The good, the bad and the Curly

This is the story about my hair. No, I’m not trying to be conceited. Firstly, I’m going to explain its errrr, ‘origin’ and secondly, I end with a lovely tag line at the end of the post. So watch out for that.

Most of you who know me, know that I have this ‘sick’ (funky) afro on good hair days. I rock it. No lies. I just found myself pondering about what other people thought about my ‘fro whilst sitting on the train today. I got onto the train, ‘fro and all, and sat opposite a ‘so-called’ coloured lady, mid 40’s. Let’s not give away her age- I’ll rephrase and say she was from the previous generation. I took my seat, smiled and received this awkward smile from her. She looked at me and then glanced up (at my hair) and had this expression that said “shame”. Oh, I hate that expression. Her smile even turned bitter- like my hair left a bad taste in her mouth. I wanted to offer her a sip of water, but I didn’t have any on me. Her facial expression had me wondering… Do people see the ‘fro, my ‘fro, as rebellion or defiance or what? I’m sure there is much confusion as to why I don’t ‘blow’ my hair straight. Even my family members have given up. I kid you not.

Where it all started and why I cannot recall. I think it was an accident. Maybe I was in a hurry to go somewhere and just did the wash and conditioner vibe and people complimented me and I enjoyed the compliments. I remember having a blonde ‘fro once. I felt sexy. Those were the days. Anyway.

Before this accident happened, I recall having my mother do my hair. The traditional ‘coloured’ practice of washing you hair once a week, setting it with ‘rollers’ and sitting under a hairdryer stand for 1  hour. Yassis. I hated those days. Firstly because it took forever- the whole process of bending over the bath to wash hair, sitting on the floor to roll in my hair. Sigh, mother dear  had to pull tight lock that roller in. I always complained about the pain and statements like, “You must get it straight, from the root.” and  “You must suffer for beauty Yvette” were thrown at me, like a Frisbee. I never liked playing with a Frisbee. It doesn’t make sense.

I also hated Saturdays when the rugby was on. She would pull my hair from side to side, depending which side the Bokke (Springbokke) we playing. I was praying silently, “Please Lord, let the referee not be unfair. I’m going to lose my hair!”. After that, was that dreaded hairdryer stand. An hour and sometime extra 30minutes. I came out hot and flushed. Not in a sexy way. And then, swirl the hair. (Brushing the hair in a circle against the head and twisting the sock-end of pantihose around it). Klomp effort. For What? Craziness. So, as soon as I was allowed some sort of opinion…ahem…. I stated that I liked the curly look- after the previously mentioned accident.

So, I rocked the afro. In my rebellious phase. Yes, I had one of those. But it stuck. What I didn’t realize that I wasn’t doing it for the attention anymore. It was about me. I loved the curl. I loved the way it was different every day- and each curl was an individual little piece of me. My hair very quickly became a representation of me. My hair embodied my personality. It was all-over-the-place, funky and sometimes dry (referring to my sense of humour). Plus- super bonus- with minmum effort -a mere wash, conditioner and blow dry- I was looking and feeling fabulous.

Reasons why I should keep my hair as is:

  • It’s very ‘now’ <— current fashion.
  • If God wanted me to have straight hair, He would’ve organized that from birth.
  • It seriously looks good with any outfit, especially with a flower on the side.
  • I can store stationery in it for exam purposes
  • We no longer have ‘pencil’ tests, so I don’t have to worry about failing that test
  • It’s me
My curls are just meant to be. I remember going for an interview recently and wanted to look, decent. So I thought, okay, conform to society rules and blow you hair straight. Just as I was about to blow my hair, the electricity went out. I’m not even joking. “Thank you Murphy” and I rocked my ‘fro. I felt confident, empowered and myself.
My hair is an extension of who I am. I love the curls and my ‘fro because it’s part of my ‘package’. I look at those students (generalization- mostly cool humanities students) on campus (UCT), with ‘odd’ looks and I don’t judge. It’s not about being rebellious or going against authority, it’s about expression. Expressing who you are. My hair doesn’t have to be straight to be accepted. It doesn’t hamper my abilities and it doesn’t mean I smoke weed (yes, I get that too).

So yeah, just be you. From root to tip.

Miss Y

P.S Check out: ‘Hair Politics’ by Zimitri Erasmus (2000). She has actually done quite a bit of research and work (many more publications) on the subject of hair politics and so-called coloured identities etc- so it’s more ra-ra than my ‘lived experience’.

Google her. Here is her profile :

Below are pictures of Erykah Badu and Contro ‘Versey (who recently passed away).


Erykah Badu

Contro 'Versey- She lives on Soulja SiSTAR!

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