When I was three years old, my hair grew down to my back in a thick curtain of curls. At that time, I lived in an old fashioned house in a neighborhood in Trinidad called Belmont. One day, these older girls plaited my hair into the iron chains of a swing and ran away, leaving me crying and screaming for someone to free me. My mother had to cut my hair out of the swing, and my long hair was chopped into an afro. At least that’s how I remember it. My mom says they cut off my hair when I was two, and I wore it in thick shoulder length plaits when I was three. The neighborhood mean girls did braid my hair into the swing, and my parents did have to cut my hair off. Either way, the very beginnings of my hair history were stressful. It always seemed unmanageable. It always had to be “dealt with.” I hated it.
As my hair grew thicker and coarser and curlier, I gave my family hell to comb it. When I was six, my mom took me to get my hair relaxed. She says that it was after an unbearable series of tantrums, and a lot of people were annoyed with her for straightening my hair so early. I understand in retrospect, but I always yearned for crazy, thick, cascading curls. I wanted to be Miss Diana Ross.
Instead, I had straight hair and bangs, and I had to get it set with rollers by my aunts every weekend.
I started experimenting with dye as a teenager, highlighting my hair blonde, then red, then orange. In my torrid and controversial romance with dye, I went through almost the entire color spectrum, starting with golden yellow and eventually ending with a terrible, misguided thud at midnight blue. My hair was fried. It looked beaten and hideous, and as a consequence of the chemical damage, it started breaking. I hacked it off, took a menopause cut, as my friend Richard said. I faithfully straightened my hair until 2002. I cut my hair ultra short for my wedding, and after that, I went all natural. Now, I can’t imagine myself with chemically straightened hair.
Don’t get me wrong, ladies. My hair philosophy is, do your do. What’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for me. All I know is, the prospect of having to go to the hairdresser/pusher man for more burning, stinky white stuff to spread on my scalp with the intention of reversing my hair’s natural desire is less than tempting. I’m a grown-ass woman now, and I can’t foresee it happening ever again in my future. I want my hair to be as long, strong, and beautiful as it wants to be, an extension of myself. Afrobella is dedicated to all of the women who have made a similar decision, to embrace and enhance their natural beauty. Let’s show the world what we’re working with.