I was in eighth grade when James Brown declared, "I'm black and I'm proud." And so while white sistahs were "burning bras," many of my sistahs were refusing to "burn" their hair anymore.
Yes, our follicles were free at last -- no more hot combs, no more perms. And I loved my 'fros.
I cut 'em short, corkscrew 'em, let them go all Angela Davis sometimes, too. They were "wash and wear." I didn't have to set them. I could wake up, give 'em a Queer Eye "jooge" and go.
But over the years a rule change occurred. We started to tame and even hide our hair again. Not sure why. But I was recently dismayed to hear a panel of young black women berate a biracial panel member who preferred to wear her natural corkscrew curls "au naturel," instead of straightening them.
"I wouldn't even consider you, if you came to a job interview like that," one self-righteously said. And I thought, "If I needed a job, I wouldn't consider working for you..."
But she was just being real. Many employers do frown upon "natural" dos, too. In fact, even the military has nixed natural hair, as this Daily Show piece by Jessica Williams explained:
And of course, thanks to Beyoncé et al, the almighty weave has become a status symbol, too. Good news for beauticians who can charge astronomical sums. Bad news for those of us who can't or don't want to wear someone else's hair.
Yes, women of other colors wear other people's hair, too. But black women may be the only ones who wear store-bought hair that is sooo unlike their own. What that says about us has been written about and researched for decades. I don't have time to go there. And Chris Rock's Good Hair does it better than I ever will.
I chose store-bought for a time because I had no choice. Age and over-processing had begun to thin my hair. And then, a few years ago, I suffered one of the most deadly allergic reactions there is: Stevens Johnson syndrome. SJS burns you from the inside out, sometimes requiring skin grafts, as if you'd been burned by actual flames.
It affected every inch of my body, including my scalp. But miraculously, for me, as the blistering and peeling began to subside and the rough patches healed, the new skin was baby smooth. And my scalp was rejuvenated, too. My hair grew longer and thicker. My Mayo Clinic doctors are still mystified. I'm thrilled.
But I hadn't considered going 'fro again, until I saw Carlos Santana chanting, "I love your freckles, and your 'fro," to his beautiful black queen, Cindy Blackman, on an HBO special.
She's fierce, that woman -- drummed for Lenny Kravitz and stole the show in one of his best known videos. And there was something about the way she walked across that stage that reminded me of the old "black and proud" days.
I wanted to walk that walk again. So I hit YouTube for tips and discovered that there were whole channels devoted to natural hair and hair products. Because as Jessica Williams explained, even our natural hair can be hard work. There are locks, twists, all kinds of variations. And just cutting that 'fro down to size at first can be a time consuming task.
I chose to taper mine using a combination of YouTube techniques. And I also bought a jar of gel recommended by several video divas, to keep those kinks in place and make them a wee bit more manageable before I got to work.
Results? I'm not quite ready for a HuffPost reveal, but I love the look. It's got lots of silver in it now, and may never be quite as full as the 'fros of my youth. But it's just right for a woman my age, coming into her midlife powers. With just the right accessories, it's a classy, classic look that takes mere minutes to spritz and pat into place.
And it is really wonderful to be back to hair that my man can touch -- again, see Good Hair for a discussion of that taboo. Suffice it to say, when a sistah spends hundreds -- or thousands -- of dollars on that weave or perfect perm, she can be understandably touchy about touching. Comedian Katt Williams is savvy enough to keep satin pillowcases on hand: take a lesson, guys.
I won't be weaving or perming ever again, though. Mama's gone old school for good.