank you Efua. The thought of it could be daunting but once you start, you'll get a hang of it.
      Yes, it works for me and sure, I will be here if you choose to return to your natural hair to help :-)

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  7. Ene, my natural hair was like yours as a child. Out of three ladies in the house, my head was declared: hair too tough, scalp too tender by our family doctor and i have a similar history of boils breaking out all over such that i was banned from plaiting my hair throughout primary school by my traumatized Momma. By the time i started growing my hair in secondary school, i went through the every week new hair phase and the friends will yabb me if God forbid i wear my plaited hair for two whole weeks and it starts to look like a forest with no neat lines. Where am I going Ene, while i am happy for you Bae, you will have to forgive ny doubting thomasness oo, because i am of a mind that your own hair has undergone some post relaxing phase change of DNA that is making your new natural hair phase less traumatic than the first childhood one, because i swear, i cannot go through that again. I know from childhood that our natural african hairs are not the same, some people have bouncy curls and some have sambisa forest hair so i just yimu n waka pass when i read about natural hair enthusiasts. You are the first person i will bother to comment on because u sound like you've really been there. My current hair theme is relaxed hair and I use olive oil relaxer and at the moment it is the softest it has ever been in my history. Before now, I did another chop off to give my hair same lengths in dec 2014 and now only retouch once evry 4-6months.

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    1. I understand how you feel. Truth is if relaxers didn't damage my hair, I might have continued with them.
      However, my hair is the same as it was when I was a child, I have just learnt new tricks. I comb less, I detangle more, and patiently I must say. If I must comb my hair, I never comb dry, that was the mistake I made before, I always spritz before combing. My hair stylist knows that too. When I have to go to the salon, before her hands get in my hair, I spritz and as she goes along, she reminds to keep spritzing because the moment the hair starts to dry and she puts a comb in, she knows it hurts so we work together.
      For all hair, whether permed or natural, the secret is knowing what works for your hair and sticking to it. I try things but stick to what works for me. What might work for everyone else might not work for me.

      If my thinking is correct, we both have Sambisa forests, hahahaha. Thanks Reny for sharing.

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  8. @Ene Abah, True thinking, My dear ex Sambisa, spritz for me means hair holding spray, is that what you mean? Or do you have a bottle of hair managing magic that you and stylist spray-use?
    By the way, do follow my blog www.pharmacistreny.com I added your blog to my reading list months back and hope you'll check mine out also.

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    1. My Sambisa remains, hasn't changed, I just know how to manage it now :-) I spritz with water and oïl. I have a spray bottle that is 20% coconut or olive oïl (use oils of your choice) and 80% water. I remember being told before not to let water touch my hair but water does all the magic now, the hair loves moisture.
      Will check your blog now.

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  9. If you have really struggle with your hairs than quick see best hair extensions to make your hairstyle.

    kinky curly hair

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