I recently watched an episode of The Tyra Show where the topic revolved around the notion of good hair and bad hair (the show originally aired in May in the US). The show was based around the perceptions of African/African-American hair; views on natural (unprocessed) hair and relaxed (chemically processed) hair. Natural hair is mostly wavy, dry and often described as ‘nappy’, while relaxed hair is hair processed using chemical relaxers to make it straight and soft.
As usual there were several guests on the show; the guests that interested me the most were the mums and their daughters.The ages of the girls ranged from 3 to 8 years old.
One mum was regularly relaxing her three year old daughter’s hair. That I found extreme, but the mum said her daughter wouldn’t let her touch her un-relaxed and always cried when it was being combed and styled. The girl also cried when the relaxer was in her hair, but the mum was apologetic, insisting she washed it out very quickly.
There was a five year old girl whose hair was in cute twists and still unprocessed, she said she preferred having straight hair and had a ‘Hannah Montana’ wig. She said she felt prettier wearing that wig.
The third girl had very long natural hair and she said she didn’t like her hair because she was always teased and picked on at school. She would like to have her hair cut.
The forth girl was from an African-American mum and a Latino dad; she felt ‘puffy’ hair indicated ‘lower class’ (incredible!). She had a natural hair which was more curly and soft because of her mixed race. This lady said she never dated an African-American man because she did not want to subject her daughter to the whole hair ordeal (is it a curse?). That explains her daughter’s views.
The last girl was from a Caucasian mum and African-American dad and she had relaxed hair and weave (extensions). Her mum said it was easier from her (the mum) to manage that but the daughter said she would feel better with her natural hair and without the weave.
It is alarming those young girls are already exposed to this good hair, bad hair saga. I don’t know if there is a correct or appropriate age to start using relaxers on hair; but three years old is way too early. Personally, I had mine processed for the first time when I was about 13 years old. I was one of the last in my year to have processed hair. I remember other girls who had theirs done much earlier had to cut their hair because of damage. I also cut my relaxed hair about six years ago but I couldn’t maintain the natural look.
From experience, I always felt African-American hair is not as coarse as African hair. For the regular African lady with natural hair once it has grown beyond a certain length the only other options are cornrows or dreadlocks or simply cut it and keep it short. Now I wonder, maybe we are limiting the natural hair styles and not trying new ways. Also, most of our hair dressers are apt in processed hair and extensions, but not natural hair.
I can recall my natural, virgin hair it was wild but still beautiful. I never felt ugly because of this; I always had it in beautiful cornrows and single plaits or twists. Even now I prefer my processed hair and admire ladies with well-groomed natural hair. I feel whichever state a lady has her hair in is beautiful and should be appreciated.