• Janet Sibanda

Queen, Own Your Crown!

The most vivid memory I carry of my mother is that of the dreaded ‘Hair Day’. Every time she called me on that fateful day, I’d rue the day of my birth! Why did it have to be the way it was; a day of pain, suffering, tears and countless sleepless nights to follow! I recall sitting at her feet, literally almost floating in midair, trying desperately not to wet myself. There was no mercy in her tone as she said, ‘shamwari, mucheno unorwadza’-simply put, beauty = pain, or beauty has a price. At the age of 6 or 7, those words would bounce around in my head, as I wondered, ‘am I not already beautiful? I never asked for this, so why am I going through it?’

I dared not repeat those words to my mommy, because they would soon find their way back into my head through her wildly flailing hands. Not forgetting the added baggage of her own views about my lack of gratitude and whinny attitude. My hair would be straightened with hot combs and relaxers, cornrowed and all sorts of styles. It all hurt. Strangely enough, once the painful ritual was over, I would go and look in the mirror and marvel at how lovely I looked. Slowly, I started to believe, beauty could only be achieved through equal measures of pain. Sadly, my views about beauty were shaped into the thinking that, beauty had to be a step away from the original. You could not be called beautiful as you were; you have to be processed a little more, then you become beautiful.

Skip a few decades, I have my own daughter and guess what? I find myself sitting where my mom used to be, and her sitting where I used to sit, going through the same motions as I did so many years ago. How did I find myself here? The very place that evoked fear and sorrow, is where I have squarely placed my own daughter. In all fairness though, it took us a while to get to that place. For starters, we used to tie cute little scrunchies to little baby hair, which I refused to cut. Then as the hair grew and it's texture changed from fluffy strands to thicker, firmer locks, so did the hairstyles.

In the beginning, her hair was easier to do straight after a bath while it was still wet. However, because the hair was so voluminous, it dried out faster and the process took more and more time to complete. Understandably, the poor child would make frequent toilet trips, as did I, and would also be drawn to the television, as was I. So, an hour and a half long process would take us at least 3 hours, if not more. I will not lie; it was and still is painful for both of us.

Eventually, I figured for her and my own sanity, it would be better to outsource this sordid task, and have ‘professionals’ do it instead. In the beginning it looked like my hairdresser at the time ticked some of the boxes; while some of her other practices left a lot to be desired. I soon learnt that, though, there were less tears than at home and the hairdo process was a lot faster, the poor child was subjected to a lot of harsh combing, whilst being showered with ‘apologies’ to appease her little tortured soul. As if the ‘Sorry’ was meant to have a placebo effect that would dull her pain. I also couldn’t understand the amount of heat she was subjected to, from blow dyers to steaming hot tongs. We were both still quite miserable from this routine Hair Day ordeal. On several occasions I offered a haircut, to which she adamantly refused.

It got worse, when the hairdresser started to comment about straightening/relaxing her hair. ‘She has tough, kinky hair; maybe we can relax it, so it’s easier to comb and manage’ or ‘natural hair is not the best option for babies! It’s better to relax it, then you can always wash it with Coke, to make it natural again’.

I couldn’t believe it! Why all the negativity around keeping hair natural. Having gone full circle from natural to processed, then natural again, I felt that the best option for my child was keeping her beautiful natural hair. Let’s not forget what led me to my current natural position; burning my scalp with relaxers, hair loss/ breakages,crazy maintenance expenses associated with processed hair and excessive postpartum hair loss. I couldn’t do it anymore for myself, and certainly was not going to put my baby through that. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Then came the cross roads when I had an 'afro' overlapping my ears, as my husband put it, and no plan or knowledge as to how I could tame my own locks. ‘Babe?’, he asked,

‘what’s the plan with your hair, it’s overflowing from your ears?’. I simply responded, ‘It’s done honey, it is exactly how I want it to be.’ Stumped, the poor man rested his case as I beamed my breath-taking smile and carried on about my business. Little did he know (well now he does), I had inner turmoil for both myself and our child. We needed a solution for our hair and fast. A solution that embraced our natural hair in all it’s splendor, a solution, that did not involve so much pain and lastly, a solution that retained, if not enhanced the integrity of our natural locks. A look that accentuated our personalities, celebrated our ethnicity and owned it’s expression; casually and professionally.

After a few consultations with friends (Natalie, you're the best) I trusted, I was referred to Afrokink. The name itself gave me some sense of comfort, trust and hope. So, I set off on my quest to find the epicenter of Afro hair knowledge and wisdom. On my first visit, I noted all the Hairdressers rocked natural hair styled in one way or the other. The girls didn’t immediately feel my all too short hair, and thought I needed to be a little more patient with my growth journey.

Skip a year later, having had about 2 cm of hair on my first visit, my hair now reaches my chin and I wear an enviable thick and rich mane. People often ask me where I get my hair done and how I get that look, or which braid I used. My hairline also made an amazing recovery. Our daughter, who already had long hair, now has longer healthier locks. She loves her natural look and wears it with confidence. She has the freedom to pick the styles she feels would suite her well, and no longer fears Hair Day. Nyasha; we love your wonderful natural hands and are super grateful for you.

If I am to ask myself as a mom, have found the balance that makes both my child and I happy? I respond with a resounding yes. I have settled in these realizations,

  • You must be clear about your hair goals. Make a decision and stick to it. You set the tone.

  • Seek professional advice. We are all different and need to understand our unique hair types. The choices you make today, will catch up in the future, therefore choose wisely, especially for your child.

  • Ask questions about the pro and cons of suggested treatments on hair. Learn basic skills that enable you have control over your own hair care. After all, it is your / your child’s heads.

  • Spare no expense for the health and integrity of your hair. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself, especially when all everyone else has gone and all you have is you.

  • Ultimately, it’s a personal choice! For both mom, or daughter!

I want my daughter to be able to make her own hair decisions when she is level headed, having explored all the available options. I want her choice to be influenced by her preferences, not subtle messaging about what is and is not acceptable. I want her to walk with her head held high whatever her decision. I want her to be proudly and confidently, the product SHE chooses to be. I want her to know, she is beautiful first, the rest are options and not the other way round..

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