I got my hair done yesterday, which made me think about both my hair history, and my history of explaining my hair. It really must be full of secrets, the way people ask me about it.
As much of a pain in the ass as it is to manage my hair, it might be an even bigger pain in the ass to manage people’s questions about my hair. White or black, apparently no one has ever seen hair like this before. They want all the details at the most inopportune times, and I can’t answer one question without telling the whole damn story.
So, for the record, for all eternity…here’s the story on the mane.
I first got my hair “done” when I eight years old and I’ve been getting it done approximately every eight weeks ever since. When I get my hair “done,” I mean I am getting a chemical relaxer, also known as the “creamy crack.”
Said crack is just applied to my roots, which grow in as thick and knotted as a gnarled tree.
I get annoyed when people say I should “just let it go curly” — my hair isn’t curly; it’s kinky. There’s a huge difference. I don’t have those pretty mixed-girl curls. I have a fro. And I’m not saying I’d never rock that some day, but I can’t “just let it go curly.”
The whole relaxing process takes about three hours from beginning to end (apply, wait, shampoo, sit under the dryer, style).
My hair usually looks a good half-inch longer after it’s done. Think of uncoiling a spring; my roots are like little springs. (When they are really bad, like they were yesterday, they totally have bounce.)
When I was a kid, I used to sit in the chair and cry because the relaxer would burn so much. I’ve toughened up a lot, but some days, if I’ve gone particularly long between sessions, it can get pretty bad.
Relaxing is a pretty scary process because if someone does it wrong, they could make you, like, bald. This is why I’ve only had three stylists in my entire life.
Actually, there was a fourth — the first month I was in NYC, I had to go somewhere to get it done and I was rather broke. One of the editors at Self said she got her hair done in Jersey but recommended a salon in the Bronx. She warned me that going to Dominican girls would be a different experience, and oh…it was. I sat there in complete and utter terror for two hours, hoping that the language barrier and the fact that I was totally out of my element and they were most definitely mocking me wouldn’t result in me ending up bald. Thank God I didn’t — and holy shit, was my hair straight.
I should only wash my hair once a week but usually I wash it twice a week (although I can stretch it out on occasion). On days I’m not washing, I just throw it in a ponytail and take a body shower. When I was a teenager I washed it every day and it was not too healthy.
Many white people don’t understand the whole “don’t wash your hair every day” thing, but you have to understand — it’s physically impossible for my hair to get greasy. It can be dirty, but it can’t ever be greasy.
I use the most oily shampoo ever. If I were to use typical white-people shampoo, I’d be left with a tangled, dry mess. My shampoo is like butter.
It can be more difficult than you might think to find said shampoo. And this is one of those times when I get really pissed off about race; people are all, “Racism doesn’t exist in this country” and then it’s like, Well, then why doesn’t Rite Aid carry my shampoo? Actually, one time a few years ago, my mom stopped at Rite Aid to pick it up for me and when she asked the clerk where it was, she was told they don’t have an ethnic hair care section. My mom said, “Oh, so you don’t think black girls need to wash their hair too?” before walking out.
Most white people’s hair styles better when it’s a little dirty — like when you’re getting an updo, they always say to come with unwashed hair. My hair, on the other hand, styles best when clean.
Actually, my hair styles pretty well all the time. It’s pretty coarse so it just does not move. Hairspray is for kicks.
My hair is thick but it’s relatively fragile, so I haven’t been able to get it to grow much longer than my shoulders thus far — although it’s in good shape now, so we’ll see!
The reason I hate getting my hair wet is because it’s such a pain to blow dry and style. I have to let it air dry for as long as possible (at least 30 minutes) and then it takes about ten minutes to blow dry and ten to style. It’s such a chunk of my day.
I’ve never had braids or a weave. Also, when I was younger, I didn’t realize that every black celebrity has a weave so I just could not understand why my hair didn’t look like theirs. I’d totally get a weave but they are really expensive and I…never leave the house so there’s no point.
I can’t just wash and go. It pretty much just looks straight, but frizzy and blunt and just wrong…so I always have to use a styling tool, usually a flat iron. And once my hair has been relaxed, it can’t ever be naturally curly. I can’t do the whole diffuser thing.
It’s sometimes not possible to style it, which is what I can’t handle. If I, for example, were to be thrown in by some asshole at a pool party, I’d just be done. When I was younger, I used to feel weird telling white people, “Oh, hey, I don’t want to get my hair wet.” Now I’ve just owned it and I’m like, “If you ever fucking throw me in a pool, you’ll be dead to me.”
In sixth grade, my mom convinced me to cut all my hair off — like, above my ears, like a boy. “You’ll look like Halle Berry!” she insisted. WRONG. Have you seen how round my face is? Yeah, maybe if Halle Berry had a whacked-out “Oh hey, puberty!” body, glasses, and a gap in her teeth. I am seriously cringing just thinking about it.
My hair has broken off twice. The first time was when I was a sophomore in high school and it started to break because I dyed it really dark at home. (Sigh.) I had to cut it to my chin; I wept in the chair.
The second time was before my senior year of college when it broke off because I stopped eating. I didn’t cry this time; I just took it as a cue to start, you know, putting food in my body regularly. Even though everyone kept telling me how great I looked, I never felt as pretty or as confident with the bob and I realized I’d never choose my ass over my hair again.
I’m not one of those girls who loves having people play with her hair. I really can’t stand it.
When I was a kid, other kids were always asking if they could touch it. I went along with it, in the same way little kids will show each other their private parts. Like, Sure, what’s the big deal? Now, I suspect, people still want to touch it, but they know better than to ask.
Guys don’t ask — they just go for it in bed, thinking I’ll think it’s part of the act. You think I can’t tell the difference between a totally-in-the-moment-hair-pull and a I’m-such-a-white-boy-and-I’ve-been-wondering-what-black-people-hair-feels-like-forever grab? Um, I can.
And, in conclusion, that’s my report on why I don’t have shower sex!