Black women, pools, and hair have long been strange bedfellows. Besides the inaccessibility of pools in some areas with concentrated black populations, the use of hair dyes, relaxers, and weaves at early ages has left several of my black female peers and relatives without either the ability or the desire to swim. Personally, I know that I can’t fancy-free dive into a pool without preparation or I’ll reap the consequences of brittle hair and tangled ends. I searched for new healthy behavior for black hair while on vacation and many major black female-directed publications and these particular kinda perplexed me responses:
“Sitting Pretty” Many advised the defeatist behavior of just mere sitting on the sidelines passively looking cute. That really doesn’t sit well with me as I see black women trying to be proactive with their health to use swimming:
as a fitness tool
learning so they don’t want to be a part of that statistic of black women that drown each year in bodies of water that aren’t so deep
learning for the selfless reason to have the ability to rescue someone close to them from danger
The swim cap. Ugh, it may be the most healthiest and most advised way to but that thing is just not for me. I’m just going to put it all out there. I not that jazzed about having my head shaped like a condom, I’m far from a professional and I love being fully covered in water, dammit.
There are very few actual recommended hairstyle suggestions. The few articles about black haircare in pools, even if they suggest products, there are no hairstyles suggested ever. The models in the photos accompanying the articles are just walking or reclining with straight hair or someone with box braids. The former is obviously photoshoot-based magic and not recommended for actual use and the latter is a major expense I cannot afford to spare right now.
The takeaway: Since my trip is mix of business and pleasure that I don’t really want deal with the daily burden of a loose afro and I’m burnt out on two-strand twists, I’ve decided to have my hair done in a braid-twist hybrid updo that looks decent unpinned and to be careful to condition and shampoo properly.
Is this all there is?: A Natural Hair Conundrum
So on a Walmart run on my birthday last Saturday, I discovered that there was a natural hair event taking place in the “ethnic hair product” aisle. Out of curiosity, I dropped by to see what this type of socialization entailed since I had never been exposed to one before. What played out was a rehearsed song and dance with the same buzzwords from the unofficial natural dictionary, some spatterings of “I can’t wait ‘til mine gets that long”, “how do you get such great curl definition”, the exchange of YouTube bloggers spoken similarly like a televangelist’s wonderous blessings with self-promotion of their own, and general behavior consistent of how those select vegans/vegetarians claiming how much more enlightened at life they’ve become. The juxtaposition of the $10+ items in the background probably forced me to take a more ascerbic stance than should’ve. At the end of this there was a redeemable ticket for a bag chock-full of samples and gear with brands. Noticeably absent were any kind of haircare literature or even ingredient labels on most of the products. It felt more like corporations trying to reel back in a strong demo than an effort to reach out.
Solange’s intense rant about intra-community discussion was more accurate than I initially gave her credit for. The purported freedom of natural hair apparently does not extend to its community. Upon the recognition of natural hair, people seem to lose all sense of boundaries and realization of individual preference. Speaking about hair to certain people without invitation causes them to get defensive. Recognizing that the experience is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Some feel that if others hair don’t meet their standards that they have the right to coerce others with not so subtle hints about styling and products.
I want to believe things have changed and people have adapted a more progressive attitude about hair but it feels like the insecurities about natural hair have just shifted. Natural hair is still not as acceptable universally. The most opposition seems to center on people not obsessed with the long, loose curly, borderline biracial hair styling. Thicker hair styled in twists, dreads, fluffed out fros, and people that work with their own curl patterns rather than twist outs still receive backlash, are deemed an embarrassment, and systematically told their look is unprofessional. Those that get in the pulpit of curl pattern classification and curl definitionalists are no different than (and are actually some of the same people) the ones regulating new growth with relaxers. Same dance, new partner.