Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Long & Straight of It: My Story- Pt. 1

Me at 3- a super star with a fro.


A Trip to Ms. Julia's Beauty Shop,
Any Given Saturday, 1991
By Alisha De Freitas

My soft kinky, thick hair
is unbraided and washed
then placed
under a hood of
heat

will also come from the hand-held
blow dryer
as it fights to
straighten

my hair
make it flow like Barbie's
long, perfect
beautiful
shiny

for the thick, green grease
spread from my roots
to the end of my ponytail
that swings
happily

i smile, gazing into the mirror
then at my mom
And ask,
"Do i look pretty? Do i look
right?"

As a little girl, I was very much concerned about looking right. I knew which kind of dresses I liked (princess-like), which kind of shoes I wanted (patent leather mary janes) and most importantly, how I wanted my hair- long and straight. Long before I heard the term "good hair", I had unconsciously made that category in my mind. My Barbie had good hair (at least at first, because after a while, Barbie, Skipper & Stacy all had unbrushable, tangled, blond naps), while I had... a poof.

My mommy managed my incredibly thick bush of hair well. She learned quickly to start combing through it while it was wet after washing it and which conditioners kept it smooth best. Thankfully, I wasn't tenderheaded, so I actually enjoyed getting my hair done (my sister on the other hand, not so much).

I was happy with my ballerina bun and loved the two french braids Mom would put in my hair. It wasn't Barbie good, but I liked it. Plus, I did have long hair, so it was pretty good hair. Things were fine- until I was introduced to the hot comb at Ms. Julia's. At the age of 9, I made the decision my hair must remain straight... at all costs. Sad to say, that even now, at 27, I kind of feel the same way.

The above poem tells the story. The endless Saturdays spent getting the kinks burned out of my hair. I also got my scalp burned by that darn comb. And as Ms. Julia got older, my neck and ears, too. I felt jealous of my mom. Her hair was more Barbie-like, more, ahem, right. She's mixed race, and has more curls than kinks, unlike me. She could just get her hair washed and rolled, sit under the dryer, and like magic, her hair was done. As I grew up, I felt like an epic battle had to be waged to get my hair straight. Ms. Julia would crow on about how I had "good hair" (I suppose this is where I picked it up), but I was war-torn and angry. I did not believe it. If it was so "good", why did it turn into a wavy poof with a few drops of water? But the girls at school said it, too. So did my cousins. Apparently, my long, healthy hair made it good, even though it required work to get it straight.

By the time I was in high school, I accepted that I had good hair. After all, I reasoned, it stayed straight for two weeks from the hot comb. I didn't have a relaxer. And it held curls. I could happily walk around with a head full of shirley temple curls for days without a spritz of hair spray. Yes, it was good- but I was not happy. Deep down, Barbie's silky mane still haunted me. I could get the right clothes (baby doll tops- hey it was the 90's), and shoes (classic converse- I still rock these), but still, my hair... My hair never was... whi...excuse me, right.

(To be continued)

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