White Girlfriend and I are Michelle Obama groupies. So the other day I say to her—I wonder if Michelle Obama has a weave, her hair looks fuller today, and all that heat every day must damage it. And she says—you mean her hair doesn’t grow like that? So is it me or is that the perfect metaphor for race in America right there? Hair. Ever notice makeover shows on TV, how the black woman has natural hair (coarse, coily, kinky, or curly) in the ugly “before” picture, and in the pretty “after” picture, somebody’s taken a hot piece of metal and singed her hair straight? Some black women, AB and NAB, would rather run naked in the street than come out in public with their natural hair. Because, you see, it’s not professional, sophisticated, whatever, it’s just not damn normal. (Please, commenters, don’t tell me it’s the same as a white woman who doesn’t color her hair.) When you DO have natural Negro hair, people think you “did” something to your hair. Actually, the folk with the Afros and dreads are the ones who haven’t “done” anything to their hair. You should be asking Beyoncé what she’s done. (We all love Bey but how about she show us, just once, what her hair looks like when it grows from her scalp?) I have natural kinky hair. Worn in cornrows, Afros, braids. No, it’s not political. No, I am not an artist or poet or singer. Not an earth mother either. I just don’t want relaxers in my hair—there are enough sources of cancer in my life as it is. (By the way, can we ban Afro wigs at Halloween? Afro is not costume, for God’ssake.) Imagine if Michelle Obama got tired of all the heat and decided to go natural and appeared on TV with lots of woolly hair, or tight spirally curls. (There is no knowing what her texture will be. It is not unusual for a black woman to have three different textures on her head.) She would totally rock but poor Obama would certainly lose the independent vote, even the undecided Democrat vote.
UPDATE: ZoraNeale22, who’s transitioning, asked me to post my regimen. Pure shea butter as a leave-in conditioner works for many naturals. Not for me, though. Anything with lots of shea butter leaves my hair grayish and dryish. And dry is my hair’s biggest problem. I wash once a week with a silicone-free hydrating shampoo. I use a hydrating conditioner. I do not towel-dry my hair. I leave it wet, divide it in sections, and apply a creamy leave-in product (present favorite is Qhemet Biologics, other preferred brands are Oyin Handmade, Shea Moisture, Bask Beauty, and Darcy’s Botanicals). Then I put my hair in three or four big cornrows, and knot my satin scarf around my head (satin is good, it preserves moisture. Cotton is bad, it soaks up moisture). I go to sleep. The next morning, I take out the cornrows and voilà, a lovely fluffy ’fro! Key is to add product while hair is wet. And I never, ever comb my hair when it’s dry. I comb only when wet, or damp, or totally drenched in a creamy moisturizer. This plait-while-wet regimen can even work for our Seriously Curly White Girlfriends who are tired of flatirons and keratin treatments. Any AB and NAB naturals out there who want to share their regimen?
(Americanah, page 367)