I Whip my Hair back and forth….wait; I can’t do that: Beauty in the western World


This book really struck a nerve in me when we started seeing what beauty was in America. Growing up in New Jersey, as young as 10 years old, I felt fat and out of place. Most people in my class had athletic bodies and long, flowing hair.

I am big-boned, and have three hair textures on my head (quite common on Africans actually) kinky-curly hair that will not relax within the twenty-five minutes they stated for “coiled” hair types, superfine that did not to be relaxed, and super curly hair reminiscent of little Annie. All on one head. But, I made the mistake of going to a salon to have it professionally done for my hair to sit the hell down. Sure, my hair could now bounce and swing like my white friends’ hair, but my scalp hurt. Although it wasn’t burnt, ever since it has felt sensitive.

And then it did get burnt. When I moved to Ghana, I realized that flat-irons were a foreign conception. If your hair did not relax, it would be blow-dried into submission. Three days after I relax m hair in at a bad hairdresser’s, my scalp started to bleed, exactly like in those zombie movie where you can clearly see their brains hanging out.

It was then, and only then that my mother decided that going natural would be the best thing for my hair, as if natural food, natural contraception, natural anything could be anything but healthy. So, for the first time since I was six years old, I let my hair grow the way God made it. And it was wonderful. My scalp has stopped being hypersensitive, and my hair is twice as thick as it usually is.

Up until that time, my mom and hairdressers would tell me, “Just one relax and it will lie down. It’ll soften…it’s good that your hair is so thick.” I wonder if anyone ever told Ifemulu this when she went to relax her hair.

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