Saturday, February 11, 2012

Accepting Our Uniqueness

As we celebrate our heritage this Black History Month, we can acknowledge that wearing our hair in its natural hair texture is definitely a part of our history, dating back to the Motherland.  Some of us celebrate our hair, while others...well...don’t...feeling that their natural hair is nothing to celebrate, but rather, something to loathe, or be ashamed of.

I recently had a conversation with a woman who wears her hair braided in extensions.  Her braids were gorgeous!  I complimented her on her braids.  At the same time, she complimented me on my natural hair, which I usually wear in two-strand twists.  She’s wearing braids while in transition to completely natural hair.  She said she wanted to give her hair a break from the braids and was trying to decide what to do with her hair next.  I made a few suggestions of transitional hairstyles she could try.  I like talking about hair, so the conversation continued for a couple of minutes, mainly about the “transition” process, etc.  But, I had to make my exit when she said that she had asked God why she couldn’t have the “good stuff”, the type of hair that she could just “wet and go” (I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t remember her exact words).  But, the bottom line is that she wished that she had what she considered “good hair”.

I’m not judging...because for a large part of my life, I felt the same way.  I remember, especially, as a child and even into young adulthood, wishing (and even praying) that my hair wasn’t so nappy, that my skin wasn’t so dark, that my nose wasn’t so wide, that my lips weren’t so full, that my thighs weren’t so big, etc., etc.  So, I’ve been there, and it’s be so “unaccepting” of oneself.

I mean, sure, who doesn’t want “no fuss” hair.  But, I have to say, I was disappointed and even slightly annoyed, to hear her say those things.  I had to make an exit, because I just didn’t want to hear that negativity.  I will tell you now, I absolutely HATE the terms “good hair” and “bad hair”, when they’re used in their traditional context, referring to hair that more closely resembles European hair as “good hair”, while the closer the hair resembles what we consider African or afro-textured hair, it is referred to as “bad hair”.  Well, who told us our hair was bad, huh?  (I think we all know the answer to that question...anyway...that question reminds me of the Bible, in Genesis, when God asked Adam and Eve, after they ate the forbidden fruit and hid their nakedness, “Who told you that you were naked?”).  What forbidden fruit (mindset, standard of beauty, etc.) have we allowed ourselves to partake of?

After so much conditioning of our minds to hate our African features (hair texture, skin color, wide noses, etc.), nobody (other races) even has to tell us that anymore.  We tell ourselves and each setting standards of beauty within our own race.  (Thank God, that’s turning around, particularly, with more acceptance of our natural hair, but we’ve still got a long way to go).  The Bible says in Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”  God made us, including our hair.  So, if it’s good enough for God, the Creator of all things, it’s should certainly be good enough for us.

What I consider good hair is hair that is healthy, manageable, styleable.  To me, bad hair is unhealthy, damaged, unmanageable, unstyleable...consistently.  (I’m not talking about those occasional “bad hair days”, that most, if not all of us, have experienced from time to time, even with healthy hair).  My point is, I don’t care how straight or soft and wavy a person’s natural hair texture is, if it’s unhealthy, stringy, thinning, lifeless, has a bunch of split ends, etc., that’s bad hair!  Even if someone’s hair is what society considers “kinky” or “nappy”, if it’s healthy and full, and styleable (even if it’s a “nontraditional” style or even styled on the “wild” side), that’s good hair!

Yes, I’ve definitely had my share of struggles trying to maintain and style my natural hair, particularly in the earlier days of my natural hair journey.  And yes, I still go through hair struggles, but, my hair, which many may consider “nappy” or “very kinky” (I prefer the terms, “very coily” or “very curly”...wink, wink), is much healthier, thicker, fuller now, than it was during those recurring cycles of perm damage, particularly during my latter phase of straightening, when I was embarrassed, because it was breaking and thinning; when I was doing a “comb-over”, to hide the “hole” in my hair; when I didn’t want anybody to stand, walk, or sit behind me and see the back of my head.

The Bible says in Proverbs 23:7, that as a man thinks in his heart, so he is (or becomes).  We must choose to think and say positive things about ourselves and about our hair.  As I hinted above, just as a personal choice, I no longer refer to my hair as “nappy” or “kinky”, but rather “very coily” or “very curly”.  I thank God for its thickness, and that it’s healthy and strong.  I speak life and wholeness, “shalom” (a Hebrew word, meaning peace, prosperity, wholeness, soundness, nothing missing and nothing broken), not death, destruction, and weakness over my hair.

Psalm 139:14 says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”  We should thank God that He fearfully and wonderfully made us.  Each of us is one of His marvelous works.  We are God’s masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10).  Because our hair, whatever the texture, is a part of each of us, that means that our hair is fearfully and wonderfully made and a marvelous work of God!  And God doesn’t make mistakes!  He custom-designed our hair and made it specifically for each of us.  Our souls (our minds, our wills, and our emotions) must come to know (and accept) that very well.

So, whatever your hair texture is, don’t curse it.  It is what it is!  Accept it, thank God for it, do your best with it, take good care of it, love it, pamper it, enjoy it!  Do what’s best for you!  Do you!  Whether it’s braided, faded, loc’ed, twisted, in a curly ‘fro, a ‘fro hawk, afro puffs, relaxed, pressed, weaved, in a ponytail, under a wig, “fried, dyed, and laid to the side”, or whatever.  And if you don’t know what to do with it, ask God.  The Bible tells us in James 1:5, that if anyone lacks wisdom, we should ask God, who will give us a liberal supply of wisdom.

No matter how you choose to wear your hair, whether others choose to love it, like it, or hate it (just make sure you don’t hate it), it is what it is!  We are not our hair (and our hair should not define us), but our hair is a unique part of the masterpiece that God created each of us to be.  Embrace your uniqueness!  Love your hair (whatever the texture) and love yourself...the marvelous work of God that you are!

(Contains excerpts from "TranZitions: Revelations on My Journey to Natural Hair and Freedom" by Yolanda T. Jones)