Well its been an interesting couple of days for me, as a new member of the natural hair fraternity. A couple of days ago I read an article, dispelling the myths surrounding being a naturalista. It was such a relief to see another blogger wanting to highlight the fact, that not all ‘fro loving’ beauties were:
tree-hugging, bare-foot, glamourless, twist-loving, grunge wearing, activists, seeking to make a statement through their hair, and that like anything else stereotypes had the potential to mask the very simple intentions, of everyday women just wanting to re-connect, with their curls. (Paraphrased)
I guess what LaShaun at Madame Noir did for me was, give me the courage to speak out the thoughts I was secretly harbouring in my heart. I mean, did being natural mean I had to throw away my heels, banish my cleavage, and run around (well walk very slowly) in baggy ‘flag-bearing’ t shirts, and hush puppies? My next concern was well, for every ‘dare to be glamorous’, well-kept at one with themselves naturalista, there were a dozen, un-kept, ‘can’t be bothered’ naturals, making me want to hang my head in shame, and those who would want you to become all ‘black and political’ which if you opposed, you really weren’t quite black at all.
You see for me, becoming natural was never about sticking two fingers up to the relaxer, or rejecting european notions of beauty. I simply wanted a change; to see my lovely natural head of hair again, after all it had been 25 years since I saw my beautiful curls. I just wanted something different – but different didn’t mean giving up on me. In my world I could still be glamorous, blingy, super feminine and sport my fro, all at the same time. Natural didn’t have to mean grunge.
I remember sharing my point of view with a friend, just before reading the article. They point-blank thought that to embrace bling and the likes, or to continue in my former style, was a contradiction in terms of being black and natural. His words were:
you can’t ‘sell’ that notion (natural, glamorous and blingy) because, people are not that advanced. People make simple associations, and surface judgments, therefore, bling, glam and natural, wouldn’t work, because it would confuse people.
I was like huh? what? but I did get him. For him, being natural was a political statement and to associate myself with the ‘superficiality’ of bling etc…was contrary to the plight of rejecting all that was man-made and distorted about society. However, I still felt some unease, because to approach being natural from that standpoint simply wasn’t me.
Don’t get me wrong though, I do understand that there is a polittical argument especially surrounding the weave. I also believe that how we look does say something about our person, but what it says is another matter. You see I can run around as ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ but it will never make me 21. I can dress like a man, but it will never have a penis. I can alter my looks, and bleach my skin but it will never make me white. So, being natural doesn’t make me more black, just as poker straight weave cannot make me white. You see the issue of our ‘person’ and the messages we send out are a combination of many things; biological, familial, sociological, and overt/inverted messages, of which our hair, natural or otherwise is just a tiny part.
Indeed some of you will say, well that’s the point – messages. Society has taught us to hate our hair and to associate beauty with ‘good’ or straight/european/asian looking hair – and yes, to some extent they have. But as we evolve as people and come to understand who we are, we learn that, no-one can put anything on us. No-one can define and determine who we are; the most they can do is make assumptions. So if the ‘white west’ have propagated lies about the state of blackness – that is exactly what they are – lies – which we don’t have to accept because we have the power to reject.
Sadly, my fear is that we have not truly come to understand ‘how to’ reject, instead, choosing to pontificate, about ideas of hair and beauty, which serve only to embed within us and the generation to come, that there is something wrong with the way we look – whatever the expression of our hair. For me this is a problem. I don’t feel we have to shout or make statements about beauty; You see the more we engage in this kind ‘open’ debate, those that watch and prey upon our issues/insecurities are waiting to fix them. They look and seek to fill the gap, with that which cannot truly solve the problem, we take the bait, and the cycle begins again.
As I wind this up, it is my belief, that we need to stop trying to understand beauty and just be. Hair is just a small part of ‘being’. We are who we are and what we are, based on the values, principles, and relational engagement we live day by day. Hair, does not alter that which gives us a framework of meaning. If all we have is how we look, and all we can do is ‘chew the cud’ about the whys and wherefores of the creamy crack, or question the authenticity of someone who wears a weave? Then how small are we? If hair does send a message, it might be this: my hair does not define me; love me natural, love me straight, love me fake!!