Curly, thick, dark hair that makes ringlets and frizz, tangles and brushing and pain.
When I was very young my father avoided brushing my hair, so after a summer with him it was hours before my mother got out all the tangles.
When I was older my best friend braided me and said girl you don’t have white hair, you have bristly, nappy hair, feel it, it’s nastier than mine, feel how soft my hair is. Her hair was soft, so soft. I loved being braided, the feel of my hair being pulled so hard my eyes watered, and the cool air on my scalp, and the fingers and wrists pressing my head and the closeness of another person.
When I grew up I got an office job and straighten my hair, every day with a heated round brush. But when it was humid the tell-tale frizz formed by my scalp, and I was not the only one. In the women’s room we took turns waiting for the outlet so we could touchup our hair.
One day a man came into my office. The Clinton campaign was coming to town and my boss was a big supporter, so I was to help this advance man arrange things. He was a small pudgy young man who was very sure of himself. He sat across from me, looked at me, and asked if my family still owned slaves. I paused and wondered at his nerve, but answered that no they didn’t and what makes you ask. The hair he said, one can always tell from the hair.
Somewhere along the way it became taboo to talk about certain types of hair.
But yesterday I was in a bookstore when a woman said to me that she wished her granddaughter had hair like mine, and she began to describe her granddaughter’s hair. I said that yeah sometimes the mix works out and sometimes it doesn’t. The woman agreed enthusiastically, and then her granddaughter came in and her granddaughter’s hair was just the way my daughter’s hair had looked at that age. So I was able tell her not to worry the curls would probably come at puberty.
It made me feel safe and comfortable to be able to talk about hair with someone who understood.