Hi, I’m sure most black girls and even some black boys have a similar hair story to this one from their childhood. If you’re anything like me, you probably even have more than one. I grew up around kids with different nationalities from my own. As a tween, I started to realize that my hair was different from most of the other kid’s hair.
I had found out that the following Tuesday’s gym class we were going to the local pool. Like most of the other parents in this particular area, my parents had made sure we learned to swim. When mom found out we were going swimming the first thing she said was, “make sure you bring your swim cap!” I went and packed my swimsuit. But my head had recently grown out of my swim cap. Or, that was what I told myself. See, these were the things that kids made fun of each other for. It was a well-known fact since almost every swim lesson I had someone had said something about my swim cap. I made a split-second decision not to bring it.
The gym class was in the fourth period that day. I quickly changed into my swimsuit and took a short cold rinse. From there, my friends and I went to meet the rest of the class and the teacher on the pool deck. She went over the rules and it was time to swim!
Most of my classmates jumped in. Cautiously unrolling my towel, which I had strategically used to hide every inch of my prepubescent torso. I looked around to check if anyone was looking, dropped the towel, and quickly jumped into the pool feet first. Angie dived in and glided along the bottom of the shallow end of the pool. When she slowly surfaced she pushed her hair back with both hands. The excess water rolled down her neck and into the swimming pool. Some of the more daring kids even jumped off the diving board or went down the gigantic slide. Bobbing back up after entering the water.
The other black girl in my class was a great swimmer too and started swimming from one side of the pool to the next. When she came back up for air after her swim her hair glistened with water. She had longish braids that she had tied in a ponytail. Seeing her unchanged hair I knew it was time for me to swim too. I put my head in the water and began doing the breaststroke. Yes, my head fully immersed in the chlorinated water. When I came up for air the effect wasn’t the same as it was for any of the other girls. I reached for my hair while opening my eyes. Instantly I felt a burning sensation. My Jheri curl activator mixed with the chlorine and dripped into my eyes. As my vision cleared, I noticed some of the kids watching what I knew was a creamy film going into my eyes. Aha! The best thing to do at this point was to dunk my head and continue swimming so I could:
- Hide the fact that my eyes were teary and red (don’t get it twisted it was not from the chlorine)
2. Hide the fact that my hair no longer had the amazing curl that it usually did.
No way I was going to face my friends. I can now acknowledge that I was swimming out of fear.
When gym class ended, I was so tired. Everyone got out of the pool when they heard the teacher whistle. I tried to wait until everyone had gone into the changing rooms but, one of my friends noticed and called me out. Joining them, we walked and I listened while they talked. My towel was wrapped comfortably over my torso again. Yet, I was still so worried. Silently, I hoped no one would notice my hair. Then, Angie interrupted all the fun. “My hair is going to take hours to dry. What about you? It looks so different now, does it take hours to dry like mine?” I replied, um yeah. Stephanie then continued, “and, it’s so frizzy, it’s like your curls are smaller. Especially along the edges and the middle!” Silence fell over the girls’ at that very moment. She then reached over and touched my hair. I cringed. She didn’t even notice since she was so busy feeling my barely damp hair. “Oh, it’s already almost dry!” At that moment I wished I had listened to my mom and packed the swim cap. Trying to hide my emotions, I turned and went to my gym bag and started getting dressed. As I took my t-shirt out of the bag I saw my pink swim cap at the bottom. I remembered seeing one of my older sisters around my backpack that morning. Had she packed it for me?
If I had only seen the swim cap and worn the stupid thing! After school, I quickly walked home by myself. When I got home my sister was already there. She took one look at me, shook her head, and brought me into the washroom to try to fix my hair before mom got home.
What’s your hair story?
Thanks for joining me today. Take care!