As a child, I would always be insecure of my thick, curly hair. I would be jealous of girls with silky, straight hair. “Why can’t I have golden beautiful curls, mommy?” “Why can’t I be as pretty as the girls in the Barbie commercial?”
For the dear life of my mother, she just could not understand why I felt this way.
Welp, this is why.
The commercials and television shows highlighted the beauty in silky straight hair, and bouncy flowy curls. Not stiff bushy afros, which in disdain, I referred to as armpit hair. I didn’t feel beautiful. How would I ever fulfil my dream of becoming a full time princess with “nappy” hair. How will my tiara fit?
I put girls with non-tight curls on a pedestal. How I longed for manageable hair that did not have to be braided. I wanted to show off my long locks without fear of frizz and shrinkage. And boy was that shrinkage real! I was tired of spending hours sitting on the floor, having my strands ripped from the follicles as they managed to detangle my coarse spirals. I risked the chance of getting my knuckles swatted with the wooden brush if I even attempted to ease the pain with the pressure of my hand.
One day my life changed. FOURTH GRADE PICTURE DAY. Of course my childhood would not be a childhood without daily mortification. I walked into the classroom and I saw that every girl who once had hair like mine. It was now silky!!! WTH. I was now the only girl in my class with cotton hair.
DID I MISS THE MEMO??? The pretty girls were prettier, the not so cute girls were being found at “find and grind”, and the nerdy girls were flawless. Then comes frumpy old me. The coolest thing about me was my Scooby Doo backpack. Did I enter the twilight zone or something?
Everything I knew to be true was not the same. It took about 2 months of whining for my mom to even bend and hot comb my hair. Needless to say EPIC FAIL. Half of my hair was burnt and even caramelized together. I lost a lot of hair that day. Bless her heart.
Finally, she caved and I got my first relaxer at 9 years old!!! It took her, my two sisters, 2 boxes of creamy crack, and about 9 hours to get my hair looking some type of way. The process was brutal. The detangling, the burning, the scolding hot water on my scalp, I thought to myself PAIN IS BEAUTY. It will be over soon Tashea. Don’t give up. That’s what I told myself as I imagined myself as the girl on the relaxer box.
They put rollers in my hair. They shoved my huge head into the dryer in parts because the combination of too much hair and too much head was just not going to fly with our “at-home dryer”. I sat under the dryer for hours while everyone else was napping, eating, watching television. I was held captive to that seat. I literally went through 3 Babysitters Club’s books under that dryer before I realized that THEY FORGOT ABOUT ME.
Finally, I was ready to come out from under that dryer. I was like YAAASSSSSS IT IS TIME like some dramatic scene from the Lion King. Before I could even touch a curler, my mom said “GO GET DE PANTY”. For you Caribbean girls you know what that means. She didn’t even let me see the results. It was time for bed. I had to use a “panty” to prevent the curlers from moving. (my biggest fear was going to school and forgetting it on my head.)
I remember going to sleep, dreaming about the compliments I would get at school the next day. My crush would kiss me because I was beautiful, the pretty girls will play with me, and probably I would get a discovered by a talent scout and become the next big pop star.
Next morning, I was up before the roosters began to crow. I pressed my school uniform, made breakfast in bed for my mom and practiced my acceptance speech for the Grammy’s. You couldn’t tell me NOTHING!!!!
We were ready to take my hair down, pulled the panty off, unrolled the curlers and combed my hair down. All I heard was CRUNCH!!! DEAD SILENCE!!!!
I turned around everyone was looking at each other and avoided looking at me.
AT THIS MOMENT, THEY KNEW, THAT THEY… MESSED… UP!
My hair was opposite of everything that I envisioned and I was beyond disappointed.
Not only was my hair crunchy but I had to go to school with bendy, poufy, wtf, crispy hair. My mom smooth put my hair in a pony and pretended like it never happened.
Needless to say from that point on, NO MORE AT HOME PERMS. She left that service to the professionals from that point on.
Moving forward, it was a tumultuous 15 years of over-processing, bleaching, trimming, good hair days, and bad hair days and of course the occasional 1st degree burns on my scalp.
Overall, I worked with what I had and was quite confident once I figured out what worked.
However, this all changed when I decided to do the BIG CHOP. Dun Dun Dunnn!!!!!
But that is for another day. Until next post!