I haven’t had a relaxer since August and I’m mad cranky about it. Gaaaahhh! I’m seconds from slapping strangers on the street. Six inches of super-curly new growth, a foot and a half of straight, relaxed hair — what am I meant to do with this ball of confusion? Whyyy do women do this? I mean, of course I get the reasons — and whether is about embracing your God-given natural texture, finally rejecting the white Western beauty ideal, or harboring a need to look like Tracee Ellis Ross — they’re all valid. And yet, I was one of the last relaxed black women I knew. I always loved my sisters’ and girlfriend’s sexy coils and curls, but transitioning seemed like such a pain in the ass (do you “big chop” off the relaxer and deal with one inch of curls? Do you still try to wear it long and straight, even though your roots are puffier than Newt Gingrich?). Life is hard enough, girl. I was happy with my thrice-yearly relaxers and weekly blowouts. My straight hair was easy; I never worried about it unless I was somewhere near the Equator. And no Bikram yoga, obvs. But then I gave birth to a black/Dominican/Panamanian girl with hair like this:
She’s only three years old, but we’re already having these conversations:
Bobina: You have long hair like Rapunzel. I don’t have any hair.
Me: You have stunningly beautiful curls, Bobina. And guess what? Mommy has curls too (note: I have no idea what my natural hair texture is, I come from the “relaxer at puberty” era). I just, um, straighten them…which is silly because curls are so beautiful. (bad, bad, bad, #hypocrite, terrible, I suck…)
Bobina, looking skeptical: You siwwy. You don’t have curls, me and Daddy have curls and he’s a boy. I don’t like curls.
And my heart breaks. Already? Already? Never mind the fact that two of her best friends — Isla, a bi-racial beauty with massive, blonde-streaked ringlets; and Mica, also “bla-tina,” with jet black spirals — have curls. And that I buy her curly-haired dolls and books with curly-haired heroines and Auntie Lauren has hair just like her. None of it matters; every little girl wants to look like her mommy. I still want my mom’s awesome auburn feathered moment:
One night, Bobina wasn’t feeling well and got in bed with me. I had my hair up in a bun and she said, in a panicky voice, “I can’t see your hair mommy, I can’t see your hair!” So I took it down, and she spread it on her shoulder and stroked it till she fell asleep — but not before murmuring “So soft; my hair’s not soft.” I was devastated. That was seven months ago, and I haven’t gone near a relaxer since then. I haven’t admitted this before, but it’s not about the politics as they relate to me. I felt pretty damn empowered and no less down with my chemically straightened ‘do. It’s about Lina feeling gorgeous. I want to show her that curls are fab, the thing, a part of Williams Girl fierceness. The nerve of me, trying to convince her that her texture is pretty when I beat my own into submission! It’s my job to do everything I can to help her feel strong, whole and confident, and as black and brown women know, hair hate is a soul-killer. And if she wants to blow out it sometimes or relax it when she gets older (um like eighteen), I’m all for it. But she’ll know her curls are awesome! And in the meantime, I’ll look like Tracee Ellis Ross 🙂
By the way, mommies with curly girls, I’ve finally perfected Bobina’s curl cocktail:
I shampoo Bobina once every week-and-a-half-ish with Hair Rules Daily Cleansing Cream ($23). It’s suds-free, so it’s totally non-drying. Anthony Dickey of Hair Rules Salon is adamant about suds-free shampoos for natural hair. Anything else, and you’re stripping the moisture from hair that’s already naturally dehydrated.
Every four days or so (every other day in the summer), I wash her hair with Wen Sweet Almond Mint Cleansing Conditioner. Wen is magical. It’s a rich, seriously hydrating conditioner that also manages to cleanse hair, so you can skip shampoo altogether. I part her hair into four sections, comb a palm-full through each section, and let her splash around (“I swim like muhh-maid!”) for fifteen minutes while it absorbs…then rinse. I also use it to shave my legs. Wen rocks!
Once I’ve rinsed out the Wen, I apply good ole Carol’s Daughter Hair Milk ($18) through each of the sections, towel-blot and air dry. Hair Milk is everything — it’s lightweight, so it doesn’t weigh down her ringlets, it defines her curls and kills frizz like nobody’s business, and it smells like Spring.
When I put the Bean’s hair in ponytails, I smooth it out with a few spritzes of water and a dab of Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme ($32). This lightweight, cupcakey-scented moisturizer instantly smooths flyaways and hydrates her curls, leaving them looking springier than ever. Loooove this stuff.