Over two years ago I wrote a blog about my hair journey up until that point. I recounted having been bullied about my curls and my afro, how much I had previously hated those curls and chemically straightened them to try to be have straight hair, and how I was finally (in 2018 when the blog was written) loving the curls, and straightening my hair less. At the time, I was also vehemently against braids, weave, or anything that I perceived as fake. How things have changed.
In previous blogs for Black In The Maritimes I have explained my very white upbringing and whitewashing so it’s no shock that I wanted to have straight hair like the people around me. At the time, TV shows and pop culture depicted Blacks in white narrated shows as having straight hair. I was young enough to believe that the hair I saw was real, and an obtainable goal. I very rarely watched Black-centered shows that had girls with braids, discussed eaves, or anything culturally accurate. I was led to believe by the media I consumed that weaves were for other Black girls to grab onto and pull out during a cat fat. That fake hair was ratchet. That having weaves or braids made Black women ghetto, unlikeable, more Other than White and therefore not the move. Yikes.
In the blog I wrote two years ago I dissected the idea that hair held a lot of meaning for me in terms of not only identity, but also femininity and sensuality. After years of watching white blonde girls on TV twirl their hair to flirt or hearing about women having fingers ran through their hair, all I knew is I wanted those experiences and feelings and my curls were not letting me have them. I perceived straight hair as sexier, more feminine, more flirty, more girly and since we know I was also craving attention left, right and centre, my curls were now an obstacle that I needed to flatten literally in order to me more desirable – or so I thought. Looking back, again, I’m not going to blame my mom for overlooking how consuming only white-centric media would mould my brain vis-à-vis my Blackness, but all of the steps I took to hate and destroy my curls make sense considering what I was watching and experiencing.
This may go without saying, but Moncton was obviously not the most cultured place either. I had only white hair dressers. I don’t remember knowing any black ones, and as we discussed in my blog about Modelling in NB the white people doing my hair did not have the proper training to do black hair in protective styles, or any style I would describe as culturally known as Black. These stylists all knew how to relax my hair, and one went out of her way to learn how to do cornrows so she could for me, but I don’t believe they knew how to do box braids or any protective styles and regardless, I knew nothing about where to buy the hair, or what products to use to make my curls beautiful, luscious, locks.
I’m not sure if it is a mixture of my confidence since being sober, being in a slightly more diverse area, living with my Black family, or being open to new things but all of those unintentional biases I had have been completely overturned. I have learned how to do the research to treat my curls properly. I have found friends who can do, and braid my hair, and shops that will take the time to direct me and not ridicule me for my questions and lack of knowledge. I am now surrounded by women and men who can educate me on the do-s and don’t-s for my hair.
It, yet again, boils down to culture and community. Being raised without a Black community led me to believe untrue stereotypes regarding Black hair to the point of hating my own hair, among all of the other differences about myself that I hated. Now that I have and am able to find a Black community to surround myself with, I can treat and love myself and my curls the way that they deserve. I know it’s hard in smaller places like Moncton for these communities to flourish, especially for someone with a white parent like me, but I hope that with social media and an influx of immigration these communities can spread and find the young Black and POC people who need the education and support to love every inch of their differences.