There are times, infrequent perhaps, distanced by years, when we feel the lack of support so acutely we wince as the chill of loneness snatches us from the fulcrum of oneness. In a well-worn posture of me against the world, fists tightened in anticipation, lifted and readied to defend against perceived threats we stand. Perhaps a figurative stance for some, but for others literal. Words, powerful and mighty enough to incite wars also yield laceration of souls.
“What are you doing with this?” rattled the warrior within and it was through those eyes I saw. Those words were spoken by husband when he happened upon me seated at the dining room table years ago with my newly chopped mini afro. The ‘this’ to which hubby was referring, my hair. Relaxer gone, taking shoulder length hang time with it. In its place, a short cotton puff. The very puff I stood in the mirror, hours prior, admiring. Twisting and tipping my head in all directions to get a glimpse from a different angle, loving what I saw and exhaling at the freedom I felt. I did not consult with husband, running the idea by him before I took scissors to my hair. The decision, mine. A choice I, alone, had to make. One for me, not him nor anyone else. Granted hubby had to live with the result of my choice, but it’s just hair, right? (That question alone sparks thoughts for another post.)
My husband is not the most expressive of men, but when some thing or some one displeases him it is quite evident. Eyes widen, eyebrows lift, mouth sets into a firm, tight lipped line and grunts of the “mhmm” variety can be heard mingled with slight yet discernible nods as if he’s pondering life. If the displeasure is great, the bottom lip pokes out joining the cacophony of grunts and mhmms. This sounds comical now, but it was painful then. Through the eyes of my warrior self, I analyzed his every reaction and concluded husband was displeased with my choice to not only cut my hair, but to wear it in its natural state. But was my reasoning valid?
When I spoke of programming in a previous post, I nor my family were excluded from the masses. We were as much a part of the brainwashing until we weren’t. For the better part of 20+ years my soul screamed to express itself fully in this area of resistance, but listen I did not. Even with the birth of our daughter, I resisted the tug, the urge to cut it off until thoroughly fed-up, tired to the bone with the cyclical process of trying to change this one thing about me with a touch-up every eight weeks, the day arrived. Do not misunderstand, I am not saying relaxers are the devil, but they can be if the reason for use emanates from a place of disliking who you are, your hair texture and what you represent. In making that statement, questions arise. Why were relaxers developed in the first place? Designed to permanently alter what and why would you want to?
Our desire to assimilate has birthed more harm than good in a uniquely created people. There is absolutely nothing wrong with standing out. We were born to. It is preferred existence. But society twists truths, poking fun at those who are different and nonconformists. Society bullies into blending, bleeding and joining in, all the while taking, raping and stealing from the uniqueness of others and boldly passing it off as its own.
Internally poised in my defensive stance, I failed to realize that husband, too, was dealing with experiencing different, new, rarely seen on women of color, at that time, and not fully accepted or globally understood—a woman wearing her hair naturally. Wait … pause for clarification. For other ethnicities natural is normal, but add the descriptor of African descent, unusual, surprising, unexpected are the words that come to mind. No other race is expected to elucidate the hows and whys of choosing to wear their hair in its natural state. A basic right afforded others has not been normal for us, women of color, to wear our hair as it sprouts from roots with markers that determine texture.
Yet here’s the beautiful, unfettered truth: the versatility and styling options of my mane—our hair—are endless. No longer do I fear the elements, I embrace them. Sometimes arms flung wide allowing wind, rain, sun and snow to water and nourish me. The feeling powerful. No longer driven to run, hide or protest the elements with fist and a scowl. I stand, realizing I am as much a part of them as they are me. After years of misinformation and miseducation, we have to strip bare, get to the core of who we are, and remember a forgotten truth that exists at our center: we are born perfect.
Hubby wasn’t being unsupportive. My hair looked different and he commented. Were his choice of words offensive? Initially, yes and they stung like hell. Did it take time for him to adjust? Yes, but husband has always stood in support of me, with me, beside me as I do him and together we embrace all that makes us different, yet very much the same.
I am unique. I am a trendsetter. I am different. The power is I know I am. I celebrate those differences, embrace and love the hell out of them. Applaud them every day. I am unapologetically me. Know that within ‘I am' you are included … always.
* Originally posted on Natural Oasis blog February 2015.