I have a dream, too.
For sure, it’s less ambitious than that of Martin Luther King, but it fires me up and rouses me every day that God brings.
In this dream, I don’t need to rise at dawn to deal with my hair.
In this dream, I step out of the shower with my damp mane, and the cool morning air dries it naturally. I don’t even have to think about it. I’m not constantly checking to see if my hair’s started to puff up, if it’s where it’s supposed to be. I can run my hands through it without them snagging. There’s no barrier. No checkpoint.
In this dream, hair straighteners don’t exist. And I don’t fret at the prospect of rain, because I don’t suffer from Simba Phobia (a common but little-known syndrome).
In this dream, I accept myself for what I am, I honour that which nature has given me, without trying to disguise myself or copy a dominant model I’m forced to identify with, for want of anything better.
No, I’ll never have Barbie hair, and this is a fact I understood from early on.
But I am far from being the only person to experience capillary warfare on a daily basis.
By watching one YouTube tutorial on the back of another, I discovered that a torture inflicted on me throughout my childhood, in order to discipline my hair, was now available for sale.
When you pronounce the word, it sounds sweet and cute.
The Kardoune is a technique brought to us from North Africa, and it involves wrapping a long woven cotton ribbon around the hair. It straightens and tames hair without destroying it with heat. In my own family, I can trace the Kardoune back to my great-grandmother, who passed this know-how on to my grandmother, and so to my mother, prompting me to say: Whoa! Steady on! This tale of suffering stops with me!
My mother took my sister and me to play in the playground, our hair bound up by the Kardoune. The best kind of ribbon she could lay her hands on was a bandage. Our friends in the park thought we’d ‘had an accident’. ‘Did you injure your hair?’ one of them asked us. Naturally, we replied ‘yes’.
Of course we were injured.
We already had to be in pain. From childhood. We already had to interiorise the shame. To transform our nature and admit that our hair wasn’t beautiful just the way it was. It needed to be disciplined.
As teenagers, in the early 90’s, well before the arrival of super smoothing treatments, we resorted to the aggressive chemical straighteners being marketed to black women. It was the only solution. We made the trip into Paris, to buy these products in the specialist hair-shops of Château d’Eau.
Unsurprisingly, the results didn’t live up to our expectations. Our hair was burnt and mutilated, our scalp irritated. I’ve even wondered, given the toxicity of some of those products, whether they directly affected my mood swings ?
We looked like we were wearing hard helmets: think Playmobil. It was the age of hair abuse.
And then, the revolution of the Brazilian keratin smoothing treatment changed the face of the world. This product, which you apply several times a year – as soon as your hair reclaims its rights, after a few centimetres of re-growth – has worked miracles. We almost forgot the silky-smoothness was totally fake.
Now that I’m in my thirties, and after the mixed success of such experiences, I came across an interview with the founder of Hrach is Beautiful (frizzy hair is beautiful). This movement adopts a militant approach and invites you to love and accept yourself. It is also a means of realising the morning dream. At last, the possibility of saving time. Because denying your nature is a time-consuming business.
And so a new chapter begins.
I’m within a hair’s breadth of being beautiful, but in order for this to happen this I have to start loving myself and stop self-inflicting endless torture. In order for this to happen I have to quit faking it, quit lying to myself. The world has to be ready to welcome me with my hrach hair. And the world begins with me.
There are natural oils whose benefits have long been proved. Coconut oil and Argan oil, for example. And yet I’d overlooked the appeal of Argan oil to tourists visiting the Atlas Mountains in Morocco: they head home with a bottle in their suitcase, as if transporting a small miracle from our lands.
Let’s return to our roots. Let’s treat our hair with respect. I am in transition. I’m giving up faking it. Martin Luther King was right, you have to follow your dreams.
Faïza Guène was born in Bobigny in 1985. She was discovered by a French teacher at a writing workshop, and wrote her first novel Kiffe-Kiffe Demain (Just Like Tomorrow) at the tender age of 17. It was a huge success, selling 500,000 copies, and went on to be translated in over 26 countries. She has now published five novels, and maintains a lightness of tone as she continues to dissect society with relevance and humour.
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