In the novel I am currently reading, Americanah by Adichie, the protagonist, Ifemelu, has recently decided to cut off her relaxed hair in an effort to grow out and discover her natural hair. In the process of growing out her natural hair, she utilizes the website by the name of “happilykinkynappy.com” to communicate with others in her struggles. This is something I connect to and find brave in a couple of key ways.
First off, the societal situation Ifemelu places herself in almost requires her to have relaxed, straightened hair. Unfortunately, having relaxed hair is a western standard of beauty that African women are subjected to constantly. Relaxed hair appears in magazines, on television, and just about any corner of popular cultural where black women are relevant. For her to cut off her hair despite the knowledge of employers potentially discriminating against her is courageous.
Secondly, removing the layer that allows Ifemelu to be further accepted as an American for the sake of individuality is fearless to say the least. Going natural and allowing people to perceive you the way you truly are is a scary thought.
I have written before about some thoughts I have pertaining to hair, but surprisingly I have yet to write anything too masturbatory about my own hair, so let’s do it. I started growing my hair out a little less than two years ago, and it that time it has gone well past my shoulders. Most American men do not have hair that goes well past their shoulders. I take good care of it, and now and then I receive small compliments for it, but initially growing it out was tough for me. Constant reminders from my family and friends that my hair looked terrible nearly pushed me to cutting it. In no way are my struggles comparable to those of a Nigerian woman immigrating to America, but I understand the feeling of exposing myself to criticism.
Changing the way you look, however insignificant it may be, teaches you how to be comfortable with yourself no matter your appearance.