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Chapter 5:  Creamy Crack Brings All The Boys To The Yard

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I cannot remember my mother having a relaxer although she said she had one. I’d seen pictures of her with one, but I didn’t recall a time I actually had seen my mother with straight hair. As a child my mother had a bad experience. She received a relaxer that badly damaged her hair, it broke off in chunks. I was not allowed to get a relaxer. I had thick wild hair, but it was obedient to heat. I got my hair straighten for special events. Other than that my hair was either braided or in a big puff on top of my head.

I went through a rebellious stage during my senior year of high school and I got a relaxer. My hair was styled like Mary J. Blige’s. I even died it blond. I then noticed a considerable difference in the amount of male attention I got. I took a mental note, black men like straight hair. The summer before I started college I shaved my hair all off. Whenever I went through a major transition I would shave my head. Pre-college at Hampton University was one of the best and the worst times in my life. I had found my tribe. A bunch of upper classmen crunchies (what I call crunchy granola people. hippie lifestyle, eco-friendly, usually vegetarian, and smell like incense) and  found me and took me under their wing. They would palm my head regularly because that group of black men loved nappy ass hair.

I had many different hair styles: braids, locs, twists and afros. I felt beautiful and powerful. Most of the crunchies couldn’t afford to stay in school and went home. The ones that could afford to stay, graduated. I had to find a job. I had always nailed interview part, but was never offered the job. Maybe I should have worn a suit instead of a lapa (a long skirt made out of African fabric) but I was super militant back then. When I had to choose between eating or putting gas in my car, I knew it was time to get the traditional Hampton girl look. I got a relaxer and a fresh doobie (wrapping hair around one’s head at night in order for the bobbed cut to fall properly when styled). I put on my button down shirt and slacks. I didn’t forget to include the obligatory pumps. Now I looked like the rest of the Hampton women on campus. All of my dating experience happened in college since I wasn’t allowed to date in high school. Men with luxury cars and disposable incomes took me to restaurants I had never heard of.  And I had gotten a job. This was a new and exciting lifestyle. Who knew this existed on the other side of a relaxer.

My hair fell below my shoulders and was thick and healthy. I knew my hair was in good shape because I hadn’t spent my early childhood years frying it. What I didn’t realize was that the community I grew up in was looking at me with a side eye and silently judged me. They would make slick comments to my mother who felt the need to defend me. To them I had sold out, and maybe I did a little. I knew the critics had never offered to pay my tuition or send money.  My mother would respond to them by saying “She is African on the inside. She still knows who she is.”

© 2015 A King’s Ma Publishing