13. Good Hair

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!