Part I: Danielle With the Good Hair
My hair has felt like a prison most of my life.
Sure I was warned at an early age, like most little black girls, that I’d be judge by my hair. But the warnings didn’t make the annoying questions or ignorant comments any easier to stomach.
“Do you have good hair or nappy hair?’
“Your hair is so pretty for a dark-skinned girl, do you have Indian in you?”
“Your hair is so different, can I touch it?
One of my earliest hair memories is sitting in the kitchen on a stack of phone books nervously anticipating a hot comb heating up on the stove. One of two things always happened. The hot comb straightened my hair or burned me trying. I’m still convinced my mom accidentally burned me a few times as payback for dealing with me and my long, thick hair.
I suspect the difficulty of dealing with my hair is why my parents eventually asked my godmother to chemically straighten my hair at age five.
I won’t front, at first I loved having my hair chemically straightened. I’d come out of my godmother’s beauty salon walking as if I was Naomi Campbell slaying the catwalk. You literally couldn’t tell me nothing. I was too busy flipping my hair from left to right.
I feel guilty admitting this now, but back then my silky smooth hair flowing down my back felt like a form of acceptance in my not-so-black suburban community. That lasted until it rained or someone wanted to go swimming. Then I was back to being the black girl with the different hair. Little did I know this was only one small side effect of my 20+ year imprisonment.
What really made me feel like a prisoner is when my parents would showcase me like their little trophy doll to family and friends as to say, ‘look at our dark-skinned daughter with the good hair.’
Every time some random adult or relative pet me like a dog I wanted to scream or slap their hands away from my head. Luckily I had some sense not to do it, but there were days I got hella close.
But even if I did try to rebel or speak my truth, it didn’t matter. I quickly learned as I got older I was not the owner of my hair. My parents were in control of the hair on my head.
I waited until I was 18 to finally take back control of what was rightful mine. I figured if I had the right to vote, then I had the right to choose what I did with my hair. That’s when I cut my hair into a bob.
What happened next shocked the hell at out me and nearly destroyed me.