Natural Selection

I know natural hair is not for every sister, so the following chronicle is not meant as a slap in the face to sisters who choose to straighten their hair. I hope you enjoy listening to my natural hair journey. Here we go…

Like many black girls, I was raised to fear and hate my natural hair. It was an ordeal that you and your mother embarked on every Saturday morning to straighten with tense hot-combing sessions in the kitchen. All these decades later, I can still feel the heat on the back of my neck and around my ears; can still hear the menacing hisssss of the hot comb raking through my strands. The smell of singed hair is an odor that’s filed away in my memory bank with other scents that just won’t shake loose: Chanel No. 5 and fresh-cut wood.

Our mothers had their work cut out for them. And, oh, pity the fathers who got left with their daughters, and needed to do the hair thing. This happened to me on said occasion:

SeanToddlerHairPicture

Coupled with those battles of the bush, there were VERY distasteful names to describe our kinky curls:

  • Nappy
  • Bad Hair
  • Sheep’s Behind (As hurtful as it is, I found some humor in this one.)

My hair was controlled with chemicals, aka relaxers or perms, when I got older. There were rules: You couldn’t scratch your scalp before the application, lest you wanted it burned like Hades. Due to the high acid content, it was also important for the applier to watch how long it was left on. The after effects: painful scalp sores…all for permanently straightened hair. And to add insult to injury, relaxers smelled like a combination of Drano, hatred, and sulfur. I suffered, feeding into the notion that my natural hair was scary and unfeminine.

SeanRelaxedHairPicture

Even though my relaxed hair was conventionally “pretty,” I felt like it was a critical patient who needed constant attention, and I was its ragged nurse. Perms made the hair very delicate; thus, using even minimal heat cooked it to the point of damage. The chlorine in pool water was rough on it, too, turning it red and frizzy. Humid days made it swell up like a sponge. Touching up the roots every six weeks was costly, the in-between stage was unsightly. It sent me into “hair hiding” with up-dos and hats, counting down the hours until I could get to the hairdresser’s for her to fix “the problem.” They call relaxers “creamy crack” for a reason.

After all these decades, I started seeing more sisters embracing their natural hair, and it looked gorgeous: fluffy, playful, and downright fantastic; like a marvelous halo. Why not me, I thought? I toyed with the idea of going natural and got my chance when I had to have foot surgery last year, and couldn’t drive. Going to the salon was out. I told my husband it was now, or never.  He shaved off my relaxed locks in our bathroom with clippers, like I was joining the army. Naturals call this “the big chop.” I never felt so naked and free. I’m a girlie-girl, and never realized how much I used my hair as a security blanket.

SeanBigChopPicture.JPG

Spring, 2015

I was bald and limping, but with each new inch I attained, I fell in love my curls.

It has been a journey of trying new things, like twist-outs and braid-outs, and numerous hair products. But I am having fun, gaining a bevy of hair accessories to rest in my nest of curls, and have no plans to go back to relaxing my hair. Although, I may straighten it with heat on occasion.

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Summer, 2015

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Summer, 2016

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Spring, 2017

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Flat-ironed

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Spring, 2019

Natural Hair Glossary

Big chop – Cutting off ALL your relaxed hair.

Transitioning – Slowly letting the relaxed hair grow and eventually cutting it off.

Co-wash – Washing your hair with shampoo, infused with conditioner

Pre-poo – Prepping your hair before you wash it with warm or hot oil treatments or conditioning masks.

Twist-out – The style of twisting the hair in little twists all over the head while it’s damp to define natural curls.

Braid-out – The style of braiding the hair in little braids all over the head while it’s damp to define natural curls. It’s a little more defined than a twist-out.

Pineapple – A high ponytail in the top of the head, that favors a pineapple’s top leaves.

Protective styles – A style like braids or some other low-maintenance style that allows natural hair to rest and grow.

Has there been a “mane” event in your life? If so, please share!

Sean C. Wright is the author of 7 books. For more information about her writing skills and how she can assist you with yours–business or consumer–visit https://seanarchy.wordpress.com.

SpaghettiWords

Send me your typo images! Snap pictures and email them to msseanc@aol.com. They must be real pictures and not images in online links, as those might be doctored. I’m looking for The Real McCoy. Conceal the company’s identity if possible. No sweat if you can’t. I’ll hide the name before I post it. We’re not looking to embarrass, but to educate.

