Once Damaged: Inside Out

Once Damaged: Inside Out

The topic of damaged hair is something that many African-American women and even little girls are all to familiar with. As a little girl, I remember the Saturdays that I would get my hair pressed by my grandmother. The finalized product was one of a little knocked kneed girl running around with straightened strands of hair.

Once Damaged: Inside Out ANNM: Challenge 1 By Natasha S. Houston   The topic of damaged hair is something that many African-American women and even little girls are all to familiar with. As a little girl, I remember the Saturdays that I would get my hair pressed by my grandmother. The finalized product was one of a little knocked kneed girl running around with straightened strands of hair. This experience involved everything from cringing on account of the heat, to jumping out of seats from pressing combs that seemingly missed my hair to stroke a tender scalp.

Natasha take on Damage

As a little girl, I remember the Saturdays that I would get my hair pressed by my grandmother.

Natasha take on Damage

My perception of beauty was not one that included accepting myself in my pure form. I was taught early on, by diverse sources, that nappy was unattractive.

Natasha take on Damage

This experience involved everything from cringing on account of the heat, to jumping out of seats from pressing combs that seemingly missed my hair to stroke a tender scalp.

Natasha take on Damage

When I decided to take that journey in 2007, it was such a spiritual experience.

Natasha take on Damage

The topic of damaged hair is something that many African-American women and even little girls are all to familiar with.
 
 

It would not be a tale to admit that this is a childhood memory that I do not often revisit. As with most little girls, I now realize that my self-image was damaged early. My perception of beauty was not one that included accepting myself in my pure form. I was taught early on, by diverse sources, that nappy was unattractive. As I outgrew the press and curl that seemed to always lose the battle with the elements of nature and the daily activities of a childhood life, I graduated to the kiddy relaxer. The little girl on the box looked so pleased with her straight hair. I was sure that I would be pleased with my outcome as well.

I soon found that the commercials that bragged of style, body and shine failed to mention what would happen if the chemical was too strong for your hair. There was a further failure of anyone mentioning that your hair would fall out if you left the chemical in too long. There was no mention of the scars in the scalp, breakage spots or hair thinning. Straight hair was what I seen on television.

What was a little girl to think?

All of my Barbie dolls that I loved to play with and style had long straight hair. No one around me, at that time, was wearing their hair in its natural form. The media also sent subliminal messages that straight was the right way. My mother and grandmother probably had no clue initially that my hair was being stripped of its strength with these processes. They were only passing down to me what had been taught and done to them. Often times, this is the case in other families. Not only were my hair strands being stripped but my concept of self-imaged was enduring just as much damage as my hair and scalp. I had a severely distorted view of beauty that they supported.

As I grew in age, if it wasn’t a relaxer that was causing my hair to break off, it was the strain of extensions being applied that caused receding hair lines, traumatized temples and hair loss. High school years were full of micro braids, track extensions held by glue, and relaxers. I endured a vicious cycle of these styles from high school until my junior year at Hampton University. This cycle before hair-follicle freedom included applications of chemicals and re-touches that over time, proved to end with me repetitiously having my hair cut in short styles. My way of dealing with the shame of hair breakage was to hide it. I considered that any way that I could camouflage the damage was acceptable. My self-approved solutions only tended to add to the amount of damage. It was not until later that I would catch the revelation of it all. Many women and people in general, do external things to camouflage internal issues.

Why did I endure the damage to my hair?

It’s complex yet simple. When we have a damaged internal perception of ourselves, we are prone to endure painful external situations. This stems far beyond matters of just hair. Hair and many other factors have the ability to communicate how one views themselves in many different perspectives. The conclusion that I drew, is that the damage that my hair was enduring is the damage that was primarily internal. As a little girl, I had outside influences of what was considered “beauty”.

Although I know that I am loved by family members, one can not teach you a love for yourself that they themselves do not have for themselves. They supported these hair ventures of conformity because deep down, they were using the same determining factors of beauty as society. I call it society’s perception of perfection”. Naps, unfortunately, were not included in this perspective. Therefore, my ideology was shaped by that of my family and the media. My journey to embracing the natural came after years of wondering what I would look like with natural hair.

When I decided to take that journey in 2007, it was such a spiritual experience.

I had encountered another hair breakage situation due to over-processing. There was nothing to do this time that would hide it. My hair was already in a shortened style; and I had decided that enough was enough. Before it became such a trend, I had always had a desire to at the least, try being natural. In complete honesty, I was afraid for years. I was literally scared that my hair grade would not be pretty or that I would be ugly. This alone reflects a form a self-hate that I had to be delivered from. When I made the declaration that I wanted to be able to accept myself in.

 

 

 

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