13. Good Hair

Book Reviews / Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

When I went natural two years and three months ago, I spent most of my time watching You Tube videos of women styling their hair and reviewing products and reading books about the upkeep of afro hair.  Newly naturals often have a hard time trying to figure out what’s the best way to take care of the hair that they haven’t seen for the most part since they were children.  I ordered Good Hair For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Weaves When the Chemicals Became Too Ruff from amazon because I still enjoy reading books about natural hair.  Actually, it’s the title that attracted me.  The reference to Ntozake Shange’s play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf made me smile.  What didn’t make me smile was the expression “good hair”.  I hate it when people talk about good hair or a grade of hair as if it was milk or beef. That’s an expression that every African-American knows well and has heard way too many times in their lives. “Ooh girl she’s got that good hair!”  What is “good hair” you ask?  Good hair is hair that lays down easily, that curls perfectly, and blows in the wind.  It’s hair that is closest to Caucasians’ hair.

Hair is so important to African-American women.  We are willing to beg, borrow, and steal a fortune to keep up and discipline our hair to fit into what many consider to be the accepted way to have publicly presentable, professional hair.  In order to do this anything goes:  weaves, wigs, relaxers, hot combing, texturizers, curly perms or jheri curls.  All these different alternatives to wearing and accepting one’s natural hair are extremely costly, time-consuming, but most of all damaging.  In Good Hair written by Lonnice Brittenum Bonner, she traces her own hair journey from childhood to adulthood and she has literally done it all to her hair, along with countless times of having to cut off all her hair to only regrow it and mess it up again.  Her book is an excellent account of what not to do, while also giving good advice about what would be better.    As I was reading, I kept asking myself what is she looking for now and why is she doing THAT to her hair.  It’s the classic case of trying to force your hair to behave in a way that it can’t and won’t.  We have all been there.  Fortunately for me, I was too afraid to do anything else to my hair except relax it and that was damaging enough.  Moreover, I did that for thirty years, before the constantly itchy red scalp from my last professional relaxer was too much for me.   These past two years have been an eye opener for me to accept my hair as is and to stop comparing my hair to other races and even to other African-American women.

Overall, Good Hair is an opening birds eye view to becoming natural.  Bonner goes into the details of how to go natural either by doing a big chop or through transitioning.  She explains the options and how tos.  She gives a quick breakdown on the structure of hair; for example why it’s so dry, why does it break so easily, and talks about hair anatomy and type.  She also talks about shampooing, conditioning, daily maintenance, and hair tools.  She basically covers what you would generally find in this type of book, but it’s not in-depth.  Broader-spectrum books like The Science of Black Hair are more interesting because they link the scientific with the everyday and deals with the why and why not of afro hair care.  Bonner’s Good Hair doesn’t go into quite so much detail, although for some it may be enough.  The only other problem with this book was the editing, which annoyed me.  Wow! It was atrocious!  Unfortunately  there were so many mistakes, from missing words in sentences to incorrect tense usage; which I want to believe was due to typos.  In my opinion, this little 93 page book is just ok.  So I’d give it three stars.  It was published in 1990 and since then there have been many other informative books published on the market about natural hair.  If you want a no-nonsense humoristic read and information without too much detail, this is the book for you.

Bonner wrote other books called Plaited Glory For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Braids, Locks, and Twists in 1996, where she differentiates between styles, costs, and salons, The Kitchen Beautician For Colored Girls Who’ve Dissed the Beauty Standard When it Became to Ruff in 1997, where she talks about hair and skin care regimens and how to become a mixtress, and all on an affordable budget, and Nice Dreads:  Hair Care Basics and Inspiration for Colored Girls Who’ve considered Locking Their Hair in 2005, where she talks about keeping locks looking their best and cultivating buds.  I haven’t read these books but I hope they were edited better than Good Hair.  The best thing that Bonner did was to document her hair journey through these books.  I think it’s something everybody should do when they go natural.  Growing natural healthy “good hair” takes time and sometimes we can become so impatient that we’re sure our hair isn’t growing or think that it looks the same.  Growing good natural hair takes patience.  Documenting through pictures, videos, diaries, writing down our favorite products or personal home mixes can help determine what is and isn’t good for our hair.  Good luck to all those newbie naturals, transitioners, and to long-term naturals.  Keep persevering to good hair….

Speaking of “good hair”, check out the clips below which are from Chris Rock’s comic documentary film Good Hair.  It is an interesting look into the cultural aspects of hair in the African-American community and the hair industry and the billions of dollars it earns from African-American women willing to spend whatever amount of money to tame and maintain straight, acceptable hair in today’s society.  Enjoy!

