I met a young lady a few weeks ago who broke my heart. A little. Since my arms were full, she – let’s call her Angel – greeted me with a warm half hug and a loving cheek squish followed up with a shower of compliments to my freshly chopped low fade. Angel went on to say she’d been natural before, but her husband (let’s call him Dick) told her to “go back.”
*sings whatcha say to me??! in my Sampha voice*
Smoothing her gelled nape, she claimed to be a lil rebel who let it get a little nappy before scheduling a retouch. Somehow I maintained an engaged, non-wtf expression as my stomach sunk a bit. We ended the segment with Angel saying she’d again return natural… one day.
Now I am no relationship expert but I know enough to know that when you love and when you’re in love, looks do not matter as much as they might when you’re an outsider looking in. But I also understand that you don’t want to lose who you were initially attracted to, especially if it entails sacrificing your lover’s health, right Dick?! Like gaining an unhealthy amount of weight or going in for elective surgeries, suctions and injections. I’ve seen men watch their wives wither away from cancer and chemo treatments, holding on even after her last heartbeat. So I know for a fact, through the eyes of a good person, character (and love) trumps appearance E V E R Y time.
But a relaxer? Dammit Dick! C’mon! I’m not judging (I’m judging) because Angel let you take the undeserved W, but really, you both lost. And what if you have a son? OMG what if you two have a daughter?! Or twin girls?? What will your choices + ideals teach them? Angel and I didn’t get that deep, but I’m guessing your views hurt her enough to open up to a stranger about her husband’s negative opinion. It’s fair to say I met a real life Unhappy Wife.
I think we, Black people in the year 2017, know that CHEMICALLY relaxing + perming, especially for a long period of time, has great risks. We have to. If you don’t, please come out from under that huge rock, step into the 21st century + educate yourself. Look at the photos of the sometimes irreversible damage to our hair, scalp and psyche. I’d be all #teamhubby if you’d met and fell for an all natural Angel and she was now sporting a relaxer. But that’s not the case. Even if she’s a natural mess (which is tragic, but workwithable), Dick, you as her friend and life partner should have been tirelessly hunting down the nearest natural hair stylist and/or helping Angel find a formula to ease her hair struggles! You know, putting good use to some of those vows you took. I promise you it’s not that difficult with Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, FaceBook, Google, Bing, yahoo! answers, the girl with the fro in the drugstore, phonebooks, aunties, nieces, mamas, neighbors, cousins, co-workers, working thumbs and a voice.
Instead, what Dick’s telling Angel is that he cares more about her looks than her health. And happiness. Those vows, Dick! Those vows! Dick is telling Angel that her positive life changes don’t matter. Dick rests easy knowing that his spouse’s scalp is continuously burned by a cocktail of chemicals that will flatten and strip all life + uniqueness from otherwise strong, thick kinks and coils. What kind of man …?
Dick, if you’re reading, please know that I do not appreciate you or your kind shutting down the permanent wave that is natural hair. Sure it is just hair, but you’re an African in America and you know that collectively, hair is much much more than just hair to us. Our manes and minds have been pillaged for centuries by e v e r y o n e, including us! And here you are, perpetuating our enslavement and stifling our new growth (pun intended). Dick, you should be applauding the Black woman who chooses the natural route; although it may appear so, thanks to you/society/slavery/lack of support/Black codes/non-African hair promotion + fetishization/whitewashing/hair care aisles/self-loathing negroes/lack of resources/european beauty standards, it’s not always easy to let our natural selves be.
You chose one of the brave ones as a wife, you lucky Dick! You are so fortunate to have a smart, loving Black woman at your side who actually prefers to embrace her natural beauty in a world that condemns + mocks her entire being. Our crowns are a beautiful spectrum of curl patterns and textures and expressions that no other people can claim and we should be celebrating that, Dick. I know how divisive some pro-natural naturalistas can be and that’s not why I’m here. We’re all at different stages with different ideals and I can only pray that all African men and women see the power, strength + beauty in our natural selves. It’s a struggle to dismiss what we’ve been indoctrinated to define as beautiful. No fault of ours, but if we see someone trying to make that shift, let’s just back them for being courageous.
P.S. Shout out to Josie who rocked her natural out for the first time! Whoop! That’s a small step to giant! Keep inspiring 😉
photo © rachelstewartjewelry.com