After the umpteenth complaint about my hair not behaving (or actually, not behaving like other girls’ hair) my boyfriend stopped sympathising and changed his approach. Instead he started saying, “I think you should write about it.”
That’s his response to most of my complaints these days. That and “I think you should go for a run.” It’s actually good advice. I always feel better after doing either BUT I usually roll my eyes. I mean who willingly shares potentially embarrassing truths about their hair on a very public platform or willingly chooses a run over a book and hot chocolate?
All you had to do to be given a seat in proximity of the red-lipped doyenne of SA fashion was talk about hair. There was now a carrot dangling in front of my nose and seconds later I was on their blog filling in my details. My earlier reservations about disclosing my hair care completely forgotten as I wrote:
I’m a coloured girl who’s blessed with a thick mop of hair that’s naturally very curly. I recently cut it very short and I need advice on creating a wavy (semi-straight) look that won’t remind folks of a poodle. Please help!
Thankfully that little bit of honesty did not go unrewarded. I was invited to the Elle Ed’s Breakfast. Yay! Now that I had popped the lid off my can of hair secrets, I figured it’s time to let it all hang out.
Being a South African coloured girl means that everything about me is in between – my heritage, my skin tone and my hair. My parents were both coloured so my colouredness is of the unexotic kind. The comedian Trevor Noah, for example, can claim exoticness because he’s mixed race – his mom is Xhosa and his dad Swiss.
My only claim to the exotic dates back to my great-great-grandparents. But this practice of laying out your family tree until it bears some European resemblance is generally not looked upon kindly. And in the coloured community it’s even worse. “Why are you trying to be white?” would often be the retort or unspoken thought. That’s when I’m most thankful that looks can’t kill.
Nonetheless, my ‘inbetweenness’ is better understood if it were known that swirling in my gene pool are streams of French, Xhosa and German blood as well as a few drops from my great-great-St-Helena-Island-born grandmother. She and her family apparently made the 3 134 km journey by rowing boat. I always doubted the veracity of this little handed-down factoid until Riaan Manser and Vasti Geldenhuys rowed from Morocco to New York in a seven-metre-long boat.
This lovely mixing pot is also the reason I have olive skin (an in-between shade that makes finding the right foundation a nightmare!) and hair that is smack bang in the middle of kinkiness. To anyone with Hispanic, Italian or Grecian heritage this sounds perfectly normal, but I grew up feeling that my skin wasn’t dark enough and my hair not kinky enough to be really coloured.
From the other sides of the race spectrum, however, I would eventually hear, “what lovely curls!” But first I had to let my hair go…
(Part II and III of my hairy adventures to follow!)