How my hair changed my view of beauty

by | Mar 6, 2015 | Opinion

Comfort Obeng

A&E Editor


As a child I wanted to be a lot of things but most of all I wanted to be pretty.

It’s no easier for girls today. With apps like Tumblr and Instagram that make you hyper aware of how you look, it’s hard to be happy with yourself. Altered or Photoshopped images are a big part of the issue. Girls see images of those “perfect” human beings and think, “why can’t I look like that?” not knowing the images have been heavily retouched most times.

As a society we teach girls that the most important thing is to be beautiful, and to constantly strive to be beautiful. We ignore the fact that we’re actually hurting ourselves and we never really stop to ask who we’re doing it for and why.

Naturally, we all want to look and feel our best; but why wax, get Botox and eat bland diet foods if you don’t like it?

In elementary school all I really wanted was long flowing hair like all the other girls in my grade. I begged and begged my mom for a chemical relaxer, a deep conditioner texture that stays on the hair for a short period of time and does all sorts of bad.

Oh, and if that shit gets in your eye, kiss your sight goodbye.

So my mom got me the box relaxer. I sat on the toilet seat while she applied it to my hair. I left it in for a while, and let me tell you, it burned the hell out of my scalp. It felt like Hades. The best part was that I hadn’t even come close to the time the instructions said to wash it out. My mother warned me that if I washed it out beforehand my hair would still be kinky curly. So of course I stood in front of my microwave watching the timer while tears ran down my cheeks. I blame all those horrible home box perms for dramatic loss of brain cells.

I finally washed it out, and it continued to burn even afterwards, which is normal for a perm. It actually takes a neutralizing shampoo to deactivate the chemical reaction. I could instantly feel the difference, and once I dried my face I could see the difference as well. My hair was pin straight down my back. It was everything I wanted and more.

My hair was on fleek, and I made sure everyone noticed.

So I became addicted to relaxers and my hair just couldn’t take on more perms. A professional stylist (not my mother) confirmed that my hair looked like scarecrow stuffing, brittle and stringy. I learned a lot more about my hair once she cut it all off. But I actually loved my asymmetrical bob.

When I went to school things were never the same. The rumours of the guy in the fifth grade who apparently wanted to ask me out died down; the date never came to fruition. I’m pretty sure I spent a whole afternoon listening to the Pussycat Dolls song “I Don’t Need a Man” (because at that time Drake was still on Degrassi, not a 6 God) and was left to mourn on my own. He dated almost every other girl in our grade, but I’d never regret what I learned about perceived ideals of beauty..

Comfort is queen! As much as I thought there was something wrong with me back then, I learned that there actually isn’t. It was a hard journey struggling with my natural hair but now I’ve embraced it. It’s not only a beauty problem it’s a culture one as well. I never had anyone to teach me how take care of my hair, only how to fix it. Today I follow Pinterest boards and YouTube channels that discuss natural hair.

These channels motivate me to treat me hair the way it needs to be treated (with deep conditioner treatments every two weeks). Before I focused on how to work against my hair, trying to manipulate it so it would be straight. It’s not horrible but the better method is to stretch my hair so that everyday I’m not straightening with heating tools. I also learned that my hair was always breaking off because it was so dry. Moisturizer is my best friend.

The moral of the story is love yourself, be yourself, and don’t let society tell you who you should be. I still learn more about my hair and my comfort level with it every day.