31 March 2008

"I am not my hair"

Lyrics: "I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations, no..." - India.Arie

My brother Kevin first hipped me to this song a few years ago. I heard it one time and immediately downloaded the tune (and the video) to my iPod! If you ever listen to the lyrics of the song, I'm telling you, India.Arie lived in my skin. We have the same "hair history". (hahaha)

Five years ago in November, 2002, I began the journey of locking my hair. And let me tell you, calling it a "journey" is not a joke. Let's start at the beginning - I was a bald-headed baby...and I mean, BALD! No fuzzy down, no cute single curl, call me "cue ball" and keep moving. In fact, there is a family myth/story that has been passed down through the generations about my mother calling my grandparents to say, "I finally got a bow in her hair!", only for them to drive from Connecticut to Illinois to discover that my mother had TAPED THE BOW TO MY SCALP!!! In her defense, she said she was tired of explaining that the "cute little boy" in the buggy was a girl.

Fast forward to age 6/7/8 - my mother reveled in the fact that I had hair down my back and she could put it up in Shirley Temple curls or three ponytails (women: you remember, two in the front, one in the back) or any myriad of hairstyles she could think of - but, I was tender headed and with all the thick hair I was "blessed" with, it was always an ordeal to get my hair "fried, dyed and laid to the side"....remember that blue Afro Sheen grease that our mommas would use to "straighten" our hair? I still cringe at the sizzle at the back of my neck and my momma saying (after she burned me), "well, if you hadn't flinched, you wouldn't have gotten burned!" Man, I tell you child services could have had a field day back in the late 60s and early 70s with Black mommas...and their daughters' hair.

Age 12: For whatever reason, my mother decided to stop fighting with me and my hair and gave me "control" of my hair. So what did I do? CUT IT OFF! (Of course, damage from relaxers may have helped with my quest, but my love of shorter hair was born.) You mean, I can still look cute and not have all the hassles of dealing with hair? Oh, the freedom! And so began a cycle that lasted until my mid-30s of growing it out (usually for some man who said "I really love long hair on women") to cutting it off (usually when I got mad at that same man!). Until one evening, I had an appointment at the hairdresser. Now, at this time, my hair was pretty short and I wore a texturizer in it - so, we are talking 30 mins top to shampoo, "relax" and style my hair....yet, it took over 3 hours! And this was with an appointment! To make matters worse, I live in "HotLanta" and it was humid and rainy...3 hours later, $80 bucks poorer and an hour ride home and my hair had reverted back to its natural state. I was so angry, I went to the barber shop the next day and cut it all off! For three years, I had a standing appointment at Tony's Barber Shop in downtown Atlanta - every Thursday morning at 8:00a, he'd shape up my "fade" and I would head to work.

Somewhere in the midst of this, I embraced the idea that I wanted to "lock" my hair. However, I'd just started a job at a new law firm - one where I was definitely among the minority, if you get my drift. I decided that in order not to "rock the boat", I need to wait a minute before coming into the office with such a drastically different hairstyle. So, for two years, I bid my time until November 2002, when I started the journey of locs. (Sidebar: And I firmly call them "locs", not dreads, not dreadlocks - just locs. Personal preference) I was AMAZED at people's reactions - from my mother who would not say ANYTHING unless someone else denouncing them said something and then she would chime in. (Although, that all turned around when they started getting longer and once again, I could pull off all kinds of different hairstyles and hairdos and once again, her daughter had "hair on her head".); to friends and acquaintances from the islands who wanted to declare to me the history of locking and why I needed to "cut that mess" out of my head right now; to the random stranger in the bank who told me "you should never cover your locs so that you can embrace the sun and the spirits and..."; and my favorite, my good friend at church (he knows who he is) who every Sabbath threatens to cut my hair in the lobby of our church because I am unwittingly being a bad example to the young people in our church...WHATEVER! It's just hair, people! - and, "I am not my hair..." (hahaha)

All that to say, aren't you glad that God looks at our hearts and not our "outward appearance"? (1 Samuel 16:7) Yes, we should always be nice and neat and modest in our appearance, but the most important thing to Him (and should be to us) is our hearts...and how we treat one another. Just something to think about...

Be blessed!

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