I was talking to one of my best friends on the train the other day. He was asking me if I considered myself a “natural girl.” I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by the phrase so I asked him to explain. He then asked me if I was one of those girls obsessed with using only natural hair products, stalking hair blogs and watching Youtube gurus every day. I laughed because I’m definitely guilty of those things (in a very minimal way of course). Then a lady riding behind us said, “Yeah she’s one of those natural girls. She probably listens to neo-soul and has an ankh tattoo on her back, too.”
I was so surprised by her comment, and I thought she was kidding so I laughed while my friend told her that he wouldn’t be surprised if those things were true. Then she continued to tell us what a “natural girl” is. And let me tell you…the conversation showed me that the usual ignorance about “good hair” is now being replaced by the ignorance of defining those who chose to go a certain route with their hair.
Honestly the stereotypes that come when people notice that you have natural hair has always been ridiculous to me. When I first got to my college campus (an HBCU btw) everyone was wearing Indian Remy and pin curls. The only females you saw with natural hair either had dreads and those with fros were automatically classified as the afrocentrics. Even those who had been natural all their lives wore their hair in straight styles so you would have never known… 4 years later when you walked onto the yard if anyone was rocking a sew-in it was because they were using it as a protective style on top of their teeny weeny afro. Everyone else was rocking twist and braid outs. It seemed like as I matriculated everyone was jumping onto the natural hair bandwagon. As great as it is that so many females were embracing their natural roots and embarking in healthy hair practices, so many people made predetermined notions on what it meant to be natural…
Some of the crazy stereotypes I’ve heard are as follows:
*You must constantly listen to only Neo-soul
*Erykah Badu and Jill Scott are your new idols
*You must dislike white people
*You stop using anything that has sulfates…even in your dish and laundry detergent
*You always have to be part of a “movement”
*You have some type of adinkra or something that symbolizes Africa ,tattooed on you
*You must be a vegetarian or vegan or at least have attempted to be one
*You’re constantly lighting “Black Love” scented incenses
*You criticize everyone with relaxers and preach to them about the dangers of the creamy crack
* Meditation and yoga are now common practices
*You only use 100% natural products on your hair.
*Seeing even a glimpse of anything with the words “Blue Magic” makes you faint
*Walking by the Miss Jessie’s and Shea Moisture section in Target makes you swoon
*The use of the word “sister” and “brother” have replaced people’s first names
Some of these things could most definitely be accurate for SOME folk. Don’t get me wrong, You won’t be seeing me use any blue grease anytime soon. But I’m sure a mass majority of the natural hair population, that have chosen to leave the relaxers for someone else, are just trying to have long, healthy hair. Nothing more or less. Unfortunately even those who are natural and especially some of our “natural veterans” seem to think that there are requirements and restrictions to anyone who decides to go natural, and in the words of some great philosophers, I find that sh*t CRAY.
Some people believe you have to catch the “Mother Africa Syndrome”. And that’s just not the case. If I do decide to try and reconnect to my roots (beyond the ones in my scalp) then so be it. But that does not mean that is the same fate or wish of everyone who decides that crack is wack.
The lady on the train even told me that she didn’t understand how “us natural girls” could be so obsessed with the health of our hair and not of the rest of our body and our mind. She said and I quote, “The ones who are gun-ho on being natural are always the fattest and most messed up. They need to stop worrying so much about how their fro looks and more about putting down those McDoubles.”
Yeah….she said that. And that’s when the side eyes began. I’m always an advocate for positive mental and physical health. It has definitely been proven that the better your diet is and the less stressed you are, the more likely you’ll have continual healthy hair growth. But that statement was clearly not said in a positive way. She was clearly trying to tell me that I have more important things to consider than how my hair is styled. And of course I had to let her know how her statement and apparent assumptions didn’t apply to me…and shouldn’t apply to anyone else. To put it simply. It’s not that serious. I’m not trying to be a certain type of person because I decided to go natural. If I choose to coat my strands only with coconut oil, hand pressed from the depths of the rainforest in the middle of the Bermuda triangle but I decide to eat 3 KFC’s Double Downs (sorry it was the grossest thing I could think of) everyday for the next year, then I sure can…and I sure WILL! No one should make any type of suppositions about what someone does because they have decided to do something.
It would be like me saying, “You wear weaves so that means because your hair isn’t real and neither should your body. Get breast implants, butt injections and a nose job. Start trying to be as fake as your hair from head to toe!”
Sorry for my rant but the conversation on the train really had me thinking. Moral of the story; there is no right way to going natural. And there should be no assumptions made when someone chooses to do so.