Holding space for your hair
Writer Aleah Aberdeen pens an essay on her evolving relationship with her hair and its relationship to self-confidence
By Aleah Aberdeen Images courtesy of Aleah Aberdeen Wednesday 28 October, 2020 Short read
But when changing your hair becomes a constant, our perception of what is natural becomes hazy. And what is natural to me could be scarce to you – we can’t easily transcend beyond our own cultural specificity, which really is part of the problem.
I spent my childhood growing up in the countryside, privileged in many ways, but I knew I was a little bit different from those around me. Being mixed raced comes with a whole sea of emotions. From a young age you become quite introspective… I am White, I am also Black, and I am very Black in this White space. It’s conflicting to say the least. Me being racialised as Black cannot solely be reduced to skin tone – without a doubt, hair constitutes this historically charged ideology, and I had lots of it.
‘You’re so lucky to have that kind of curly hair’ is what I was often told by my peers. What I now understand this luck to be is privilege. Having a looser curl and lighter skin meant I could conform to respectability customs that someone with kinkier Afro-textured hair could not. My whiteness could carry me further in a Eurocentric society that favoured colourism and sleek hair.
Straightening my hair minimised the comments, the microaggressions, the othering. Every curl that was stretched out freed me from social inhibition. It was my catharsis.
Our hair does not need to be the vessel that takes the weight of our problems, even if it feels like it is causing the problem (in a non-accepting society). In Buddhist tradition, Tonsure is a practice that monks partake, shaving the head to renounce the ego that is intrinsically tied to our hair. I’m not advocating that we should all go and shave our heads and we will be free from the vice of vanity, but to reconsider the beauty in our vulnerability that is sometimes forgotten underneath.
Spend some detox time with yourself. Sit with your wounds before impulsively seeking immediate relief from them, because they will just resurface.
Get to know your hair and make time for it. Where time is viewed as a commodity in this modern juncture, it’s easy to place less value on looking after yourself. Understand your hair type and what nutrients it needs to flourish.
Be open to change, but know your roots. Respect and remember your natural and beautiful form. Be kind to yourself. And know that you can decide how much you want your hair to define you.