A Frizz Eased Mixed Chick

My hair and I have had a tempestuous journey to meet happily in our middle age. Little gypsy G had a globe of soft frizz, a painful tangle that had to be teased out from its tips to my scalp, a traumatic, tear stained business that makes me wince even now. I was five before I saw another soul with hair like mine; I was a bit like a rare breed of sheep, and then at infant school I met the Henry sisters, Patsy and Gloria.They carefully protected me until they went off to high school and I could stand on my own two feet because I was the brightest girl in class. Along with them went my only contact with other non white children, so the pedestal I gazed at with envy, from then on, held girls with silky locks. Around then I noticed what happened when we went out in the rain. My friend’s hair got wet and stuck to their heads. Mine? It was the strangest thing, little sprinkles sat on top like it does on blades of grass, one shake and it was gone. Apart from that and the occasional person asking if they could feel it (some just grabbing a handful) and then saying it was like cotton wool, I largely ignored it, it was just perching there.

I have a photo taken in my uniform on the first day of Grammar school and must have had a haircut for that and then no more for years and years. Instead I scraped it into an elastic band and it must have grown but it has a fragile nature so some would have broken off. I put aside the painful feelings of difference, I had no idea what could be done anyway. The odd woman could be seen in my home town with afro hair and images of powerful women like Marsha Hunt, a gorgeous creature with the biggest afro, were in the media and obviously doing okay.

I met the lovely Linda, a hairdresser who became my sister-in-law, when I was eighteen and I think she saw my hair as a challenge. I will never forget the first time she chemically straightened me. My left-to-grow locks had the smelliest gunge slapped on, it was screeched through my frizz – no I guess I screeched as it was combed through my frizz and I had to sit and wait. I emerged from her huge rollers with long smooth tresses and the feeling that I had become someone else. The next day at work a lot of people did double takes. Pretty soon I had to wash it and learnt quickly that it was going to revert when I did, unless I got to grips with big fat rollers myself! Until curling tongs, hot brushes and even blow drying arrived, I endured monthly torture by chemical to straighten the roots and even then on damp days my only option was to scrape it up into a pony tail. This first round of straightening continued for a few years until one day I went into my local chemist to buy the product and discovered it was no more. I think I went into a serious depression – for an hour – about as long as I can muster. LL then came up with the idea of perming my hair. What? Back then old ladies had their hair permed and followed it by a weekly shampoo and set! Of course I was desperate enough to try it and it worked, a whole new stinky chemical slapped on my head and I came out wavy and controllable by a new curling tong that I burnt my fingers on many, many times before I learnt. It was short back then, who remembers an 80’s haircut, long on top and cropped in short? I quite liked it until one day I overheard a little person ask his dad who that man was. My heart was on a platter and my hair has never been that short again.

Linda looked after my locks until she became ill and very sadly was lost to that nasty creeping C word. She was a truly lovely lady who never lost her sense of humour through all the painful treatment she underwent. I’ll always remember when she had a mastectomy; she needed a skin graft which they took from her lower abdomen. She laughed her head off as she showed me her patch of pubic hairy chest! Bless you; I’m sure you’re up there somewhere putting rollers in heavenly hair.

After a few visits to white hairstylists, I came across Theresa, a gospel singing, carnival costumed, Trinidadian barmcake. On my first appointment she gave me my options, relaxing or a ‘curly perm’. I chose the latter and came out looking like Whitney Houston. I know you don’t believe me, but at least two people said so. I also came out with a whole pharmacopoeia of gunge to keep it curly. Strange labels like Sta Sof Fro on pots of green sloppy stuff promised I would look wonderful. The reality? Just the slightest bit of humidity caused it to liquefy on my head and I’d look like someone had poured unset jelly on my head in some kids TV show. I don’t think I kept that look for too long.

You can relax permed hair, but not the opposite Theresa has always said and I’d look longingly at the black women who came in frizzy and went out smooth. There began ten years of relaxing. It can burn if left on tender skin a few minutes too long and if you constantly relax your roots to stop the bushy look and then start having colour put on because of the white spider web that appears on your head then your hair can end up in poor condition, as dry as steel wool! Also the whole process is expensive, I’m sure that my hair has cost me enough to buy a small farm for my rare breed woolly head, and if I could reclaim the time I could have written several War and Peace size tomes.

In Nigeria I had my hair braided with beads at the ends and I felt fabulous. That is until I came home and had to go to the conservative, prestige motor dealership where I worked, and my braids didn’t! Feeling like a Rastafarian in a costume drama I took them out. Three years ago Theresa put Ghanaian braids in for me. They were exquisite, but only until Grandmother Spider spun around, I so wish I’d had them when I was young.

I can’t pinpoint what snapped in me but suspect it was something in the media, some actress or personality with natural hair that influenced me to stop for a while. I tied my mop up while the chemicalled bits grew out. Theresa knew what I was aiming for, enough natural hair to be able to chop the rest and not have it too short. The day came, in 2009; I finally faced the world Au Naturelle. I have many, many bad hair days, but a woman who doesn’t is as rare as the woman in the moon. For now we are reconciled.

22 thoughts on “A Frizz Eased Mixed Chick

  1. Just like the changes we have to make in other things—less fitting clothes, only 2-3 hours on high heels or we pay dearly and sometimes not even, no more strong perfumes as our partners/spouses/even we ourselves will sneeze, the slathering of sunscreen at all times, less this and that in our food intake, no more heavy dinners or drinking until late into the night or we pay dearly, just to name a few—so must the care of the hair change. And yes, for us women, hair is important. I find though, that for men, it’s quite important too. How many men do you know would consider or even try a comb-over out of sheer desperation? I have made my husband promise that under no circumstances should he even consider it. Bald is better than a comb-over, anytime!!! He said he will take this into consideration when the time comes.

