(Nappy) hair notes
I can do hair. Specifically what I mean is I can oil, comb, and braid all kinds of basic girl hairdos for thick, curly, course hair from the motherland – nappy hair – in all of the reclaimed, beautiful sense of that word.
My fingers have been deep into nappy hair for two generations now. A squirmy-child-head-between-my-knees-making-straight-lines-oiling-scalp-braiding-until-my-fingers-ache-rubber-bands-and-barrettes-get-it-good-so-it-will-last-the-school-week relationship with nappy hair.
But does that give me the right to say or even claim "nappy?" Where does my whitegirl self fit in the brown world I inhabit? Where is the map for the lines, the boundaries, I can and cannot cross? Am I forever on the Don Imus side of that word, never on the "Nappy Roots" side, or do I inhabit a place between?
My daughter sometimes counts on me to do her daughter's hair, just like she counts on her friends to do her own perms, weaves and extensions. She is not a hair girl, never has been and never will be. When her child was a toddler with just-coming-in-but-very-thick-hair, she just combed it into a little 'fro and left it at that. I got blamed sometimes: "Well of course she doesn't do right by her daughter's hair, after all she was raised by you."
I have a friend who loved that little 'fro. She has light brown skin and sandy-colored hair just like my granddaughter's except now hers twists and turns in fierce and lovely waist-length locks. "Oh she looks sooooo cute," squealed my friend with delight at the sight of that 'fro. "My hair was just like that when I was little," swooping my granddaughter into the sista-hood of nappy-headed girls everywhere.
Yet after all these years, I still wonder -- do white moms of black-brown-multiracial kids step over/step into some place we have no business when we claim "nappy" as part our vernacular, too?
When my grandchild dramatically screams as I comb out the tangles at the back of her neck, I tell her -- firmly but kindly -- just as I had told her mom, "Honey I know your kitchen is extra tender, we're almost done. Be still." Calling out her "kitchen," or her "nappy hair" for me, is honoring her culture and claiming her place in it -- for her.
I mean this is family I am talking about. At our house nappy=love.
Related Post: Grandma's Nappy Hair