Monday, 14 March 2011

Texture Troubles

Sunday! In my 7 year old mind, Sunday was one of my two favourite days of the week. (the other being Saturday). Sunday meant no school, no piano lessons, good Sunday dinner, and hair washing day. I loved getting my hair washed. Me and Mum would have fun in the mirror shaping my afro into a million and one different shapes with the help of Johnson's baby shampoo (don't ask me why we used that particular shampoo- it's just a family tradition). Cones, mohicans, to the side, flat back ,spiky, curly - yup, wet hair and shampoo gave me the ability to do my hair in the styles that an ordinary kinky haired black girl couldn't do without the help of a hot comb.
I can't remember when I started comparing my hair texture to other people's. I probably couldn't give you the exact day when the phrase 'coolie hair' came into my vocabulary, but I do remember by around the age 10 realising that black hair came on a spectrum. At the top of the league table was the elusive 'coolie' hair, for those black people who had a white parent or good helping of Indian ancestry (which everyone insisted they had because their great great great great grandmother was Indian (duh)), and at the bottom was 'nappy' or 'peppercorn' hair which was always short, picky, and gave you a direct connection to the ultimate cuss of 1999- being African. I knew that my hair was somewhere in the middle - nappy enough that people knew I wasn't 'coolie', but with enough curl to give some level of credibility to the traditional 'great great great great grandmother' claim. 
I come from a family where my Dad always told me that my hair was fine just the way it was, that dark skinned girls were just as pretty as light skinned girls, that my Nigerian name was given to me to remind me that I should be proud of my African ancestry, and that God made 'nappy' hair just as good as 'coolie' hair. Unfortunately, like 90% of black people, I just didn't believe age 10 that all hair textures were created equal. I always wished my hair was longer, curlier, more like Tia and Tamera, or Claire from my Wife and Kids.
Around the age of 13 or  14, we started studying the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in school. I don't remember if that's the reason why I began to take more and more of an interest in who I was as a black person, but I do remember reading a million and one books, and having a million one debates at school about what it meant to be 'me'. My parents always taught me to be proud of who I was, but I began to realise that I really wasn't proud at all. I didn't like all of me. I had a standard of beauty that didn't put myself or the vast majority of black people anywhere near the top of the ladder. I associated straight hair with 'special occasions' and although I didn't relax my hair, I definitely didn't want that fresh from the boat, kinky, peppergrain African texture. 
So I began a journey. Through different websites, books, pictures and a growing relationship with God, I began to really believe what the Bible said - "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). I found websites that taught me how to take care of my hair properly and that showed pictures of beautiful women with all kinds of hair textures. My hair was very good. White people's hair was very good. Asian people's hair was very good. African hair was  very good. And all the hair types that were a combination of all three were good too. There were no disclaimers, brackets, footnotes or addendum's.
Simple message of this post is: Your hair is very good! If you have back length 'coolie' hair, it's very good! If you have a teeny weeny afro, it's very good! If you're like me and your  hair is a big fluffy bush on your head, it's very good! Who are you to say it isn't??


  1. I love this~!!!!!!

  2. Great story I love the evolution of the writer. I have always loved all of me and never had any issues with being African. I am actually Jamaican by birth but I am African first.