I have a love-hate relationship with my hair. I love having hair on my head. Yet I’m never satisfied with it. It’s very fine (versus coarse), but I’ve always had a lot of it. Now that I’m losing quite a bit of it … I’m desperately trying to keep it… and even, perhaps, coax a little back. Too much or too little, there is a fair amount of work required to shape and tease and persuade it into a configuration that accentuates my face, and present a visage of natural ease and confidence.
I’m not alone.
Every culture across the globe and throughout time has its own standard of beauty where hair style is concerned. Particularly, as pertains women’s. But I’ve never had to reckon with mine as honestly, candidly, as now that I have only one working arm—the non-dominant one, at that. Because every woman knows there’s not much you can do with your hair one-handed.
I have definitely longed for wavy or curly or any kind of hair that has even an ounce of body to it. But I don’t think that I ever really wanted a different type of hair altogether. Until now.
I just finished reading Yasmin Angoe’s, Her Name is Knight, an exquisite, thrilling, gut-wrenching tale about embodied Black womanness at the hands of Jealous Power-Mongering and Commerce. The story is beautifully told, and there are so many themes brilliantly explored that are super important to engage. But I’m doing this one-handed and with a sub par voice-to-text platform that I’ll only highlight one small piece. Still, it had me sobbing, so, seems significant to speak about.
It is not trivial the number of times, the protagonist, Nina, refers to her hair. Her Ghanaian, black, curly tresses in all its glory. Never touch another Black woman’s hair. A Black woman’s hair is her crown and superpower. Learning to care for her hair is communal, ritual, intimate, sacred. And Angoe writes a scene wherein the 36-year-old Nina consoles a 14-year-old fresh from a race-fueled assault of gum to the hair. Both woman and girl who lost their moms in their youth, Nina recalls the hours at her mother’s lap while having her hair softened and combed and woven into a tapestry of her splendor. So when Nina does the same for young Georgia, the profundity of the act is exquisite and redemptive beyond words. The culture-specific intimacy describe an experience I can never know. And deeply wish I could. Yet I am acutely grateful for the experience of entering such a scene at the pen of Yasmin Angoe.
For now, I am content to allow members of my family to put my hair up in whatever manner that each is able. None are adept, and the result is never quite what I’d do, but each is glad to help. And the pride Howie has at the do he’s (eventually) created is one of the most beautiful exchanges we’ve had in our nearly three decades together. So tentative and unsure—like he’s never tied a rubber band around a bag or roll of paper before—I delight, if only a moment, in the gift of being temporarily single-arm-abled.
I wouldn’t look quite right with any other kind of hair. And there may come a time when I will have little, or none at all. But, it feels rather beautiful at the moment. And, when I regain use of my other arm, I kinda want to get my hands into one of my kids’ head of hair and spend some sacred time in hairdo creation.