My relationship with my hair has always been a rocky one. As a young child, I had these long dark curls that would spring into perfect ringlets for my picture days. But then I hit puberty and woke up one morning to do my hair and as I looked in the mirror, I saw this ghastly thing hanging from the back of my head… a rat tail! As I stared at it closer, I could see that part of my hair had gone straight! I instantly panicked; how could I go to school with two different lengths and textures of hair? But without having time to change it I went to school anyways, which was something I regretted for years.
Whether I sat on the bus, ate my lunch, or walked to class people stared and giggled. They would pester, “What’s wrong with your hair?”, “Can I cut it?” or “Why don’t you just get rid of that part?”. When they weren’t asking questions, they were making jokes with scissors implying they would cut it as an offer to fix it for me. This went on for years until one day I came home and looked at my mom and said, “Cut it,”: So, she did. As part of my rat tail fell to the floor I felt instant relief, my hair was now perfectly even.
Though I had cut part of my hair in order to “fix it,” as I got older, I eventually realized that the rat tail (although long gone) wasn’t the problem for my peers: it was my curls. In many instances, I was ridiculed for having hair that was ‘too big’ or ‘too wild.’ With memories of having pencils or fingers stuck in my hair, I decided to change my look and only wear my hair in a bun or two braids.
As long as I can remember I wore these same two hairstyles, to the point that my hair was dented where my elastic bands sat. Once, in grade eleven, I had straightened my hair the night before a school dance. I was working on my homework when a girl behind me (with whom I used to be friends) tapped me on the should and said, “You know Savannah, you should straighten your more often, you are much prettier that way.” My confidence was shot. The next day I resorted back to the only hairstyle that kept me safe from ridicule – my bun.
When I got to Grade Twelve, I was so excited for prom, but then I realized that it meant I had to do my hair. I wanted so badly to wear my hair down and curly but after years of heartache, I realized that wearing my natural hair would potentially lead to more mockery. Without having even gone to prom yet, I could already imagine hearing my peers say, “Why is it so frizzy?” or “It would have looked better up.” For that reason, I fell back into my old ways and straightened my hair to put in a bun. Now looking at my prom pictures, I don’t see my beautiful self; I see a scared little girl who was beaten down by comments that swayed how she would present herself for many years.
The next year, I went to college; a place that wasn’t very diverse. While I thought that it would be a fresh start, I still hated my hair. When my classmates weren’t asking me about my styles, my former in-laws were trying to tame it. So, I went to my hairdresser and told her to cut it. Of course, she replied “Just a trim?” but I will never forget looking in the mirror and saying, “No. Cut it off. All of it.” So, she did… and while I loved my short Halle Barry style for a few weeks I eventually realized that that wasn’t me either. I wanted my long curls back! In the aftermath of cutting my hair, I decided to board the self-love train where I began to truly work with my hair not against it. While I still have some days that my hair won’t cooperate, I can now look in the mirror and see my hair for what it is – strong and beautiful just like me.