Monday, February 28, 2011

Hair contortions

I was a teenager in the era of Angela Davis. Believe you me, my high school classmates had some impressive "natural" afros. Here are two friends of mine from the good old days.

We rarely see this style now -- fashion trends for African Americans and Caucasians still lean heavily toward straightened hair. Even people with straight hair iron it, for that polished, no-frizz look.

But I don't feel entirely comfortable spouting views about Afro-textured hair, in part because I agree with Cindy Barnes-Thomas who says:
With all the buzz about Chris Rock’s new documentary, Good Hair, and Tyra Banks showing us her real hair, I couldn’t help but chime in with my two cents on the topic. Never before have Black women and their hair been so widely discussed and I‘m not sure how I feel about that. 

Chris Rock promoted his film on The View this morning and Barbara Walters was convinced that Black women get relaxers and wear weaves and/or wigs to be white.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone else should have a say about a Black woman’s hair because that is a very personal struggle.
(for full text of Barnes-Thomas's blog, with youtube clips, click here.)

Flashback to the summer of 1970. At the community swimming pool, the day is hot and humid, the water refreshingly cold. I go in the water with my friend Pam, and within seconds I'm diving, scouring the aqua pool bottom until my belly scrapes, resurfacing dolphin-like, diving back below. But Pam doesn't join me. We're in water about four feet deep, so I emerge to look around for her. My friend has her neck pushed up high out of the water, and is standing on tiptoe besides.

"Dive down with me," I say.

"I can't."

"Why not?"

Pam gazes at me hard, like she's not sure how much to reveal. "It's fine for you to dunk your head all you want -- if I do, my hair will puff out like a brillo pad."

I feel bad and after that, I keep my head above the water, too. In a short time we climb back out and sit lady-like on our towels, watching the rest of the kids splash and play.