Friday, April 30, 2010

My Dad, My Jheri Curl, and The Hair Wars

For weeks, my mother was in the hospital with a serious back injury, and so it was on my Dad to fix dinner, do laundry, and check homework between all of his “Dad-type” responsibilities. Daddy did all of the mom stuff reasonably well, considering. He leaned a little bit too hard on his go-to dish of smothered liver and mashed potatoes — but my brother and I, we weren’t hungry. And he ruined a few loads of laundry by adding a red shirt or two in the whites — but my brother and I, we weren’t naked, so that was a good thing, too.

Still, when it came to styling his 12-year-old daughter’s hair, my Daddy was useless. See, my mother and I had a standing Saturday night appointment with a tub of hair grease and a hot comb, both of which she used to make my naturally kinky, curly hair straight, and weekdays, it was her duty to make sure I didn’t look like Wild Thang climbing onto the school bus. Daddy? He didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout natural black girl hair, except that it should look anything but kinky and curly. And so only a few days into his Mr. Mom routine, his reasonably cute tween was beginning to look embarrassingly unkempt.

For my sake and his sanity, he did what any self-respecting Dad with little money and even less hairstyling skills would do: He slapped a jheri curl in my hair. One of those generic, style-at-home hair texturizer kits with the “easy-to-follow” directions that promised to transform my kinky hair into loose, wet, low-maintenance, glamorous curls.


Indeed, I like to refer to this dark and scary time in my life as the beginning of Hair Wars, when I spent many a morning dreading going to school with what looked like a fuzzy, greasy afro, and many more evenings begging my Dad to just let me cut my hair and start anew. But Daddy wasn’t having it. A southern gentleman to the core, he believed that hair is sacred — especially if it brushes the shoulders and blows in the wind. He would never let any child of his cut her “crown and glory”’— even if it had turned into a stringy, drippy, afro mess...

To read more about my jheri curl hair wars with my dad, CLICK HERE to read the rest of my post, exclusively at

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  1. I saw part of that Chris Rock documentary - Good Hair. I was fascinated. I had no idea how much work it takes for black people to deal with their hair! Makes me grateful for my wash 'n wear white girl hair!

  2. ..Some people make it alot of work, but it really doesn't have to be. The key to making it easy is to work with the natural hair texture, and not against it to make it look like something it is not. There is nothing wrong with the appearance of highly textured hair that is properly maintained. Many black people still do not know that, so they make it hard for themselves.


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