when natural hair tells a different story

November 10, 2010

Natural hair is often tied to Africanness, and rightfully so. Just like our brown skin, we can trace our kinks, coils and curls to the motherland. But what if your hair tells a different story? I’m a black girl with freckles. They appeared on my face when I was six or seven and continued to multiply over the years. I remember once when a white friend of my mom came to visit. I put my skinny spotted wrist up to hers and said, “Look, we both have freckles!” We both laughed.

When natural hair tells a different story

Author has asked to remain anonymous from
photo by Nastassia Davis

Like many (most?) black women, I can’t trace my lineage beyond my great-grandparents. I know there’s a bit of creole mixed in, but that’s it. And like most black women, before I went natural, I had NO IDEA what my texture looked like. All I remember was that it was “nappy”. My Mom never made me feel bad about my hair, nobody did. But the marathon washing and combing sessions of my short 5-inch strands, which ALWAYS left my scalp throbbing, were enough to convince me that my hair just wasn’t “good”.

As soon as I was allowed, I jumped on the braid extensions bandwagon. And without me realizing it, my hairline gradually receded. By the time I decided to go natural 4 years later, I was missing a good inch of hairline.

After 3 years of grappling with my “nappy texture”, switching regimens and trying new things, I found two things that surprised me; a. My texture wasn’t nappy, it was coily. The coils sprung up all over my head. One day, after a deep condition, I stared at myself in the mirror and for a second I couldn’t recognize myself. I looked like I was bi-racial! and b. Once my hairline finally emerged, it was a honey blonde color. Yes, honey blonde.

I often found myself staring at the bright goldenrod coils springing from my hairline and wondering, “Where did this come from?!”

Natural hair is a complex thing. In accepting my natural hair I’ve accepted both my African roots, and the unknown roots. Natural hair has shown me that, yes, I am a black woman. But I’m a black woman in a country where the colors have been mixed and stirred for centuries.

Every other day I seem to run into a natural who does the big chop and is shocked to find that she has an unexpected texture underneath, or an unusual tint. And yet, sometimes I’m afraid to speak about this openly, because I feel that there is a backlash against identifying natural hair as anything other than an expression of Africa.

So I’ll leave with this question: When you learned your natural texture, did anything about it surprise you?