My natural hair journey has been long but fulfilling. However, an aspect of that journey I’ve somewhat neglected is my straight hair journey.
This sounds strange. There is definitely an idea out there that wearing your hair straight is antithetical to having a positive conception of your coils and curls. But at the same time, who knows if that opinion is as common as we might think? I fall into such a trap, thinking about straight hair - does it matter if I straighten my hair? If not, what does it mean that I’m even asking?
Hair straightening can trigger a lot in our community and we all have stories about the using chemicals from an early age, or being encouraged to flatten out kinks because we “look so much better that way.” And this is what I mean when I say I have neglected my straight hair journey: while I was finding happiness and confidence in my curly head, I didn’t do the work of unpacking all the straight hair baggage. So allow me to do so with you all!!
Growing up, straightening my hair was a hassle and a half and I rarely did it, but when I did, well you know how it goes when you straighten your hair for the first time in a while - some people forget how to act and lose any home training they had. In college though, I most definitely developed a complex. I was a cheerleader at a D1 school and told myself it was “easier” to just have my hair straight all the time. No me else on my team had curly hair and I was strongly encouraged to “look cohesive” with the team. Yep - so no wonder I developed a complex. Now, years later I’ve worked through it and straighten my hair very rarely, and out of genuine convenience, as in I’m going on a short trip and can’t pack all my massive products into my carry-on. But even with this very honest reason what happens is that I go on long weekend trips to instagrammable spots and before I know it BAM, my private page is all me with straight hair. On some level, am I aware of the photo-taking opportunities so I opt for straight hair? Or is the pressure to avoid straightening just another way we police each other and ourselves? But it doesn’t end there for me. I am blessed to be marrying a wonderful man in the summer and have a number of fun photoshoots, events, and of course the wedding day to look forward to. A few weeks ago I spoke with some other engaged women of color I’m close with and I shared with them my straight hair woes and they felt similarly: am I making a statement if I straighten my hair on one of the biggest days of my life? Even if nobody else cares, how will we feel looking back on those pictures, or sharing those pictures with our future daughters? What does it say, that on a day we want to look our most beautiful, we straighten our hair? Or are we opting for convenience, or just highlighting another look we like to rock that we feel equally beautiful black in?
We didn’t come up with an answer. Of course, if I have to ask, I, of course, am still wearing my scars from all the moments my curly hair was disrespected, by others and myself. But it’s just hair, and folks with kinks and coils have had our heads politicized for centuries and that is not fair. We should all be able to dye it, twist it, shave it, wrap it, and play with our textures as much as we want. And my hair should have no influence on my blackness.
But it’s not just hair and I think there is a responsibility to be stewards of natural hair. I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know I’ll be wearing my natural curls when I walk down the aisle because that is how I feel the most beautiful. But no shade to any of my curly-haired family that does otherwise! I’m grateful for the space to share part of my ongoing hair journey.
Please share your thoughts and your stories on this page and Instagram ✌
By: Sianay Chase