The Toxic Relationship I Had With My Hair
The snowball effect of one standard of beauty
Growing up immersed in an environment that heavily perpetuates long blonde hair as the pinnacle of beauty can be exhausting, and it certainly was for me. Hearing that my tightly coiled curls made me look crazed, unkempt, and untidy deterred my self-confidence. This brewing self-hatred is what set the long-haul journey of my toxic relationship with my black hair.
The root of it all
It all started with only being surrounded by people with straight hair. As a result of an environment that was not diverse, people asked me insensitive and offensive questions about my hair's tightly curled texture, large volume, cornrowed, and braided appearance. Looking back now, I realise that it was othering and set me apart from everyone, which was the backbone of the toxicity that began to form for my hair.
So, I began to wonder why my hair would shrink after swimming, questioning why it didn't flow down and look silky as I stepped out of the pool and looked at my friends beside me.
I have a memory from when I was in first grade, from when after a PE lesson where we were out swimming that day. I vividly remember my friends that had straight hair were slicking their hair back after getting out of the pool, pretending to be "mermaid". As I tried to join into the fun, I noticed that the water was in fact making my hair shrivel up and it would not stay down on my scalp. From that day onwards, I just remember feeling so frustrated and angry at my hair type, angry at my race, and furious at my appearance. Because in my mind that is what restricted me from "fitting in" with the others at such a young age.
The effects of the self-hatred within me
Loathing my hair type blocked me from exploring my racial and ethnic identity. It stopped me from not wanting to be a black girl, and most significantly, it made me idolise the eurocentric standard of beauty from a relatively young age up until my mid-teenage years.
It's true, your surroundings have a great effect on your development and being around people who only had straight/beach wavy hair only made the relationship I had with my hair worsen throughout the years. I recall being embarrassed to walk into the classroom every third Monday with a new set of braids or cornrows. It brought quizzical looks and judgement, which only made me wish I had a different hair texture more. All the attention that would arise from being the only black person in the PWI's I was in made me detest my hair type to a greater extent. I felt as though my hair announced me and made me automatically subject to judgement before my personality.
I resorted to conformant
I wished, dreamt and hoped to magically wake up with the lengthiest and straightest hair. I was eager to conform to these western standards of beauty, so I, like many black girls, was introduced to the one and only hair relaxer.
See, getting a chemical to remove my curl pattern and straighten my hair was that it made me feel closer to my white counterparts and essentially closer to the ideal of whiteness. However, this was only a short-term solution in tucking away the hatred I had for my natural hair. Furthermore, once the relaxer had faded away after 3–4 months and there was new natural hair growth, within a snap of two fingers the disdain would immediately return.
Eventually, I realised that conforming was a temporary solution, and it wouldn't bring me any closer to finding joy and love for my blackness. It instead was a pillar in my personal development as a young girl.
Growth and development
Reaching a point where I didn't feel the urge and have the desire to have straight hair was undoubtedly a long-haul journey that came with a plethora of bumps along the way. But, those obstacles did indeed help me to get to a point to end the hatred I had for my hair.
Learning to love your hair and other aspects about yourself can be a challenge. But, I learned to find the beauty and joy in my curls, coils and kinks despite what ideals had been infiltrated into my young mind. It takes determination and courage to get to the point, with the enhanced layer of being a black woman.
To end the toxic relationship I had with my hair I stopped with the constant need to use relaxers and use straightening irons. I began taking inspiration from those who had their natural hair and learning to embrace my own.