Here we are again, another Wednesday and more life having been lived. About two years ago, in the midst of a rather ugly breakup, I chopped off all my hair. My scalp was clean, and I began writing this blog. Maybe it’s only fitting that I continue to diagram the progression of my hair love journey. I loc’d my hair/allowed my hair to freely form a little more than a year ago. My current partner at the time parted my scalp and I started to discover more of just what my scalp does when I don’t police it’s movements and whereabouts. It’s been a rough journey. I’m learning to love my scalp, my hair, my self. I wrote a love letter to my scalp last week and then something funny happened.
I went to visit the eldest living elder in my family, my Great Aunt Cat, whose name I hold as my own. Aunt Cat is 90 years old, still precocious and silly with life inside of her small brown body despite her small stature. I cozied up in her warm house while we talked and she suddenly rose. “Aunt Cat, where you goin?” I said. “Stay right there, baby. I’ll be back.” Of course, I still do what my elders tell me and I sat perplexed but still glued to the couch. A few minutes later, I heard the tell-tale sign of her soft slippers against the floor as she shuffled back into the living room. In her small bony hands were a comb and hair grease. “You wanna grease my scalp.” She said it as a statement and not a question. “Yes, ma’am.” We chuckled together as she sat down in front of me on a folding chair. I carefully parted her hair to expose her scalp, her healthy and silvery hair bended to my will easily. It was almost like touching the scalp of a baby as she sighed “Mmm, that feels good. You got good hands like my sister had”. My grandmother, her older sister died years before I was born, but she always seems to remind me how much I remind her of my late grandmother despite never knowing her spirit in this plane. We chuckled together and I finished greasing and gently combed and massaged her scalp. In this act, I was reminded of my own childhood, how good it feels to still have my mothers hands in my scalp once in a while and how my mom is always having me come over to dye and braid her locs to this day.
Hair is our tradition, our glory and I deserve to learn how to love mine, just as you brown and black girls and womxn do yours.
Love Letter to My Scalp
I hear she had lots of it
That it was inky black and she
Was one of the first to let it grow
That in the 30s it was always perfect
Never moving in its tight curls and waves
That when she had cancer and it fell out
But I didn’t know why.
No one told me.
My Great Aunt
She sat in front of me
Bones weary, old and weak
I greased her scalp and she was reminded
Back to a time when she was a little girl
With big bushy hair and she would try to sit still
Really she would but never could
And some woman exclaimed as she played outside
“OH WEE” Look at all that kinky hair
And a perm was all that mattered forever more
I brushed her hair. It was silky smooth and I was obsessed. It was long and flowing, what I felt mine would never be.
It moved through the brush, not a snag in sight.
It was my mothers’ hair.
I watched her perm it for years but somehow prize my natural
It flowed down her back even when she stopped perming it. It cascaded in beautiful brown curls
It went from a beautiful fluff of curls to a rainfall
I loved it
I wonder if she did/does/do/will/won’t
The kink from my daddy and curls from my momma
The Five Different textures that made my hair “wild” and “untameable” but nowhere near mixed and silky
That hair that “Grew like bad weed”
Though long and thick and healthy
That put your fingers in and marvel at the softness
That died blonde by the sun and little brown girl laughter and ribbons
I had my beads and my bobos, and my long braided hair would swing and clinck and clang and all the white little girls would say “I want Cathy’s hair!”,
but they couldn’t have it
Moments were marked in performances where you were never good enough, never straight enough.
The bun that just didn’t stay and frizz that wouldn’t quit and baby hair never laid enough for any of the Gods
And I hated you but would never perm you.
I loved versatility too much
I still do.
The hair dyes
The many colors
The loads of fake hair
The heat damage
The pixie cut that helped me embrace my queer
Even while loving a straight man
Followed by a big chop to remind myself of my African scalp
Crying in the mirror and feeling ugly
Then loving just how good it felt to wake up and go
To love/hate/love my awkward head shape
Then the slow grow back into
Parted by my then partner and allowed to grow and flourish
That first year back in nyc
Natural oils and recovering product junkie
MY dad saying “Get that head done”
And me rebelliously putting wire of various colors
Cutting the wire out and letting it free form
Learning my texture
I love hands in my hair
I’m grown and I still revert
Loving my scalp
I said it.
I love you.