Thursday, April 3, 2008
"Doo Doo Braids" Essay
“For the hair that’s smooth, silky, and all out lovely. It’s time.” These words were taken from a popular American magazine promoting a hair care system. Last year I would turn the pages of the magazine without even noticing that advertisement, but the company’s slogan has filled me with a deep sadness since I have become more insightful about my culture.
The beauty and texture of someone’s hair is a symbol that holds profound meaning in American culture. Growing up in a society that defines beauty through mainstream media, I experienced an inner conflict with my naturally kinky, nappy, curly hair. My natural characteristics did not fit with society’s concept of beauty.
Unfortunately, to resolve the conflict, I gave into using harsh man made chemicals on my hair.
Since grade school, I was embarrassed about my hair. There were few things that
I could do with it; the Afro, cornrows, and the puff. These were not the ideal “beautiful.”
I did not resemble the ideal American beauty. I became ashamed of myself wishing to look like the powerful women portrayed in the media. With so much need, I began asking my mother for a hair-relaxer to straighten my hair like all the other girls around me. I was content when the day finally came thinking that I would raise my self-confidence; I was wrong.
When my hair became straightened and smooth my classmates both Caucasian and African American smiled at its beauty. This transformation marked a rite of passage into the adult world newly straightened hair conveyed a standard of beauty that was socially acceptable. However, maintaining my hair was burdensome. It was not the same as maintaining the natural hair that I had all throughout my life, the hair I was born with.
The satisfaction of keeping up with my high maintenance hair was no longer fulfilling because it kept me away from enjoying the simple pleasures of life. At the end of my junior year I was exploring who I was and I read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The main character, Pecola Breedlove, is an African American child who longs for blue eyes because she is ashamed of her African features. I was angry that society had conditioned her to feel shameful about her culture. In retrospect, I began to realize that I was following Pecola’s path in my reluctance to embrace the black culture. I decided to get rid of the relaxer that I had used in my hair and began growing my natural hair out.
Today the head that I hold high represents the pride in my African culture and my self-confidence a young Haitian American woman. An advertisement no longer defines my perception of beauty or me.