Friday, June 25, 2010

I Want to Know My Hair Again

Lately I've been all about my hair. Fussing with it, putting weave it in, taking weave out of it, contemplating what to do next. I want to manipulate my hair as little as possible this summer, so I've been anxiously trying to decide what to do with it. While browsing the internet looking at natural hair posts, I came across this and it really touched me. I hope it touches you too.

By Paulette M. Caldwell
I want to know my hair again, to own it, to delight in it again, to recall my earliest mirrored reflection when there was no beginning and I first knew that the person who laughed at me and cried with me and stuck out her tongue at me was me. I want to know my hair again, the way I knew it before I knew that my hair is me, before I lost the right to me, before I knew that the burden of beauty -- or lack of it -- for an entire race of people could be tied up with my hair and me.

I want to know my hair again, the way I knew it before I knew Sambo and Dick, Buckwheat and Jane, Prissy and Miz Scarlett. Before I knew that my hair could be wrong -- the wrong color, the wrong texture, the wrong amount of curl or straight. Before hot combs and thick grease and smelly-burning lye, all guaranteed to transform me, to silken the coarse, resistent wool that represents me. I want to know once more the time before I denatured, denuded, denigrated, and denied my hair and me, before I knew enough to worry about edges and kitchens and burrows and knots, when I was still a friend of water -- the rain's dancing drops of water, a swimming hole's splashing water, a hot, muggy day's misty invisible water, my own salty, sweaty, perspiring water.

When will I cherish my hair again, the way my grandmother cherished it, when fascinated by its beauty, with hands carrying centuries-old secrets of adornment and craftswomanship, she plaited it, twisted it, cornrowed it, finger-curled it, olive-oiled it, on the growing moon cut and shaped it, and wove it like fine strands of gold inlaid with semiprecious stones, coral and ivory, telling with my hair a lost-found story of the people she carried inside her?

Mostly, I want to love my hair the way I loved hers, when as granddaughter among grandsons I stood on a chair in her room -- her kitchen-bed-living-dining room -- and she let me know her hair, when I combed and patted it from the crown of her head to the place where her neck folded into her shoulders, caressing steel-gray strands that framed her forehead before falling into the soft, white, cottony temples at the border of her cheekbones.

Cotton. Cotton curled up in soft, fuzzy puffballs around her face. Cotton pulled out and stretched on top of her head into Sunday pompadours. Cotton, like the cotton blooming in August in her tiny cotton field. Cotton, like the cotton that filled the other room in her house -- the cotton room -- the storehouse for September's harvest, a cradle to shield her pickings from wind and rain, to await baling and ginning and cashing in. Cotton, which along with a cow, a pig and a coop of chickens, allowed her to eke out a husband-dead, children-gone independence in some desolate place, trapped in the bowels of segregation. Here, unheard, unseen, free, she and her beauty and her hair could not be a threat to anyone.