You Grow, Girl!

The Washington Post's DeNeen Brown wonders what the term, "Good Hair," means to different people.
By DeNeen L. Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 4, 2009

"Good hair."

These two words were often projected on little black girls by adults. Either you had it -- hair that didn't "need" to be straightened and grew and grew -- or you didn't. If you had it, your status was somehow elevated. If you didn't and you were lucky, you were told you were beautiful by your daddy and by your mama and you believed it. But sometimes you were dismissed, never knowing exactly why the hair you had was considered not good hair. Did that then make it bad hair? And if you had bad hair, what did that say about you?

Scheduled for release Friday, "Good Hair," a documentary by Chris Rock inspired by his 4-year-old daughter, illuminates the struggles of black women to conform -- or not -- to the wider culture's idea of beauty.

Always the words "good hair" evoke stories, stories containing memories of childhood, memories of being teased, memories of people from a dominant culture touching your hair, asking questions. Stories of sitting in the kitchen near a hot stove on a Saturday night, while your mother pressed your hair for church the next morning, you flinching as she pulled the comb through.

Stories of the time you cut off all your hair and a boy in the back of the school bus said you looked like a boy. And you turned around and punched him. You remember your hair freshly shampooed and flowing in the summer breeze because that was the way you dried it then, before blow dryers, before relaxers.

To mark the film's debut, we asked a few area women to share their own hair stories, and found not just pain but triumph, too, as they told of learning to embrace the beauty that was always there.

"I love my hair now because I don't ask it to do anything it's not," author and Mitchellville resident Marita Golden told us. "I don't ask it to make me anything I'm not. Because I'm already complete however I want to wear it."

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