Kid pic with puff balls
I was born with a full head of hair - thick and curly. My mother would do my hair every Sunday until middle school. I would sit between her legs and she would do braids, puff balls or something quite unique. Sometimes I got teased about my hair, which made me feel insecure at a young age. Since I went to a predominantly white elementary school many of my peers would ask me why my hair was the way it was. Initially, I did not feel uncomfortable with my hair but their discomfort began to make me feel uneasy at times. I also had to constantly think about how to sustain my hair through the week. I would wear a stocking on my head at night to protect it. I miss the smell of Dax hair grease.
At about 10 years old, I started getting my hair hot combed. My mom would sometimes put the hot comb on the stove and I would flinch at the heat! I still remember the sweat under my underarms when she would do my edges. I would sit in the kitchen with a towel around me already calculating how long my hair would stay straight if I did not sweat or etc. I realized good press outs could last me two weeks if I steered clear of steam, water and sweat. I started to understand how straight hair was synonymous with “decent” and “put together.” The hair teasing at school declined.
In middle school my mom found a tiny hair salon owned by a 70 year old Black woman, Ms. Zubee. Twice a month my sister and I would go there and pay $25.00 for a press and curl. When my mom did not have the cash to pay right away, Ms. Zubee would say, “It's okay. Next time.” She took care of our hair. She took care of us.
I got a perm in high school for prom. I regret it.
Heavy into the weaves
From college and through graduate school, I wore a weave every day. I did not feel confident with myself without a weave. I also dated men who aggressively told me they preferred me with a weave and straightened hair. I was not sure of myself at this time, so I did not resist or push back to their preferences.
Semi recent blow out
Semi recent fro
At 24 years old, I moved to Tanzania on a whim to teach at an international school. While there, for the first time in years, I went chemical free and weave free. I do not know if it took seeing more people who looked like me to feel free in my looks, identity and extremely tightly curled hair. It was the first time I wore a fro and liked the reflection in the mirror. I wore my fro proudly until I impulsively shaved the sides of my head and still felt beautiful with my half bald head and tapered natural look.
Salon selfie with film camera in Tanzania
Long Braids in Tanzania
As I sit here and type this, I reflect on all the hair stories and journeys I have been on. A timeline that catalogues community, my identity and most of all, my confidence - all of which are connected to my hair. Before going completely natural, I did not consider how much my hair defines me; my mood, style and esteem. I now stand tall in the decisions I make, specifically and especially my hair choices.
Natural with shaved sides
My new love CLIP INSSS!
Whether I am rocking a press out, braids, a fro or a messy updo, I know my hair shows my versatility. I own this power to be layered, intersectional and free to be my full self, which is represented in the liberation I have with my hair identity and the community this creates.
The fro growing back
Find Maureen on Instagram @williethewayfarer