i took my braids out last night. i look like myself again. for several weeks i have struggled with liking who i saw in the mirror. it was the hair. going from short curly hair to long braids was a drastic change for me. i love my curls. doing my hair is an essential part of me connecting with myself. i do not regret getting braids and might do it again just not right away. this experience reminds me of the void that occurs i believe when Black mothers no longer do their daughters hair. what happens to all that took place? where does it go? what fills that time and place?
doing my hair is a morning ritual. one that i enjoy. the common narrative out in these streets is that Black girls and women dread doing their hair because so much is involved and it takes too much time, but not me. the amount of time does not trouble me because i have never thought about the the length of time it takes me to do my hair versus those with non kinky and curly hair. i have always known that doing my hair/our hair is a labor of self care and self love. i have always known that doing my hair/our hair is a social venture. i dare not think that these curls will settle for a little bit of my time. they are not having it nor am i.
doing my hair gives me joy and it is one of things i can do well. i know when i am done that it will look good. somethings i have no control over but my hair i have a say so in. my mom and my grandmother were my original hair gurus. i never heard my mom complain about the ritual of shampooing, conditioning and styling my sister’s hair and mine’s. she did our hair everyday using a comb, brush, grease and a cup of water to dip the brush. i do not have stories of my mother pulling my hair too tight or unintentionally hurting me when she did my hair. my memories of hair time are the reasons i find joy and comfort in taking care of my hair.
later my step mom would become the woman who managed my hair care. she too never complained about the ritual of doing me and my sister’s hair. she shampooed and conditioned our hair every week. on special occasions she pressed our hair. i did not like the hot comb but did like the fancy big girl style that came with it. by middle of seventh grade i was in charge of styling my hair; she still shampooed and conditioned my hair until summer of eighth grade. initially, i did not notice that something was gone…something good was gone. something that i had known since the beginning of my life. sitting between my mothers’ legs having my scalp greased, tangles combed out and hair brushed into pony tails provided me and her time to talk and to be still. we just talked. she told me things about her life and when she was a little girl. she asked me questions about me and assured me that i would like the style she was giving me. Black mothers and daughters have held this sacred ritual for centuries. when our mothers release us to do our hair, we lose sacred bonding time. some mothers and daughters figure out ways to still have that type of time while some never get it back and thus become strangers to one another.
all that to say my recent four weeks of having braids and therefore not performing my daily and weekly hair rituals i missed me. something was missing…something sacred was gone. i was looking for me at every turn. i tell myself good things while doing my hair and talk to God. these things were not so during this four week period. i was off balance and out of sync. i kept looking for my familiar face. last week i started to think it may not be possible for me to make six weeks with braids because i missed my curls, missed and needed that time with myself. (i wanted to make six weeks because i paid a lot of money.) last night i took them braids out. OMG! it feels so good to touch my hair, to see me, and to have a sacred part of my morning ritual back. i am not saying no to braids but i am saying i love my hair time and rituals.