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Grooming With Heather: Wear your hair the way you want

“As a young girl I would be excited to have long braids done as it meant for a while I was able to place my hair behind my ears, it blew in the wind and I could flick my hair back in a “go back silly hair” move.

 

I found it very unfair that Caucasian and Asian little girls did not have to go through what us African little girls went through every Sunday evening.  Our mothers would undo our hair, wash and then straighten it with a hot comb so it would be “easier” to comb before she plaited it. Mums would take their daughters, sit them between their legs and begin the plaiting process. I have what we call “hard mashona type” hair. So each time mum combed my hair I would raise my bottoms off the ground to follow the comb because the comb did not just slide out of my hair like it did with my Caucasian counterparts.  I despised Sunday evenings. I would try as hard as I could to maintain my hairstyle for at least two weeks so I could have one torture free Sunday but alas, Mummy always wanted my hair to look impeccable for the coming week.

Holidays meant I could get my hair braided with extensions so it was only one torturous sitting for the entire vacation then schools would reopen and the torture would resume. Then we discovered the relaxers. What joy! Now the comb could slide out of my hair and having my hair done was not as torturous as before. It was bearable this time.

A few weeks ago I was invited by the American Embassy to moderate a discussion around Chris Rock’s movie-documentary on Good Hair. Not only was it entertaining but it was also enlightening to see what lengths African-American women would go to in order to have “good hair”. It is common ideology that straight hair is good hair and it also means you are beautiful whilst on the other hand natural hair is considered unkempt or unprofessional. Here in Zimbabwe, dreadlocks are not permitted in schools because they are seen as scruffy. Some women believe that women straighten their hair and add weaves to it because we despise our natural hair and we want to emulate Caucasians with their long, flowing hair.

 

That may be so for a good number of women but for others I believe straight hair is a lot easier to work with. Natural can be a lot of work especially if you have to comb it everyday. It is a totally different story if you have dreadlocks or you choose to wear it in an afro which does not need so much combing. I also think some women, like me, do not know how to manage natural hair so it is not always the case of despising it. In the documentary some American teenage girls were asked on their views on natural hair and they thought it was beautiful but once you were working it looked unprofessional and it makes a person with natural hair difficult to take seriously.

Good hair is subjective to each person. To each her own, we can only hope that you choose well. The African-American hair industry contributed $9 billion in 2009. That is how seriously the African-American woman takes her hair.  Some women who could not afford to pay a once off for their hair negotiate terms with their hairdressers to pay in instalments. I wonder how many of them have any investments on the money market.  In a later article I will present my findings concerning the Zimbabwean woman and how much she is prepared to spend on her hair as well as the Zimbabwean man’s opinion on how much we  spend on our hair.

It is not only the African woman that wants good hair; even the Caucasian woman wants good hair. They have hair extensions as well for extra length and extra volume, some of the reasons the African woman also adds extensions. The ones with hair that is too curly sometimes chemically straighten their hair because they are tired of hair that frizzes all the time. Some chemically curl their hair too.

As an African woman though I believe we are blessed with a greater variety of hairstyles. In high school I had a British teacher who said she had a difficult time remembering the African girls because our hairstyles changed so frequently. It could be in an Afro today, cornrows tomorrow, straight weave next week and curly braids the next month.

I am of the opinion that beauty comes from within so do whatever makes you feel beautiful. Weave it, braid it, lock it, straighten, do not straighten, whatever makes you feel good, go for it.

What are your views on beauty and hair? Natural or straight? How much is too much to pay for hair?

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