Adventures in Black Hair Philosophy

I’ve never been much of a hair person. I mean, I AM a girl and admittedly as vain as any other girl might be, but I have never had the patience to tend to overly dramatic or exacting hairdos. Until I was 16, my mother did my hair for me every Sunday afternoon. I would unloose the tiny corkscrews she’d neatly crafted the week before, wash my hair, and sit between between her legs with a fine toothed comb and tub of grease in hand, preparing for her to start the cycle all over again.

After my form 5 graduation my mother informed me that she would no longer be doing my hair for me. Frankly, I was upset. Firstly, this was our ritual. I was her only daughter and this was something that we shared. Secondly, if she wasn’t going to do it who would? CERTAINLY not me! The solution was that I would relax my hair. This however was not particularly something that I wanted to do. The idea of beating my hair to death with toxic chemicals had never really appealed to me, but it was an answer to my laziness.

As a direct result of my impatience for time consuming activities, my hair mostly remained in tightly pulled back ponytails and buns for three years. Through the rest of high school and into my freshman year at BU, my hair lay bored on top of my head, with the occasional foray into curls whenever I remembered that I owned a curling iron. My hair remained relaxed until the summer I turned 19.

When I got home, I cut all it off.

I HATED it at first. I’d never even had a haircut before, and now I was virtually bald. I thought I looked like a boy and I actually hid in my room for a week. (Not that this was difficult. I was on vacation and my car was out of commission at the time. I didn’t really have to leave the house.) But as drastic a decision as it might seem, there was actually a method to my madness.

Man In Dreadlocks: Photo Courtesy Bajan WordPress

I had decided that I wanted to grow dreadlocks. The long tight spirals of cultivated locks captivated me, and were similar to the style I had had when I was wearing my hair naturally. Even though dreadlocks sometimes attract negative stereotypes, (indicated by the ‘doggy-doo-doo’ faces I get when I tell people of my plans) it’s something that I’m willing to deal with, because I honestly believe that it is important for me to be proud to wear my hair in its natural context.

I never did get around to locking my hair that summer though, and I settled on a dye job in the end, (a blonde dye, which turned brown and bleached red in the sun….) and for the past year I have been wearing my hair in an afro. I have grown accustomed to the kinky texture of my hair and am happily reacquainted with the tiny curls atop my head. I have actually spent a considerable amount of time kicking myself for ever relaxing my hair in the first place. There is nothing more fun to do than twirl already tight curls when you are bored.

But now it’s the last week of classes and I’m leaving BU in nine days to go back home to Trinidad. Dreadlocks are the first thing on my agenda and I can’t wait. Soon I’ll be joining the ranks of Lisa Bonet and Lauryn Hill, but I will never forget my year long foray into embracing and accepting my natural hair with Janelle Monae and Shingai Shoniwa by rocking an afro.

Cate Young

Cate Young (COM '12) is a fashion writer for the Quad. She also writes a weekly trend report for CollegeFashionista, as well as her own blog of personal projects on fashion photography. She also recently began contributing to the newly launched Outlish Magazine. Cate majors in Photojournalism with a minor in Spanish and hopes to become a fashion photographer.

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