Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On Wanting More Length

Recently Helga wrote that she wanted more length, a common lament among those of us with locks, no matter what length we started with - from short to medium to shoulder length and beyond.

Helga mentioned an "overfocus on growing long hair that some Black women can be obsessed with," an indirect quote from one of her sisters. And I hear (and read) many comments to that effect from women with locks as well.

Many people say that when you decide to lock it should be for other reasons. Why? Who says? Isn't it an individual choice? Does it matter? I think we should show ourselves and others that black women can achieve great lengths with their natural hair. If that is someone's primary reason for locking, so be it. Is anything lost?

I want longer hair too! - YESTERDAY - And I am not ashamed to say so! And you know what else?

White girls and Latinas obsess about their hair length and thickness too. A lot of them wear extensions and hairpieces also. And they don't feel ashamed. A lot of them battle curls and frizz every day, so it isn't just us.

Do we have more of a struggle and more dissatisfaction and more outside influences that tell us our natural hair isn't good enough? I do believe so, but I also think the gulf is not as wide as some people imagine. (In terms of the numbers of individuals who do not like the hair they were born with. I mean, really, the entire beauty industry is built on making us - women of all races - dissatisfied with our natural selves - add to that cultural influences and stereotypes and community expectations, and well, you see where I'm going with this argument...)

Wanting longer hair isn't the only reason I decided to lock or the main reason. I wanted healthier hair and greater freedom and more options, and to that end I have been EXTREMELY satisfied with my locks from day one.

But wanting longer hair is one reason I decided to start locks. And I believe it is a valid reason and we should not feel bad about it. Why shouldn't AA women have hair down our backs that WE GREW if we want it?

P.S.: Helga, and whichever sister made the comment, please rest assured that I did not misunderstand your statements or take them out of context, it just gave me an opportunity to 'speak' on something that had been on my mind for months. I hope you don't mind....


Helga said...

Girrrrl, speak on that!

It is great that we have opinions about these issues, especially because ideas about Black women, hair, and beauty will continue to circulate. We do need to claim for ourselves our own relationships to ourselves and to our hair.

We did not create the standards that judge us, but we can be a part of creating new images of beauty, acceptance, and satisfaction

Anonymous said...

Of course having a healthy head of hair is most important but longer hair wouldn't be so bad either...LOL!!

I've met many mid-back and beyond locked people and they all have said having the long hair gets old and all you want to do is put it up in a ponytail.

blackrussian said...

Well said Helga! I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments.

MM, I've heard the same statements over and over, but seriously, for every long-haired sister who 'complains' about her length, how many of them cut it short aagain?

Some do, but NOT most. They DO put it up in a ponytail or something else so they CAN have hair hanging down their back WHEN they want to and it can be out of their way the rest of the time!

I already know I don't want 'hair that I can sit on.' I'm very short, so I don't need loads of hair trailing down my back. I think once it reaches the region f my bra strap, I'll kep it trimmed to that length and probably experiement with styles a few inches shorter and longer as the years go by.

I already put my hair up in a bun EVERY day because I don't like for it to hang in my face and on my neck, so I know that when it is LONG I will do the same. But I do want the option of wearing elegant curls and ringlets and spirals and updos and all the things you can't do with shorter hair. Or the things you CAN do, but to less dramatic effect.

Short hair gets old. Long hair gets old. When it comes down to it we all want change from time to time.

blackrussian said...

Dang! Knew I should have proofread!

Goodnapps said...

Girl - I saw Helga's post and thought the exact same thing! I swear we must have been separated at birth!

It's been on your mind for months.....heck it's been on mine for 2 years!!! I COMPLETELY agree with everything in this post and I couldn't have said it better.

Bravo, bravo!

It really nags me to keep hearing people say black women are obsessed with long hair. All women are obsessed with long hair due to the patriarchal society we live in. If somebody's only motivation to grow locks is to have hair to their ankles, so what!

We should be embracing the fact that at least it is being done healthy and non-invasive, superficial or not.

This is one of the last few emotionally charged subjects that I just had to get out of my system.

Great post!

blackrussian said...

Thanks GN,

I can't count the number of white women I know who CONSTANTLY complain about their hair being to short and/or too thin. And it IS societal and as old as TIME itself. Long hair is associated with femininity and beauty. It just is.

Because of our hair texture and all of the things we do to it to alter that texture that work against it and not with it, we as AA women are much less likely to have long hair of our own. I think that is what makes people think that we are more obsessed with it, but in point of fact I do not believe we are.

I'm glad you liked my post. I wasn't sure how controversial it might be. Indeed I have been wanting to write this post since I started blogging!

Yesterday was the first time I felt like I could get my point across without sounding angry or indignant or overly frustrated.

Rockstar said...

Great post! Part of my reason for locking was because I want long hair, that is all mine of course! If you let yourself get caught up in what other lock wearers say about it, then the tendency is to remain hushed about your motivations, at least for me it was. However, women like yourself, Helga, and Goodnaps help others know it's okay to want long hair, and it's okay to lock your hair to get it. Thanks! RS

blackrussian said...

Thanks RS, I appreciate your comments as well!

As I have discovered online chat groups and blogs since I started locking and blogging, I have been surprised by how much negativity and dissension there can be among lock-wearers.

I guess that's just human nature, so just because we are a subset that chooses natural hair, I shouldn't expect that we should be different from society as a whole.

I'm naturally a positive, live-and-let-live kind of person, so I gravitate towards other individuals who are like me. Those are the blogs I follow and comment on, for the most part.

I stay away from those I consider 'lock snobs.' I don't consider myself more spiritual or in touch with my heritage and blackness because of my locks. Or that I have gained entry into an exclusive club. And I don't think everyone has to have noble, elevated reasons for deciding to lock.

