When I was a little girl with a full head of natural hair, my mum really struggled taming it. I remember wash days being so painful, her using combs and brushes to dentangle my dry hair (bless her she was relaxed so she didn’t know any better). My hair was always blow dried and greased with blue magic. As a child, I always desired either straight or loosely curled hair. I think that was mainly because of the lack of representation there was on television and in films of black girls with kinky coily hair. My mum often put my hair in single strand twists, or cornrows to wear to school. Sometimes in school, the other children would refer to my plaits as ‘doo doo plaits’ (aka poo plaits).
So around age 9 I begged my mum to texturiser my hair, in a desire to have loosely curled hair like the girls on the boxes. She gave in and bought the perm, I remember being in the bathroom and her putting on the plastic gloves that come in the box, she rubbed the texturiser all on my hair and we left it on for 20 mins. I felt no burning sensation and no itch, it was weird. My mum washed it all out and to our surprise my hair was still natural. She looked in the box again and realized she’d forgotten to mix the actual chemical which activates the texturiser in the mixture! So that’s why my hair never processed!
A few weeks later, we bought another box and this time it worked. I didn’t understand why my hair hadn’t turned out curly, it was just a weird limply straight texture. It wasn’t what I wanted it to look like, it definitely didn’t look like the girls hair on the box. (I played myself). So when my mum turned around a few weeks later and said to me its time re do my texturiser, I was so confused. I thought texturisers were permanent? meaning I’d only need to do it one time and then my hair would be like this forever? (obviously I wasn’t all that educated about relaxers/perms, so at my young age I didn’t really know to the full extent what I’d got myself into).
My texturised hair was very thick but brittle, I didn’t know how to manage it or what to do with so I started to wear braids. Every 2-3 weeks I’d go to a different hair salon for them to do single plaits for me. As the years went on my hair line started to suffer, the braids were too tight and it was slowly but surely picking out my edges. I had a small bald spot on the right side of my head due to the tight braids I was putting in. At this time I’d just started high school and all the girls in my class wore their natural hair out in high puffs or cute ponytails.
I stopped wearing braids and began to style my own hair, however because of the damage the braids had done to my edges and hairline I got bullied in school for it. I remember one boy in my year group laughing at me when he looked at my hair, he came up to me and said you need to use African pride and joy on your edges.
I didn’t understand.
When I walked into the canteen and saw my friends look at me and then run into the bathroom laughing, they came back out and said it wasn’t me they’d found funny. ( I knew that was a lie, but I just accepted it as the truth). Around age 13, my edges had grown back (thank god) but I still didn’t like my hair. So my mum introduced me to the curly perm aka Jheri Curl. I had my hair in that style for 3 years, it grew my hair to Arm Pit Length, I’d always get compliments on my hair. How pretty it was, how long it was, how curly it was. The only thing I didn’t like about the curly perm, was how greasy I’d have to keep my hair. Spraying it everyday with a sticky moisturizer so that the curls always popped. When it was humid out my hair would frizz up into a massage afro, id have to drench my hair with water in the bathroom every chance I got. This was enough motivation for me to stop curly perming my hair.