    Good luck in your search for making sense of your hair. I have battled with mine for years. I’m Asian so it’s the norm that we have jet black straight-as-an-arrow hair. My hair has become brownish then reddish then back to a browny-black, with graying roots. It had developed an undertow of waviness that has driven my hairdresser up the wall (and me too!). Then it became frizzy and stiff like steel wool in the last 3 years. Now, I have it tamed with a keratin shampoo and conditioner and for special occasions, I resort to a flat iron. Did i tell you my hair has also thinned? Quite significantly too. It used to be no ties or clips can fit my hair so it was hard to wear a ponytail. Now, it’s the opposite. Most hair ties and clips are too big or too loose now.

    I really should not complain too much. At least, I still have hair. But, your discussion got me going. I hope our daughters don’t laugh at this. One day, this will be their issue, unless science invents something in the meantime.

    1. Heels yes a killer now! I can identify with the perfume sneezes – it’s only very,very expensive ones that I’m okay with 😉 I don’t think I’ve seen a comb over for years and yet lots of them did it in the past, haven’t things changed?
      Asian hair has always been the type I’ve envied, it looks so sleek – the opposite of mine. Glad I made you think and so pleased you visited, thank you !

  2. Great, great post. I can totally relate: my mother used to brush my curls out and so it was this huge aphro-but-not-quite which was really awful. I have evolved from braiding to ponies to hair straightener to Au Naturelle myself. the great thing is, I just need to shower and walk out and do NOTHING to my hair except, perhaps, oil it once a week.
    And I googled Marsha Hunt, my GOD she’s a beauty!
    What does barm cake mean when applied metaphorically? I’m intrigued.

    1. Shaz you have the most beautiful hair I absolutely love it. What do you oil with you lucky girl? Marsha is still stunning even now, great bones. A barm cake is just a crazy person and you wouldn’t call someone that if you didn’t like them.

  3. Loved this post! Natural beauty is the best. I’ve always has stick-straight hair and was envious of people who had flare in my younger days. I’ve grown to appreciate my hair, but boy do I have some bad hair days.

  4. You hair looks fabulous and suits you. I wanted to be slim, blonde and pretty and am none of those! I now see my daughter wishing to be taller, slimmer etc., etc., it’s so nice to discover a peace with who you are isn’t it?! Beautifully written, as usual. 🙂

  5. Isn’t it funny how we always want what we don’t have. Lots of curly haired friends go to serious lengths to straighten, and those with straight perm or wave or curl away. These days mine just sits in a clip…

    1. I guess its human isn’t it? But it all matters less and less and I tend not to waste too much energy, just do the best I can with what I have and get on with living. And hey clipping it back shows off your bone structure, you have amazing cheek bones!

  6. I can sooooo identify with this one. I was the only one in my grade school
    with frizzy hair, too. There was no controlling it. Funny thing was I didn’t realize
    it was different until someone wanted to touch it. Odd … what can make you
    notice something…!!!????
    Anyway, I have been through all of those steps you have been through. Then, I moved
    to Florida and the humidity jumped in. I could never have straight hair or hair with any
    type of calmness without hours of work. As soon as I left the house it would begin to grow.
    I felt like I had fertilized it. My husband said, “Just go natural”. HUH … are you insane???
    People will look at me oddly. Well … he gave me a speech. It turns out that he was attracted
    to me because my hair was different. He has Asian type hair. He said he always enjoyed how different I was in comparison to other woman. Hey … who knew???? Now, it’s Au Naturale and I
    have a life with lots of time.
    Nice story, Gilly …. I could feel ya …. ~~~~` : – )

    1. Isadora from your gravatar your hair looks absolutely fabulous to me. What are you using to get curls like that or do they just happen?I can make mine good sometimes with a certain expensive mixed chicks product,but then some days its as if I’ve never seen my hair before and I can’t remember how I do it when I do it right!

  7. Frankly, it’s wash and wear hair. I jump in the shower; wash it with shampoo; condition it with a regular conditioner and just wear it. I know …. that was what I was straightening out all those years. Oh well, that’s what magazine models do to you. ~~~~ : – O ~~“ : – )

  8. Oh Gilly, I feel your pain. As a black woman, I grew up knowing a lot about how to deal with my hair. Now the most important things for it are a softening conditioner (generally something containing an ingredient like cetyl alcohol – which is a fatty alcohol, not a drying one) and a good non-sticky oil that I mix with a leave-in conditioner, for moisturizing it between shampoos. Whether I wear it straight or wavy, I like some of the the Giovanni Eco Chic hair care products. Best of luck with continuing to love your own locks. 🙂

  9. Came across this from the related link on your latest post. And although I don’t have the African curls, I do have curly hair which also tended to frizz as soon as there was a hint of dampness. I envied girls with straight long locks as the longer I grew mine the bushier it became. As a child it was mostly tied up in a ponytail and I suffered tortuous brushing from my mother to untangle the tangles (pre conditioner time). At Grammar school I decided to have it all cut off and spent 4 years with very short hair. And that’s the way it has been since. I grow it, I get fed-up with the bush and then I have it all cut off. I did once have a perm (as like you I was told it would relax the curl), never again! I also had a French plait and have worn combs and hairbands and headbands to keep it out of my face. I coloured it to hide the grey until there was more grey than colour. Cut it all off again and now it is as it is. Though oddly, it is not as curly now!

    The things we do Gilly!

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