OK, a trip to the hairdresser and my recent trip to India got me all inner reflective so for all you folk of mine from another color here is an inside story on the most frustrating part of being a black woman. No it’s not finding love or a man or even Mr. Right now.
Naw, this is about the part of a black woman that she has the most trouble with. It’s a love/hate relationship that has her questioning her womanhood, her identity her place in this world. It’s the only part of her that has her frazzled, that undermines her impeccable Nubian credentials and even if she’s made peace with it and herself and her management of it, well, there’s a little girl inside of her that cringes when she walks by a salon and can smell hair burning. Of course, I’m talking about the black woman’s unique attribute – her hair. I can find an eligible man anywhere, but the right hair ‘do could take decades.
Today was my first hair appointment since I moved to Chicago. She was a new stylist so I had to give her the run down on my hair.
Now by all accounts I’ve been blessed in the hair department. My hair is fairly manageable and melts like butter when it’s supposed to. It’s not long, never has been, but it’s never really given me any problems. But what I do to my hair is a different story. I had to tell her that I swim about four or five times a week. This is unusual for a black woman so she asked me what I did with my hair. Since I was getting a relaxer (a perm which makes my hair straight for all my peeps of another color) she was astounded that I swam everyday. Then I told her about my 45-minute ritual after I got out of the pool – this includes washing with a specialized chlorine-stripping shampoo twice and then conditioning my hair with an ultra strong/protected conditioner then whisking my hair into a ponytail compliments of the “phony-pony,” a drawstring ponytail made from synthetic hair. I immediately felt so sorry for my stylist since I’m going swimming tomorrow and will mess up all her beautiful art work.
After she gasped, she asked me a question I’ve been asked countless times before:
“Have you ever considered getting hair sewed in?” I twisted my nose in aversion.
OK so for all of you who do not know what I’m talking about and are wondering about the title of this piece as compared to the subject matter here’s a secret: A lot of the hair on the heads of black women comes from countries they’ve never been too. From India, China, Korea etc., the hair extension industry is a multi-million dollar business supplying lovely straight locks to the previously short, nappy or funky-haired allowing women to literally change who they are by changing their looks. A black woman, who previously was ignored, marginalized or even stepped over, can stop men – black and white alike – in their tracks with a good weave and a low cut dress. Her long locks make her zip from invisible to mainstream. (Men’s fascination with long hair always confused me….that’s another story.) Even white women – Kate Moss, Cheryl Cole to name a few, and of course Madonna – have glommed on to the industry that gives human hair a different address. (Lindsay Lohan got to keep hers during her recent jail stay.)
Sewing in is the process of literally taking this exported human hair and sewing it onto your braided hair for a beautiful set of locks that last about three to five months. Anyone who watched Chris Rock’s “Good Hair,” knows that this process is long and expensive. The hair weave/extension industry has exploded into a big import/export business that literally supplies millions of pounds of hair a year to black women all over the globe.
Like anything there’s varying kinds, textures and qualities. And they all have funny names like Yaki, Remi and then there’s, of course, the straight dope – human hair.
I learned from Chris Rock that a lot of the human hair supplied for weaves come from Indian women participating in a Hindu ritual. This, among other reasons, made me avoid the human hair sew-in thing. I didn’t want to support the subjugation of women (my description) and my own foolish vanity at the same time. Besides, as a swimmer I always thought getting a weave just wouldn’t work on me. I work out (or well I’m starting to again) a lot and swim as we said before. And weave is like a piece of art it’s meant to be seen and admired not used and abused. But then my hair dresser told me about this wonderful human hair product that turns curly when wet and looks great.
After being in India for a week and talking to my hairdresser I’m seriously thinking of starting an import/export business of Indian hair. But I want to get it from some of the poor villages I visited. I figure these women could retire from all the money they will make selling black woman their hair. Prices for the hair range from $150 a hair pack up to $300. It’s amazing how much it costs. I was shocked. Then after you get the hair there’s the price of up to $300 to sew it onto your hair. The whole thing sounds daunting but I know countless women do it all the time.
So my real question is should I do it? Since I travel to India I’d probably want to go get my own hair and make sure it comes from a women who is not being subjugated or oppressed or forced into selling her hair. I’ve been to India I know how commercial ventures could easily turn into exploitative practices. I’m just not sure that the hair I buy will be ethically correct. Maybe I should forget the entire thing and just go back to writhing in agony over my looks everyday. Mmmm. Decisions. Decisions.What about it? Can there be a such thing as an ethical hair extension company? I mean, could I really have a clean way of getting hair from poor women and commercially bringing it to other women who have historically been subjugated by society? Is that possible? Is human hair trafficking right? Your thoughts?