My grandmother is oldschool. She was born in the 1930s and has a mock heart attack every time I come over for some bakes and caloloo. She is quick to wag a finger at my free, flying spirally hair and give me a lecture that I must “contain my unruly hair” and “look presentable. You’re a professional now”.
I always smile politely and nod. There is no convincing Gran my natural hair makes me happy, especially when it’s free from any confines. Haven’t we been confined enough? Confined to hot irons and weaves stifling all this beautiful, luscious hair? I know Gran grew up in a different era and finds natural hair that isn’t shiny and sleekly held back in place by gel very sloppy and unkempt.
I wish she knew that when the wind blows through my curls, I feel so alive and free. When the sun warms on my head, I can smell the release of the rosemary and jojoba oils I had lovingly caressed into my scalp that morning. When I catch a glimpse of myself in a car window or a lobby mirror, I see my boundless, exuberant hair amplifying my boundless, exuberant smile. My hair is a reflection of me. It is natural, defiant, soft, strong, willful, fun and unapologetically, undeniably African. Yes, for work I do wear my hair up as creatively as I can (I work in a hospital and I wouldn’t want to drag home specks of flying blood and God knows what else in my hair anyway!) but when I’m done, I shake it free and go on my merry way. I am not defined by my hair. It’s my hair and my rules, and I choose to be empowered by it’s essence of freedom.