I chopped all my hair off a few days ago. Actually a week ago to be exact. I had been wanting to cut my hair for awhile now and it's taken me a good part of a year to go through with it. For as long as I can remember, having long hair was something that was synonymous with what is considered beautiful by society. A very Eurocentric ideology nonetheless but one that is more or less pushed onto young girls and women across the globe. For us in the Pacific, it's the long wavy hair and most times the fair skin that is considered a standard of beauty to more or less aspire to. So as a black, frizzy haired kid I was fresh outta luck from the get go! Growing up I remember always being made to feel that I had to do something with my hair so that it was always neatly slicked back into a bun for school or dead straight for when not in school. That carried on into my adult life without my ever stopping to question why I needed to conform to an idea that went against the very idea of what natural beauty is and how I should celebrate it. If I was told that I should just leave my hair in its natural state I used to panic because I had gone so long learning to tame my curls that the very idea of allowing them to be free and grow in their natural state was frightening.
I have three children with varying states of natural hair. My eldest and youngest both have mixed hair texture, their hair is manageable and curly but most importantly obedient ha! My middle child on the other hand has hair that emulates her personality - wild, carefree but still independent enough to know that she doesn't ever need to tame it. It took having children of my own who have similar hair texture for me to realise that in order for me to successfully bring across the message of self-love and being confident in who they were, I needed to first take a step back and take a dose of my own medicine. The beginning of my natural hair journey didn't come about because I had an epiphany that I must celebrate my natural hair, no it came about when my carefree and wild-(middle)child came home crying one day saying that her hair wasn't as beautiful as a (Caucasian/blonde-haired) friend of hers and she wanted me to change it. That hit me like a sack of potatoes in the gut. I mean it's no wonder she wasn't prepared to celebrate her hair, why should she when I myself was doing everything in the book to change my hair texture in order to fit into this box of beauty standards. How could I harp on about celebrating individuality and celebrating our heritage when I myself did the very opposite? I was conforming to this standard of Eurocentric beauty and in doing so I was indirectly telling my children that in order to be considered beautiful they had to fit the mould of what was expected of them. Since cutting my hair I've had comments ranging from, "What a loss!" (As if I had lost a loved one LOL! People forget it's hair, it will grow back) to one that confused me - " You look so much more Fijian now", the person who offered this comment probably meant no harm but it confused the hell out of me and pissed me off because it implied that being Fijian should be the furthest I should be trying to look... last I checked I was Fijian so what's there to hate? My friends know I'm a proud Tailevu North woman and will always shout from the rooftops about it so that didn't sit quite right with me and if anything made me even more determined to do away with this idea that I should be striving to look like something that I'm not. It's this type of thinking that gives this negative connotation to natural hair, that having natural hair is akin to being unkempt, to being ugly and even seen as unworthy. So instead of celebrating the rich and diverse cultural melting pot that the world has become we still strive to categorise everyone into something that is mainstream and almost drone-like because we end up looking like every other person on the street.
I've also realised that on the other end of the spectrum is the fact that there are young girls and women who prefer to have their hair relaxed and prefer having a hairstyle that is more popular with the Eurocentric hairstyles. This post isn't having a go at them, far from it. I read a tweet the other day by a young Fijian man where he pointed out that our current Miss World contestant from Fiji sports a Fijian buiniga or Afro-style and that he couldn't understand why other Fijian girls and women couldn't do the same. I called his bullshit out and just said why does he get to have a say in how we decide to wear our hair? Why should a man who doesn't have to maintain and care for the hair, get to have an opinion on hair that doesn't actually affect his everyday life? I mean power to Miss World Fiji 2017 for being able to carry off her buiniga but not everyone can and shouldn't feel compelled to because society deems it so.
I guess the point of my very long-winded rambling today is that, hair is each person's crowning glory or has always been alluded to be. But I've come to the conclusion in my own experience that it isn't the end all or be all of what beauty standards should be. For as my title for this post says.. What's in a mane, for hair or lack therefore should not define the crowning glory that we bestow on our heads, our individuality and celebrating that, is what each and every one of us should uphold.
Update: 28/10/2018 I'd like to say that I had a full-on haircare regime but that would be a lie. I literally just left my hair alone, washed it when it needed it and let nature take it's course. I'm not gonna lie, many a times over the past year I have been tempted to straighten it or do something with it because quite frankly I have no idea what to do with this wild hair of mine, but it's grown on me and I like how it reflects my wild spirit. So here's me just under a year on...