The (Absurd) Rebelliousness of Short Hair as a Black Woman
I’m not proud of this, but I remember — as a young girl — running around the house with a pair of stockings on my head, pretending I had long hair. As a young Black girl, steeped in Eurocentric beauty standards, I equated beauty with long, light-weight, straight hair. And in my childish mind, stockings were the easiest path to beauty. Thankfully, my fascination with long hair was (mostly) short-lived. The older I got, the more I understood and aligned with the beauty in afrocentricity. I developed an intrinsic, defining appreciation for deep, dark skin and kinky, coily, gravity-defying hair. Way back in middle school, I fell in love with Blackness and haven’t faltered. When all the other Black girls had a thing for light-skinned boys, I was breathlessly captivated by the blackest boy in the building.
Was this an unspoken, covert (and therefore acceptable) form of cultural assimilation?
This afrocentric affinity naturally led me to become a founding participant in what eventually became “the natural hair movement.” For about a decade, I sported a bevy of glorious natural styles from a style I affectionately coined “lady lumps” to braid-outs, twist-outs, high (and low) buns — all of it. I was practically in heaven until the skull-crushing burden of wash days — the detangling process in particular — finally did me in. Since my strands so desperately wanted to join and entangle together, who was I to stop them? My follicles were basically begging to be locked, so finally, in 2013, I allowed them to do just that. And at the time, it felt like one of the best decisions of my life. I was no longer bound by the uphill battle that was detangling my exceptionally coarse hair. My locs wordlessly demonstrated my devotion to Blackness and eventually… (this part is difficult to admit):
I finally had long hair.
My childhood dream of having long hair was realized, at last. And on some level, I felt… more acceptable, more desirable. All at once, I was more in line with the American standard of beauty, while simultaneously honoring my ancestry. It felt like the perfect crime. And it gave me a certain brand of confidence that I secretly abhorred. This little secret of mine took root. And in the tiniest way…