Since I was a little girl, Sundays were my hair days. Starting at the age of four, I have shared locs with the many members of my extended family- from my 70 year old step-grandmother to my 27 year old uncle. My hair also created a guaranteed moment of connection between my mother and me each week: Sunday nights entailed sitting cross-legged on the floor, the sweet smell of hair oil filling the air, with an itch on my scalp persisting as my locs twisted in my mom’s slender fingers.
I knew that the twists or cornrows would ensure a restless sleep that night; my pillow was never soft enough to overcome the feeling of hair clips poking my head, or the tightness of fresh cornrows. Though I hated sitting cross-legged on the floor as a child, I grew to miss these moments of togetherness as I grew older. My Sunday hair ritual has changed as I grew into a tween and eventually a teenager, but it has undoubtedly remained a constant presence in my life.
Twist-outs were my first venture into styling my hair on my own, a form of independence I had not previously known. Surprisingly, many people thought that my hair was naturally curled in smooth ringlets. In reality, if I left my hair untwisted, my locs would knit together at the root. Twist-outs are a three step process: washing, moisturizing, twisting. Nothing can teach patience like carving out three hours every Sunday morning to transform each loc into a tiny twist in preparation for the next week’s events. This style was a staple of my late middle school years, and I brought it with me to high school.
When I look back at old pictures, I can almost always pinpoint when it was because of the constantly changing hairstyles. Though locs are widely considered a permanent hairstyle, I am determined to change my look as often as I can. Locs can be a difficult hairstyle to live with because of the stigma they carry. I have memories of being asked by white classmates if I ever washed my hair, or if it was dirty. What I had initially seen as beautiful turned unkempt in the eyes of others, and I began to wish for normal hair (whatever that means) so that I could fit in with the other girls. I had to learn how to appreciate my hair in different styles, while also accepting it in its natural state.
Today, my hair ritual looks much different than it did for me as a child, but it serves the same purpose. My ritual, and my relationship to my hair, changed significantly in my sophomore year when I discovered how to do box braids. The value my family placed on embracing natural hair meant I had to look somewhere else to learn a protective style. For the first time, I searched through the natural hair communities of YouTube and Twitter. In my pursuit for hair advice, I had found a space where my identity felt validated, where I could find confidence in my long-internalized insecurities– the coily texture of my hair, the darkness of my skin, and the shape of my nose. Just as Sunday hair nights brought me closer to my mom, learning hair techniques online helped bring me closer to my identity as a Black woman.
There are still moments where my hair makes me cry in frustration, when I am overcome with envy of people with looser curl patterns and more socially acceptable hair (again, whatever that means). But I work each day to remind myself of the intrinsic beauty of Black hair, the power and togetherness brought by years of being told that our hair needed to be changed. Wearing Black hair unapologetically feels like a symbol of strength. My locs dismiss stereotypes by telling the world that girls with locs can be intelligent, girls with locs can be kind, and girls with locs are beautiful.
My hair rituals were born on the carpeted floor of my mother’s bedroom each Sunday, but I know that they will continue to evolve wherever I go and whoever I become. I, like my mother and grandmother, am a woman with locs, and I am proud to be one.
Hey all! This is a really different article than something I’d usually write– much less facts-based and more in a creative writing style. I’ve been struggling with writer’s block for quite a while now, and hoped that publishing something, even if it was super different than my usual stuff, would help me get back on track. Thanks for reading!