Having Natural Hair (In Asia and Beyond)

Growing up, half of my memories are of me sitting on the floor, with my mother sitting in a chair behind me braiding my hair. I used to fuss and squirm until it was over and I got to enjoy my nice new hair style for a week. I’m sure all of the black women out there understand perfectly what I mean. Well anyways my mom made this tradition of relaxing our hair right before our eight grade graduation, she felt that our scalps were healthy and mature enough at that age to take the chemical, permanent straightening. Looking back, I am grateful she waited that long, because walking around I see mothers who don’t want to even deal with combing and relax their daughter’s hair at age 3-4. Regardless of this fact, at age 13 I still didn’t want to relax my hair, but in the end I was forced to and I was happy for a few years.

Straight Hair

Then I started noticing that even though my hair would be silky and flowy for a few days (after getting it done), I would always have to start putting it in the mid-week pony tail, and not even get to enjoy my hair. Not to mention, I started adding up all of the dollars it took to get my hair treated, I had aunts who worked in the hair salon business, so I got great deals…but still paying $10 a week to get it washed and $20 every 6 weeks to get a relaxer is too much. So my sisters and I started on a healthy hair trend, we read books, blogs, and forums about the proper way to take care of hair. We learned what the chemicals in relaxers really do to the hair shaft and follicles, what products provide the most moisture, and “protective” hairstyles. After about a year of taking better care of my hair, I started questioning my image of beauty. I’ve always been something of a rebel, you know-hate any show/movie that’s popular, take spanish just because all of the other Haitians took french-that sort of rebel. Anyways, one day while looking at my roots, I tought to myself, why can’t my natural hair be beautiful on it’s own? What exactly am I conforming too? Will my daughter be ashamed of her own hair the way my mom is? (I’m not saying relaxed hair is shameful or anything, it’s just that when my mom sees natural hair she compares it to poor, homeless people…and that just isn’t right) So in May 2010 I took matters into my own hands and cut all of my relaxed hair away. The next morning I was so scared to show my mom! I snuck around her for a day before I bucked up and let her have it, she moaned about the loss of my “beautiful” hair, but I felt empowered.

Braid Out (1 year post)


Ironically enough, all of the negative comments I have ever received about my hair has come from the black community (though of course only a few don’t like it, not everyone hates). So it’s been over a year now since my big-chop, and I am at that awkward stage between having enough hair to do something with it, and it being too short still. I have down different types of afros though and have fun doing it. The reactions I get from Chinese people are pretty funny, my friends tell me that people stare in amazement when my back is turned. Surprisingly, there has only been one surprise attack on my fro, an old man walking behind me decided to feel one spring, and I wasn’t angry at all. My Chinese friends don’t even ask if they can feel it (every single one of my American friends have asked to have a feel, which is ironic since Americans are supposed to be the more experienced of the two). Topics that involve my hair always go with the Chinese person admiring my hair, then asking how much it costs to curl it like this….I hate to disappoint but it’s natural! Their faces are always priceless, because paying to have your hair curled is the rage right now (grass is always greener on the otherside-blacks have curly hair so we straighten and Chinese have straight hair so they curl). When I get back to America next August, I am considering getting my hair done in sisterlocks, it’s a more feminine (expensive!) version of dreadlocks, and I think it’s really cute.

Long Sister Locks

I’m not going to lie and say I never miss straight hair, it is so much easier to be considered “beautiful” with a long, flowing mane. With that aside, though, it’s also great to not have to run away from rain, wash it myself, and not carry an arsenal of heating products. As for now, I am going to stick it through because I’m happy to be nappy!~


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. wil-na
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 00:28:14

    im so nervous about having an afro in Korea. its a shame to associate beauty with straight hair but damn id be a liar if were to say evey now and again i regret chopping my hair off before coming here. hopefully all the hair accessories i plan on buying will make me feel less unpretty and more bold and beautiful! I considered sister looks too but its to long of a process. Maybe medium size dreadlocks when i get tired of my hair.


    • marshabarsha
      Sep 05, 2011 @ 10:31:11

      I understand what you mean, I hate thinking that way, but it’s pretty ingrained haha. Just remember that you are beautiful regardless! Just do whatever makes you feel more self-confident, and to those who don’t agree with our “beauty”….thay know what to do with themselves 😛
      I might not do sisterlocks…I’m so wishy-washy about it, but only because it would be another permanent change to my hair, I keep asking myself, how is this better than relaxer as a beauty statement? Ah, so complicated 😕


  2. Elaine
    Sep 25, 2011 @ 21:05:28

    Great post! It’s funny you say that it was mostly Americans asking to touch you hair! I know I have read some naturalistas saying they don’t like when people touch their hair or skin, but like you I don’t mind it. Although, I should say that only my students (in Spain and in the States) have asked to touch my hair/skin.

    I never knew about the sister locks until now! I am definitely thinking about getting ‘locks when I get older, but for now I am still thinking of things to do to my hair.


    • marshabarsha
      Sep 28, 2011 @ 06:09:24

      Yeah, I think sister locks look so pretty, but I’m wondering if by doing them am i doing the same sentence in a different jail? If that makes any sense, haha. Time shall tell, I won’t even have the oppurtunity to do them until I go back to the States in August, suprisingly experts in the sisterlock process are hard to find out here, in the far east. So you’re in Spain and there are still reactions to natural hair? Shouldn’t suprise me but it does, the skin thing is a BIT strange, I haven’t had that one yet but I guess I will consent lol….now you have me wondering if my Chinese friends stare at my arm when I’m not looking and want to cop a feel 😛


  3. Zoe
    Feb 09, 2012 @ 03:55:43

    I just started transitioning to natural and your post is inspiration thanks


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