I’ve had this hair since the day I was born. Although, back then, it was in the shape of a Mohawk which had a few strands on either side. It was coarser and didn’t get very long until I was a couple of years old. But, it was present from my first breathe on this earth.
These are the same tresses I wore in braids to cut down on the hour it took me to get ready for day camp. That style was later swapped out for a ponytail, often worn to the side to keep my hair out of my face so I could jump rope with ease or fit it under my girls scout Brownie Beanie.
This is the hair I cut down to just two inches long for my sixth grade graduation prompting my grandmother to say, “I hope you pinned it up. Your long straight hair is the only thing that made you special.”
They’re the same locks I wore short in the front and long in the back in junior high; the height in the front was courtesy of a can of Stiff Stuff hairspray. It allowed me to dye it orange in seventh grade, spray in sparkles in eighth grade and style it in curlers the next year.
It’s the same hair I cut into a bob when I headed off to boarding school in tenth grade. The shape allowed me to tuck it perfectly under my ice hockey helmet. It grew out a few months later in time for me to become one of the first two women to ever play on the men’s JV baseball team. Thankfully, the new length allowed me to retain some femininity while wearing a cup.
This is the hair people asked to touch because they could believe a black girl didn’t need a relaxer every six to eight weeks to keep her straight. I might not have added those chemicals to my hair but they are the same follicles I dyed, highlighted, straightens with a hot comb and curled with a brush and iron. Despite it all, it remained shiny strong and long.
Then, in my twenties, my hair began falling out in the crown as if I were suffering from male patterned baldness. The embarrassment was nothing compared to the underlying cause, a mysterious connective tissue, that began disrupting my hormones and ravaging my body.
Being proactive, I cut my hair and tried comb over what was left to hide my growing bald patch. The new style was so drastic my then boyfriend didn’t recognize me on the street. He told me he thought I looked like a dude yet he didn’t leave my side.
This is the same hair that grew back only to fall out years later, covering the ivory tile on my bathroom floor with dozens of strands. It did this again and again, anytime I changed medications or underwent treatment for swollen lymph nodes and tumors in my thirties. Still, no matter how long or short it became, my hair never completely left me.
It did become the same course texture as it had been when I was an infant after another round of strong medication for my lupus like condition in my forties, making me think it would never shine again. I was wrong. I coddled it, changed my diet and tried every product I could find to revive it.
My hair was worth all the effort. This is the hair that’s remained with me through every triumph and tragedy in my life. It hangs on, as do I no matter what comes my way.
About the Author:
Nika C. Beamon is the author of the new memoir, Misdiagnosed: The Search For Dr. House, which is IndieReader approved. In 2009, her non-fiction title, I Didn’t Work This Hard Just to Get Married was published by Chicago Review Press. She’s also authored two mystery novels, Dark Recesses and Eyewitness.