10 Replies to “13. Good Hair”

  1. Lol…I remember Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary. It was funny but can be a little sad when you think about it because it’s long been embedded within our culture that black hair is too coily or curly, thick and tight is unacceptable and not beautiful. Still many people refer to good and bad hair and usually afro-texture hair is considered the bad hair. I think it’s been about 10 years since I’ve had a relaxer and have no desire to go back to one. I think if I get tired of dealing with my hair, I would rather cut it shorter than add a relaxer or texturizer and definitely not a jherri curl. I would say that black women are not the only ones aho are putting chemicals in their hair to change it’s texture. Women who have straight hair are adding chemicals, perms, to make their hair curly. Even in Saudi, I remember spending time with a Saudi family of which one of the women was asking me for styling tips for her daughter because she said her hair was unruly and wanted to know what I did to make mine lay down as it was in a ponytail.When I told her about the process I go through to achieve the style and explained my texture to her, she told me that her sister has unrul hair and that she (as well as other women) goes to a salon where they use a chemical (sounds like a relaxer but maybe uses different chemicals) to straighten her hair. However, she expressed that she feels it is unsafe.

    Since I’ve had my hair natural, I’ve gotten more negative comments from people of the same ethnicity than from those of a different ethnicity. Even some women who have had naturally straight or loose wavy and curly hair textures have given me compliments about my hair, some even expressing that their hair wasn’t nice (though I beg to differ) wishing their hair was like mine. To me, I believe that all hair is “good hair” because God made it and if He made it, it is good (and beautiful).

    However, though I choose not to relax my hair anymore, I’m not against anyone doing it themselves. Everyone has a choice and can wear their hair how they wish, what makes them feel good and comfortable with themselves, just like people can dress how they choose. Lol…however, in my first years of being natural, I got a lot of stares when I went to my hometown because the relaxer look was the norm and most people’s thoughts were “So what you gone do? Get dreads?” That was almost ten years ago and that’s the only thing they could think being that not many people, if any, were wearing afros or afro puffs. I’m happy to say today, that it has changed some since then 🙂

    Rock on with your natural hair, Didi. Although, I am curious being that you’re in another country. Though I’ve found people in the countries I’ve been in to be intrigued by and loving my hairstyles, especially when I wear an afro. Have people been receptive to your natural hair styles in France or do they not even make a big deal about it?

    1. Well I must say The French seem to be fascinated by afro hair and think it’s beautiful. Blacks often stare but say nothing. I take that as they don’t like it but they won’t say anything about it. I agree that everyone has to do what they feel comfortable with. Although I think the embedded idea blacks have about afro hair is just plain hate. One good thing is that I seem to see more naturals now in France and that’s great. Once when my hair was a little shorter one fo my French friends asked me if I was wearing a weave. I couldn’t believe it. That day my hair was in a curly afro. No one has ever asked me that. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. The French seem to assume that black women just throw on wigs instead of doing their hair. Really not my style. I had to pull a little on my hair so that she would believe me. I think for men it’s the worst. They really don’t know what they’re getting (bald or balding or full head of hair) nor how much they’ll have to pay for their future girlfriend’s/wife’s hair. I just wish for the day when black people embrace their kinks and curls and love their hair wholeheartedly.

      1. I definitely agree with you that the disdain for our hair textures that are deemed as bad hair stem from hatred. Neither is that hatred only confined to our hair but skin color and even ourselves as a whole. What was embedded into the thinking of our people and others about what is beautiful and what is not (whether it’s the texture of our hair, the shape of our nose, the color of our skin or something else) over many years is still affecting those who are coming along even today, but I think love is the key to changing this. Plus, those of us who are learning self-acceptance in many different areas can help others to begin to accept and love what they have come to dislike and even hate about themselves. It may take some people a while and lots of encouragement but only because of fear of what others and society thinks. I remember when I was teaching in the states that a few people that I worked with, including some students were encouraged to love their natural hair and to even go natural themselves. It even made me feel good when some of the students at my school began to take pride in themselves and their hair because I chose to wear my hair natural (even though there were two teachers who already were wearing dreads). Things have definitely come along way, though from when no one was talking about natural hair to being able to buy natural hair products (though few they may be) in some beauty supple stores. It’ll take more time, but I think natural hair will become more common to see than it is now.

        1. I agree with you. Things are changing slowly. It’s the beginning, but I’m confident for the future. As for choosing products, that’s another story. Check out my next post for that! Thanks again for commenting.

  2. Fascinating, natural is healthy for sure, just not always fashionable, but if you are no slave to fashion, you might become the new fashion. Hair seems to be an endless obsession among many of my friends, one I don’t subscribe to, I hate going to the hairdresser (bad childhood experiences still linger) and bad hair days I just put it up. I’m sure I’ve saved much by not becoming obsessed with it, books yes, hair never.

    1. Yes I am not my hair is a prevalent expresssion at the moment among some naturals. It’s so hard for African-American to escape the obsession of their hair. It is something that has been passed on from generation to generation. It stems from slavery and dictates the way unfortunately the way we view other African-Americans. Becoming natural has taught me to love and accept myself fully but most of all given me more pride in my African-American culture.

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