Reflecting on the Meaning of 'Good Hair' for Black Women: Shenee' Harris

Shenee Harris
Shenee Harris (Juana Arias - The Washington Post)
Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shenee' Harris

32, Northeast Washington, hairdresser

I remember being about 8 years old and getting my hair pressed. My grandmother used to have a pressing comb and she would put me next to the stove. . . . I just remember wanting to wear it straight. I thought it would look good. When you look on television and in the media, even the cartoon characters, the women have long, flowing hair. The Smurfette had long hair. Miss Piggy had long hair. I liked my hair to be bone straight.

When I graduated from eighth grade, I decided to get a perm. I didn't tell my grandmother. I went to the fly salon, not the salon for older women. The girl told me, "Shenee', you won't have to use a pressing comb ever again." When I came home, my grandmother thought I had gotten it pressed. One day she noticed something. My hair looked weird. My ends were straight and my roots were puffy. She said, "What is wrong with your hair?" I said, "When I went to the lady, she put the perm on." I got punished. No phone. I had to sit on the porch and I had to take my allowance and pay [to fix] my hair. Because I did this against her will.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company