Not that long ago, I stumbled upon the story of a little girl whose hair was cut without her parents’ consent by a school staff member. This offence happened after her hair had already been botched by one of her schoolmates while in the bus a few days prior.
I don’t have any words to express how disturbing and infuriating I found this story. Reading this, took me back to my own experience with my hair and how external opinions weighed on my relationship with my crown.
Although I was born in France and grew up there, my mom took me back to Congo when I was a baby. I went back to France when I was 6. At that time I think my only issue with my hair was the fact I had to sit for hours while my mom was doing it… that was precious time that could have been spent doing much more interesting things.
I never really had the best relationship with my hair, but at that time I don’t think I was prejudiced against it. During those first few years in Congo, my hair was a non-issue. We all were dealing with more or less the same type of hair and no one would raise an eyebrow at your hairstyle. Take cornrows, for example, they are a pretty common hairstyle, and I did not mind them when I was younger.
I kind of grew to despise them though. It probably comes from people’s reactions to it. When I was younger, my mom or my aunt would often thread my hair and I would go to school like that. I never thought anything of it, until one day another one of my classmates came to school and refused to remove her hat. We later found out that she was sporting a hairstyle similar to mine.
I was fresh off the boat when this happened so I hadn’t yet been “corrupted” by eurocentric beauty standards, but I remember putting my hat back on. If that little girl who looked like me felt that her hair was wrong the way it was, maybe she was onto something…
The older I got, the more complicated my relationship with my hair became. I never heard disparaging comments about my hair growing, but I never heard anything really positive about it, except maybe the fact that mine was easier to deal with than my siblings. Go fine and sparse hair I suppose! At home, hair was viewed more like a chore and with external influence, it eventually became a cause for insecurity.
When I was in my early twenties, trying to get more comfortable with my hair, I decided one day that my style that week was going to be cornrows. When I got to work, one of my coworkers told me that I looked like I had a ploughed field on the top of my head. To this day I am still not very comfortable with that hairstyle.
The more I was confronted with Eurocentric beauty standards and the less I liked my hair. Eventually, YouTube and the rise of the natural hair movement came to me and my relationship with my hair started to change. I was no longer secretly hoping for straight hair but learning to embrace, care and really appreciate what I have on my head.
I never went through something as violent as what that little girl went through with her hair, but my experiences still chipped at my confidence. From what I could gather she has parents uplifting her and reassuring her that she is beautiful just the way she is and that is maybe the only good thing coming out of that story.
It took me years to unlearn the biases I picked up along the way about my hair. Looking back I wish my parents were as supportive and encouraging as these little girl parents’, but I guess times were different back then. So to you who may need to hear this, your hair is beautiful just the way it is.