By Guest Contributor Alona Sistrunk, cross-posted from HairPolitik
When I was in eighth grade, my English teacher asked each student to place five items in a box that best represented him or her. In my box, I placed a pair of scissors, a brown crayon and three other items I’ve long since forgotten. When it was time to present my “Alona box” to the class, I pulled out the scissors and cut off a piece of my weave! Holding the borrowed hair next to my heart, I professed my undying love for weave. That day, I knew that other people’s hair would always have a special place in my heart!
As I made my way back to my seat, amidst much applause from ALL of the black girls in the room, I felt conflicted. With the same zeal it took to love and publicly praise other people’s hair, privately I hated and damaged my own. Even at the tender age of thirteen I knew that didn’t make sense. The fact that I hated my kinky hair is remarkable since I’d hardly ever seen it! It was always chemically straightened or hidden underneath a barrage of ever-changing weaves. Since all I knew about my hair was that it was “bad”, not having to “deal with it” was quite alright with me.
As I grew older, my love affair with extensions grew even more complicated. How could I continue to despise the thought of “freeing” my naturally kinky hair while at the same time wholeheartedly embracing weaves (read: straight and loosely curled hair) with an almost obsessive devotion. How could I become the strong black woman that I wanted to be, that I claimed to be, if I hated who I was made to be? By the time I reached college, shouts of betrayal from the few black women who were “brave” enough to “unleash” their natural hair made me question my authenticity even more. They asked, “Why do you hate yourself, Sistah? Why are you trying to be White-something you’re not? Why don’t you embrace who you are and let your natural self show?”