I was 14 when I cried in front of the mirror while trying to straighten my hair.
My coiled hair wasn’t even close to resembling the texture, shine or length of the women I saw in magazines or at my church or school. Why wasn’t I like the rest?
Growing up in the coloured community meant conversations about skin tone, hair and eye colour were floating around you constantly. It was no secret that the more racially ambiguous a little girl looked, the more her features were praised.
Was she Portuguese, Spanish or perhaps Brazilian? You couldn’t tell that she was from here, you know.
There was value placed on not having to visit the hair salon and get that dreaded relaxer on your hair. Dark and Lovely stung my scalp, my pride and fried my hair to a crisp.
When girls at school bragged “at least I have nice hair” and flipped their luscious locks around as a symbol of pride.
Hairdressers who sighed when you walked in because they knew what awaited their morning. Who tried to get your mom to buy a contract so your hair would always be done for church or school?
Rollers and hairdryers and irons and treatments.
I remembered when some boy told me I was pretty because my skin tone was “fair” but my hair was a problem. One even called me a kroeskop.
Long hair was a sign that you had good hair, obviously. That was the equation, wasn’t it?
Fair skin + straight hair + pretty eyes = beautiful beyond measure.
You could have a darker skin tone but your hair couldn’t be kroes (coarse) or no man would look at you. I knew plenty of boys who grew up learning that they had to choose a partner who wouldn’t shame the family with “bad hair”.
How would your children look?
When are you going to do your hair?
I was 22 when I finally started wearing my hair naturally – something that I could never do before. Surprisingly, that was when I got the most compliments from people. Now straight hair feels foreign to me.
I like my coils, the way it feels when my hair is wild and takes up space. I’m a kroeskop with attitude.
But how I wish I knew that at 14.