I am here for Sanaa Lathan and her new movie Nappily ever after! I watched it last night and it gave me so much life!! Not only because she makes me proud to be a black woman, still looking fine as hell at 47, but also the story was me! It was me and probably a million other black women out there who have ever felt like they were being held hostage by their hair! Let me tell ya’ll a story.
I grew up in Zimbabwe and that means 2 things in this context. It is quite common to have a buzzcut as a kid and through all of school and I specifically went to schools that did not allow long hair. Secondly, southern African women are about the buzz cut! In addition to growing up where everybody looked like me, at an early age I did not care as much for long hair, in contrast to my black friends in America who grew up already under the influence of impossible eurocentric beauty standards. I was also quite the tomboy and had less time to worry about these things when I could be arguing or making bets about soccer.
I then stepped into the hair world post high school and was eager to also have long beautiful hair. I mostly had it in the form of extensions/braids, which after moving to America, if folks were not black they could not tell the difference. I used to let my white classmates just wonder how I grew my hair overnight after a good braiding session at that African place in the south side of Chicago! But man that $200 price tag was a lot! The first time I cut my hair in college was because I could not afford it on my student budget. I then started growing it again and coming into a different phase of my life in America, that I still call coming into my blackness.
The biggest trigger for this change was leaving the cocoon of a big and diverse city like Chicago and stepping into less diverse parts of America. Places where you can have experiences such as walking into a store and the whole make up aisle ( not just one brand), did not have my skin tone at all. Places where my dating pool was mostly non- black and had way less diverse views of the world than me and I felt like a weirdo. Moreso, I got nothing from it but trust issues and body dysmorphia and I constantly felt like I was being pitted against other women of other ethnicities. It was a time when I also aged past 25 and the huge patriarchal expectation of having a partner made me feel like a huge disappointment to my African parents. As if that was not enough pressure, the love of my life married someone who looked nothing like me (ethnically too). It was also when black America had decided they are done and the Black Lives Matter movement was born! It also turned into the time the American election got its most ugly in years and my whole identity, of being black, a woman and an immigrant was under attack.
I looked at myself in the mirror one summer afternoon after my graduation and I realized I did not like the woman I saw. I was about to embark on my post graduate journey in corporate America and I did not feel like she was ready for it. She was insecure AF, pessimistic about the future and a terrible friend. Also I was not enjoying my summer at all, because black hair won’t let you be great in humidity or by the pool. I decided it was time to change that. I called up 3 friends to confirm my decision, One did not pick up, another was on her way ( she did not make it to stop me) , and the last was like,”So if you do this, you know, now we gotta make sure your face is on point right?”
Fast forward to 2 years after the big chop, I live and thrive!
Cutting my hair was symbolic in may ways for what I wanted from life. The biggest reason I did it was to get away from all the toxic misogyny and racism that I felt I was losing my identity in. Most of all I wanted to redefine what being beautiful means to me as a black woman. But with cutting my hair I also cut many toxic relationships, “friends” and men alike, and I focused my energy on myself and the people I cared about the most , who also cared about me ❤️❤️! I also let into my life some amazing people, mostly women, who give me so much life everyday and I am thankful for them and how they have been there for me! There is so much power in standing in your personal truth and something that looks to the rest of the world as a simple hair cut, was what I needed to take stock of my life.
My last word on this is something I mentioned in my insta and whatsapp story about this phenomenon. I gained a lot of things from cutting my hair, including, more sleep and more money ( again RIP to my undergraduate budget! ). However an interesting outcomes of this is how much I also elicit a lot of unsolicited, “thats so brave of you,” and “You are not like other women.” commentary. I am not here for the patriarchal bullshit that sets women up against each other for no reason. I made my choices for me and that does not make me better than other women. I respect and love all my black sisters, rocking whatever the fuck hair they want. All I ask is to check yourself if you are in a healthy relationship with yourself and it, and if you find yourself doubtful, question it, like I did mine!
Thrive on sisters!