I do feel more in touch with my natural self since I started my locks. I have all new appreciation for my hair texture and what it allows me to do. (And I had nothing but love for it before!)

I feel like I have greater freedom. And I feel like I have chosen to help represent the range of beautiful options available to us as black women at the end of the spectrum that is often under-represented and underappreciated.

And I am not ashamed to say that I am proud of that. People need to see that we CAN be beautiful without weaves and chemicals. Several lock wearers make reference to the fact that we are 'wearing our testimony' and I like that idea.

I choose not to be discouraged by negative comments from ANYone - lock-weares or 'permies' or people of other races.

If we cared so much what everyone else thinks, most of us would never have started locks in the first place, right?

Thanks for stopping by and for posting a comment. Y'all know how I LOVE feedback!

Carmen In NC Sisterlock Trainee said...

I want all unstretched locks to touch my shoulders. LOL. Great post as usual.

Aya said...

Great post BR.I think deep down, we all, at least most uf us, long to have our hair grow long or longer. A good number of us AA women have never experienced that. We've sat watching others with long hair and have secretly or outwardly hoped that could be us. I can relate to Helga so well. Each time we see each other, we comment about how each other's locks are growing. I can tell that her's are growing, but I'm not good at judging my own growth.

brunsli said...

An interesting post!

I think a lot of people think black women can't easily have long hair, but that's not quite right. Women who put sodium hydroxide on their scalps every month or two can't easily have long hair.

I've been thinking baout my own hair length lately. I suppose my occasional snips and impromtu 2" haircut in August undermined any attempt to grow long hair.

In some ways, I think long hair isn't professional, but in other ways, I think, it's not like my hair is a wallflower, so it might as well be long. We'll see as time goes on.


blackrussian said...

I hear you Carmen. Mine are hovering just above my shoulders. I suspect they won't get there before I reach the one year mark, and perhaps not even then...but it's getting closer and closer. The new year is just around the corner and March will be here before any of us know it!

Aya, everything you said is so true. I can't even see my own growth in pictures until I look at new ones side by side with old ones.

I remember every time I ever had much as I may have liked the look, I knew that it wasn't MY hair, and other people knew that it wasn't my hair. So what statement was I making? Implicitly, even.

I am really looking forward to the day when I have long hair, 'MAGIC HAIR,' that is all mine. My consultant's hair is very long and some people refuse to believe it's all hers - even when she tells them she's been locked for 8 years and they've been that length for 4.

I don't care whether people some think it's a weave or not - if my length inspires other women to go natural and stop using chemicals and damaging heat, then that's a bonus!

Yes, Brunsli, you do keep cutting it! I always put you in the class of women who didn't want long hair, but yours is already longer and thicker than a lot of people's. It's already long and full and versatile.

A lot of black women who have always used chemicals have never had shoulder length hair like you and me. It always breaks off right around their ears.

You remind me of myself. Since I've always had thick hair that grows fast, I wasn't overly attached to it. I know it will grow back, and relatively quickly.

That's why I want long hair now - because THAT'S the thing I've never had the patience and self-control to do!

I have a length in mind for my locks, and once it gets there and they mature and I have a better understanding of the rate of growth, I think I will experiment with cutting.

But for now, I've put away the scissors.

You made me think about my consultant who has locks down her back. She's middle-aged and told me once that ever since she was a young woman, it was her goal to become an eccentric older woman. And she thinks that her long colored locks help create that effect.

Even now at the length I have, when I want to look more professional, I wear them up in a french roll or bun. And I am sure I wil continue to do that.

And I don't feel bad for it either. Again, a lot of women of other races with very long hair wear it up and out of the way on the job and at the office.

Long, flowing hair DOES distract some men and invites the jealousy of some women. When your hair is long you have to toss it out of the way sometimes and mess with it. You hold your head differently. It just isn't conducive to being taken sesriously for your hard work and good ideas.

Those behaviours are associated wit flirtation and thinking you're pretty and special, and a lot of women decide it just isn't worth the drama. But they keep their long hair because work isn't their entire reason for being.

It's nice to be able to flip and toss on dates and in the

But Brunsli, I think you wear your locks so well your length won't really matter.

Most of us who say we want long hair DON'T mean we want it down to the small of our backs or down to our knees our ankles. That kind of length is impractical, IMO. I wouldn't know what to DO with that much hair!

It would be a nuisance.

Even when I wore extensions, I never wore them very long, and not just for the semblance of realism. I just never wanted hair ALL down my back and swinging 'round my waist.

Even though I know that I CAN grow my hair that long if I choose to, that look just doesn't appeal to me.

blackrussian said...

Seriously/with...the longer the comment, the harder it is to catch the typos.

Y'all know I CAN spell, right? I just can't type all the time!

n'Drea said...

"Wanting longer hair isn't the only reason I decided to lock or the main reason. I wanted healthier hair and greater freedom and more options..."

Sis, I share your above sentiments. Although I like long hair, I don't plan to have mine even as long as Dr. C's own. Thinking about how long it would take to dry, plus the possibility of the weight and how hot it might make me feel are some factors I'm considering. Think I might keep it at a length that reaches where my bra strap hooks.

muslimahlocs said...

and then it's so long tha tone day you just trim, cut or do whatever you need to do to make it more manageable again. my hair has been as long as dr. c and let me tell you it takes a lot of work, not to mention added drying time.

Shavonne said...

This is the one thing that concerns me about Sisterlocks. Length is something that I've never had a problem with.

I'm not looking to grow my hair, I'm just looking for cute hairstyle that doesn't require a lot of heat and chemicals and hair pulling. I hate the smell of relaxers and burnt hair.