Saturday, September 16, 2006

Still Stuck On Long Hair?

It's a question I haven't really figured out the answer to.

Is it "ok" to go the extra mile to grow your hair super long as a Black woman?

Does trying to grow your hair as long as possible indicate a lack of self esteem (I'm not good enough as is), a negative fixation (I must focus attention on percieved improvement of my outer self), too strong a focus on "European standards" of beauty (long hair is beautiful hair, whether "flowing" or not)?

Is it simply an experiment so to speak (to prove to ourselves/others that Black hair really does grow), a style preference (I just like long hair on me), or a side effect of healthy hair (healthy hair happens to grow long if you don't cut it)?

I must say that personally, I like to hear "your hair grows fast." It's not entirely true. My hair grows the average 1/4" or so per month. That means in a year, my hair will be about three inches long.

The reason I like it is because it is always said with a positive undertone. It is always said as a compliment, and I appreciate that.

Another reason I like it is because it is often said with hope and/or inspiration, by people who either a) are considering going natural or b) people who are uplifted by healthy natural hair. Some of those in the latter category are new naturals waiting for their hair to grow longer, and others are those whose hair is longer than mine who can reminisce on the length of my hair.

There is another reason I like that my hair is often percieved as growing fast. I do like the idea of proving that natural hair does grow. I like the thought that people see my hair growing and coming along just fine, new styles emerging, etc, not staying "sucked up" to my head as people sometimes envision natural hair does.

I really don't do much to encourage my hair to grow faster, though I have been tempted to do so. I have seen many people do "grow out challenges" online, and I am slightly curious as to how long I could get my hair to grow, in how little time. At the same time, at this point I'm just not interested enough.

Now that my hair has been long - by my standards - when I had my shoulder length locs, I'm really just not that interested. Though I didn't loc my hair in order to grow it long, I had grown accustomed to having what I considered a lot of hair. If I had never grown my locs to shoulder length, I'm not sure I wouldn't be more interested in growing my hair long right now. In fact, part of the reason I chopped it off was to make sure I was still ok with short hair; that I hadn't gotten caught up in the long hair = femininity trap.

Turns out, I struggled for the first month or more. After the newness of my ultra low cut wore off and reality set in, I did feel less feminine. I did feel insecure. I did find myself counting the number of heads that turned versus the number that did when I had longer hair. I did wish I could sew my locs back onto my head. I didn't feel any of these things all the time, but it was often enough.

After four years of naturalness and four years of locdom, I had not become immune to the fears that most women face with regard to our external beauty and femininity. Thankfully, after going through the internal transition (again), I have once again embraced my hair as is, just-about-bald short, shoulder-length long, or in between.

I will most likely loc my hair again, but my chop was a big part of my journey, due in part to my need to confirm that my self image is only attached to my hair to a degree that I'm comfortable with. After I did remove the facade, I took the time and effort to sure up the weak spots in the foundation. I am now more comfortable with me than ever.

Say it with me: me is me, and that's all I need to be.

I must admit that some of the websites dedicated to growing long hair make me cringe. Particularly those that I feel are misleading, those that play up the ability to swing and flip long hair (which the majority of natural hair just won't do, at least not as presented on the websites), and those that emphasize elaborate routines to grow long hair without ever discussing mental wellness and/or the overall health of the hair.

Though healthy hair may lead to long hair, long hair is not always healthy hair. Discussing mental wellness is of course my personal preference and not for everyone. Still, I believe the why (or why not) would be great to discuss, in addition to the how.


Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary. What you've identified is the 'final frontier' for women and the age-old hair insecurity we suffer from.

You look - no - are beautiful in your picture on your site. Go 'head, Kaya.

CynthiaE said...

At the risk of actually stealing India Irie's lyrics, you are not your hair. You are just as beautiful today as the day you were born, if not more so. I've long ended the agony of short vs. long hair, chemically straight vs. naturally curly. Once i did, other things seems to take priority, like going to family reunions, getting my mom to sing with me and taking pictures of my nieces and nephews, cousins and aunties. Things like talking to my doctor about my weight control options, getting good news from my optometrist and writing my will with my husband (making sure he wrote his too).
May God continue to bless you.

Kaya Casper / Naturally You! said...

Thank you Ms. Anon & CynthiaE! I appreciate your comments.

To put this blog in context, there was a post to our Yahoo! group this week with a link to a site that is supposed to be for "growing afro hair" but is really just a collection of links that the owner makes commission on. The site contained no information whatsoever. I didn't like that one bit.

Turns out, the poster made a mistake, which one of our other members corrected by posting the correct link. The correct site was indeed a site focused on growing "afro hair," with a collection of products and information to help grow Black hair. I know you want the link, but I'm not going to post it here. ;-)

Another member commented that she believes we are still stuck on long hair. Of course, that got me thinking, then researching, hence, this blog post.

Our members always keep me thinking. What a beautiful thing.

Mrs. Rukuni said...

I think that your hair is beautiful short. I don't think that you can define yourself by hair length or texture. Youu are an individual that the creator has made to breathe life and energy unto the earth. I believe that personal mental, physical, and spirtual health are the most important things in life not hair.

Qusan said...

Why "grow" your hair long when you can just buy some impoverished, desperate Korean or Indian woman's hair?

I WISH so many black women still weren't caught up in the hair thing.

I have locks that I frequently tie into bantu knots which look like a short 'fro from a distance.

Kaya Casper / Naturally You! said...

Mrs. Rukuni, thank you! I am having a great time experimenting with my short hair.

Qusan, I recently explained the process of sewing someone else's hair onto our heads to a non-black person. First he looked at me like "huh?" then I trailed off myself. It really did sound crazy, but I know a lot of non-black women "in Hollywood" wear extensions as well. I was actually watching "Deal or No Deal" today and noticed that all of the women with the cases had long hair. It really made me appreciate my short hair just a little bit more - it's nice to be different. Just think how someone with a TWA would stand out! Qusan, I have recently caught on to mini knots myself - I will post pics soon.

zulumama said...

Thank you so much! I needed to examine some things,and this helped me focus....

Anonymous said...

I have noticed we have a tendency in the black community to *attack* each other based on the colorism issues that white society has inflicted upon us through history. I do not want to be a part of that negativity by saying disparaging things about desperate asians or desperate black women. There's just too much negativity out there already and I'm not interested in that. If a black woman wants to grow her hair out long then she is entitled to do that just like any other race. I don't see the point of looking down on her. I don't like to give superior airs and it will just make me upset and uncomfortable which doesn't help anything. Some black women have the ability to grow long hair and others do not.

We are all different. We need to deal with and accept these differences in a positive, non-hateful way. It's too easy to stir up strife in the black community and that is all part of the process of racism, hate, and white supremacy. We are uncomfortable and angry making little actual progress while others are focusing on more meaningful issues beyond skin and hair.

Smchadwic said...

Beautifully written.