From the time I was a little girl, I’ve always had a fascination with long hair. Tying a towel, nightgown, or scarf to my head and vigorously whipping it from side to side was a regular playtime occurrence.
Maybe it had something to do with envy, but the one thing that always stood in the back of my mind was just how fast and just how long my Latina and White friends’ hair would grow. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but at a young age I came to the conclusion that Black girls just didn’t achieve that kind of length. Looking around me, it was an easy assumption to make. My own hair was curly and baby fine, and at its longest, went just past my shoulders. My younger sister was the opposite, with immensely thick, kinky strands, but even her locks wouldn’t reach past the tipping point. Just about everyone in my family, including my Black friends, had short or medium-length hair, so it was safe to conclude that super-long, natural Black hair didn’t exist.
I was so accustomed to seeing weaves on almost every Black woman, that I used to believe that Black girls just had some kind of genetic predisposition to shorter hair. Some say that this seeming phenomenon is a result of the damage we do to our hair on a regular basis. Relaxers, heating tools and other instruments of hair torture are to blame for us not being able to achieve great lengths. And maybe it’s just the fact that our texture is deceiving to the eye, since tightly wound coils don’t always tell the truth about length. Regardless, it wasn’t until later on in life that I began to realize that Black girls do, in fact, grow long hair without the assistance of a weave or mixed blood, both of which is believed to be the only ways in which a brown girl’s hair could crawl down her back. I can remember being a young adolescent and coming across a Black girl just about my age with over 15 inches of hair and literally being in a state of awe. It was truly a rare sight for me, as strange as that might sound.
After that, I started to see more and more women of my complexion with hair like Naomi Campbell . . . except that it was real. This just goes to show that hair length can be a powerful thing. As women, we are made to believe that hair is an extension (no pun intended) of our beauty and inherent femininity, and that without it, we’re not as beautiful as our lighter-skinned counterparts. Something so insignificant tends to hold an overwhelming amount of weight, driving us to unnatural, enhancing measures. I now know that our hair has the ability to get as long as it wants, but some people’s hair just stops at certain points–Latinas, Whites and Asians included–and looks good either way.