The Unexpected Racist

Unexpected Racist Image

A friend’s husband uses racial slurs and opines that slavery was “not that bad” for African-Americans.  Another friend reluctantly admitted that her boyfriend declined my party invitation when he found out I am Black.  It was rumored that a coworker constantly complained about the influx of black faces into the company.

My shock at these incidences was not that people were still thinking and acting this way in the 21st century, but who did and said these things.  My friend’s husband is Hispanic and the other’s boyfriend is of Middle Eastern descent.  The coworker is Jewish.  In the past few years, it hasn’t been difficult for me to find substantial evidence of Anglo-Americans finally validating and including African-Americans.  A Black man is in The White House, and there are more commercials than ever before featuring African-American families.  But in my microcosm, and much to my dismay, it appears things are going backwards in race relations between non-Anglos and African-Americans. . .

One of my Latina friends learned English and about American culture by watching American news.  I have only to look at the news and conclude that it shoulders some of the blame with its lopsided portrayal of African-Americans.  Positive organizations Blacks founded or participate in like community after-school programs or The National Association of Black Journalists don’t get as much press as an African-American man who robbed a store.  Many African-American eye witnesses are equally disturbing, smacking of ignorance.  They are usually women with heads full of rollers or young men with sagging pants — both with poor grammar and exaggerated hand gestures.

Another friend, who is ethnic but not Black, has an older relative who sums up his disgust for African-Americans in two sentences:  “We come to America, beat the odds start prosperous businesses and so on.  You (Blacks) have been here all this time and do not/can not do the same.”  Whenever I hear this “apples to oranges” comparison, I want to shout back in anger and weariness, “My ancestors had no choice in coming to America.  And they were forbidden to practice their religion, speak their native languages, and even to learn how to read and write English!  You were afforded the luxury to take advantage of what America’s forefathers intended:  religious freedom and the overall freedom to pursue the American dream.”  My pride longs to remind them about Blacks like Oprah Winfrey, to share other African-Americans’ success stories who may be not famous: my grandparents, for example.  The real George and Louise Jefferson.  My grandmother owned two dresses as a girl, and she told me of how she coveted the iced tea at the White family’s home she and her mother worked in.  “I always thought that was the prettiest drink,” she’d tell me.  My grandfather was so poor as a boy that he only got certain foods at Christmas.  Through earnest and persistent efforts, they got their barber and cosmetology licenses and opened a barber and beauty shop.  The shop has been in my family for over sixty years.  Sigh.  As multi-faceted as this issue is, the same motive is at the heart of all the animosity:  Once again, Black caricatures eclipse those Blacks who cast off the cloak of poverty, dodge discrimination and “move on up.”

My hope for cross-cultural education improving relations between African-Americans and others may be Pollyanna.  It may be slow to get results. But it is possible.  I welcome sincere questions about everything from the origins of Ebonics to hair care differences to Soul Food.  I’ve learned to say hello and thank you in a few exotic languages and take it upon myself to understand the basic principles of other religions.  My desire is to have more tales like this: recently, I did business with a family-owned tailoring establishment.  I had a nice chat with the lady at the counter; she was warm, pleasant and quite complimentary.  “Have a nice day,” she said, “Come back and see us,” with a Vietnamese accent.  “You’re welcome,” I replied, “I sure will.”

Sean C. Wright is native to Dallas, TX, and earned a degree in English from University of North Texas. She is the author of the short story collection A Gathering of Butterflies, the novella Honey Riley and the children’s books Mary & Jerry Canary. Actress Jessica Biel directed a short film based on her winning essay in 2010: Sodales (18 minutes). Sean has also been a member of the Dallas Gem & Mineral Society (DGMS) since 2012, and was their 2017 secretary and newsletter editor.

Check out Sean’s profile on IMDB.

SpaghettiWords

Send me your typo images! Snap pictures and email them to msseanc@aol.com. They must be real pictures and not images in online links, as those might be doctored. I’m looking for the real McCoy. Conceal the company’s identity if possible. No sweat if you can’t. I’ll hide the name before I post it. We’re not looking to embarrass but to educate.