N’ Tirzah Ammann al Rephaim
As a young girl, I was very unaware of the beauty of my hair. The girls in my elementary school were always asking if they could braid it.
It was very thick with a tight coil. Because of its thickness and her inability to cope with it, my mother began a Saturday ritual with a shampoo, a conditioner and a blow dry. She would then heat up the straightening comb on the stove to the appropriate heat level and straighten my hair with it. I remember the burning smell of the comb as it went through my hair, and how unpleasant it was. I also remember the sweet scent of the pomade that she would use to grease my hair before she would straighten it.
This unhappy weekly ritual continued up until my junior high school years, where Mommy and I had a falling out-even though I hated the process, I didn’t want her to do it anymore, Claiming my independence I began straightening my hair with the hot comb my own, watching it revert to its natural thickness(and unrulyness) during tmes of rain, humidity and rain. This frustrated me no end but I knew of no alternative. There were times where my mother and grandmother insisted that I relax my hair(for special ocassions-they said.) My scalp was burned, irritated, red and itchy. But I continued doing what I was told-I knew no other way-nor was there anyone to help me with an alternative.
In my early high school years(9th and 10th grade), I rebelled and decided to sport a full fledged, Angela Davis/Michael Jackson/Power to the People Afro. Because my hair had been straightened so much with the hot comb, and at times relaxed during my earlier years, my ‘fro refused to cooperate. It would bend in the wind like a willow tree in the breeze, it would part down the middle as if Moses were parting the Sea of Reeds with his rod. If it rained it became plastered to my head as if to say”I can’t fight this anymore. I give up-I’m lying down”.
It was during my junior year in high school that I met a girlfriend who insisted that to be coooooool and with it that I needed a jheri curl. She had one, and she looked great with it-but knowing I had hair issues I was reluctant to try. But she assured me all would be well, and even volunteered to put it in my hair. Well, it was a disaster, all of my hair subsequently fell out, and I was forced to wear a hat to school for the better half of the last semester of junior year.
My hair grew back in, and I attended college, coloring, braiding, and getting extensions, my hair plastered to my head with gel in a finger wave style- but no style I wore really made me say to myself:
“I love my hair-I love me. I love how I look with my hair like this.” It was a daily struggle to figure out who I was, and the insecurities I felt as I child were intensified during this time. Despite this, I excelled in school and was well liked by my classmates.
During my “Corporate Years”- my hair was colored,relaxed, crimped and braided. But it was also during this time that I joined St. Paul Community Baptist Church. Within this community of sisters and brothers, I saw so much beauty reflected at me that I couldn’t help but stare. Sisters and brothers sporting locks and short natural hairstyles, fly and free, proud and beautiful! I was in awe. I immediately began seeking out sisters that would help me start this process of self discovery and acceptance. There was one sister in particular, Candice, who told me,”You have to cut it all off and let it grow out so that it can lock.”
So for a period of one and a half years I visited the barber down the block and let him cut my hair. Everytime it would get some length to it and become what I would call “uncooperative” I would visit him again. This process ended after I made the committment to stop cutting and just let my hair be its curly, natural self.
I started locking my hair in 1998, and during this time, not only did I receive strange looks and stares from my corporate colleagues, but I was advised by human resources that if I wanted a job anywhere else I would have to cut my locks. This was a disheartening experience, I just couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t hire me just because of how my hair naturally was.
I endured bosses that would rudely say” Why is your hair not done” to visitors from other departments and locations within the company touching my hair without permission, or pulling it, or, when it was really long, pushing it from side to side exclaiming”OH! Its so SWINGY!” Me, having to hold my Rebel Yell Self back-just grabbing hands and fingers, leaning away from them and looking at them sternly saying,” Please don’t touch my hair-I don’t like it.” I’m sure that my becoming more grounded and sure in myself contributed to the fact that I didn’t get as far as people thought I should have in Corporate America, but if there was anything I felt strongly about, it was being true to myself.
My corporate years ended about two years ago in 2007, and I have finally been able to enjoy my beauty, my hair, my self and my achievements in their entirety. I am, you might say, more comfortable in my skin then I’ve ever been in my life.
I love my locks, their different lengths, the textures. I love how they are the antenna to a Spiritual realm felt but totally unseen. I love how they blanket me when its cold,how my newgrowth is fuzzy and fine, and how my ends coil and turn in my fingers. I love them in an updo or full and free, dangling to my waist.
I love my hair and I love me!
I hope to speak with you soon.
Peace and blessings,
‘N’ Tirzah Ammann al Rephaim
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