Okay… So I’m strolling through Walgreens, just minding my own business when I happened to wonder down the hair-care isle. But while I was there, I started looking over the products, taking a stroll down memory lane. You see, for about 15 years I had locs and didn’t worry too much about hair products (I leaned more towards the “lion” styled locs as opposed to the finely manicured/You can see my greased scalp style).
But as I looked around, there they were; the old favorites like Nu Nile and Blue Magic. The Epitome relaxer box took me back to my college days (Hampton University stand up!) when I used to deliver wholesale hair care products to black salons. And that “Just For Me” box instantly took me back to my elementary school in Brooklyn, where girls would have their hair all over the place one day and the next it’d look just like the girls from the commercial with that annoying song that I, to this day can’t get out of my head – “Just for Meeeeeeeeeee” (y’all remember that commercial).
Anyway, I’m about to go to the register when an old friend happened to catch my eye… The S-Curl box. Off all the memories that I have involving my hair, few are as potent as my history with S-Curl. Now I know that a few of the few of you who happen to read “Mansitioning” on TransitioningMovement.com question how I (as a man… a straight man even more so) can write about beauty issues related to black women. And in response, I’ve listed my credentials at various points, but of all those credentials, none may be more relevant than my S-Curl days.
There was nothing like the first day you step on the playground with a fresh new flat-top or slope, that’s been pimped out with an S-Curl kit. Usually this was “picture day” and you always come late on that day. While all of my class was lined up and about to walk into the school, here I’d come, walking up in slow motion, with your own theme music (probably Keith Sweat) playing in my head. And for at least a week, no matter how popular you weren’t before, you were the effing man! I used to try to hold on to those curls for as long as I could, so every week and a half I’d sneak and throw a little more of that "stinky-a$$" cream in my hair, until I found myself scraping my finger around the jar for the residue of the cream. But sooner or later that S-Curl would grow out, and for me, there was something taboo about doing back-to-back applications of S-Curl. Once a semester was my limit.
That was my routine in elementary school, but for some reason in Junior High School, processed hair wasn’t as cool. When before I used to show up walking in slow motion with an Al B. Sure song in my head, NOW I couldn’t hear my own song over that audible singing of “Just let your SOUL Glow!!!” and the occasional “follow the drip” comment. All of a sudden, it wasn’t enough to just pop up one day with curly hair. No, now these @#$%^&* wanted you to provide a DNA sample and a genealogically sound explanation for how it was all possible (unless you were Jamaican. For some reason, none of my Jamaican friends ever had to justify their S-Curls... I never understood that). Anyway, when I found myself up against a wall and pressed for an answer I tossed out the only answer that could possibly make sense to a fourteen-year-old, “I got Indian in my family.” Not sure where that genius answer came from, but it was enough - (I probably heard it from one of those baby haired girls with the greasy forehead, temples, cheeks... and ears).
Yeah, those were not the days, and in the end I think the pressure for me was the same as it was and is with a lot of women and girls. I simply wanted to look good. I wanted to do something different, and if I’m being honest, I wanted to look like the kids, I thought looked better than me. My Dominican and Puerto Rican friends had curly hair, which seemed to correlate with the number of “Will you be my boyfriend? Check yes or no” notes they received. Frankly, I think it’s why a lot of girls (and sadly grown women) used to slick the edges of their scalp with Petroleum Jelly to mimic “baby hair” or why they, later invested in hazel contact lenses.
So I guess, in the end we’re not that different. Just like a lot of you, I sat between my mom’s legs as she combed in that “stanky-a$$”cream. Just like many of you, I’ve had an occasion or two where that crème was left in too long – for maximum effect (which I definitely don’t recommend you do, because one of my cousins did that and instead of curls came out looking like a 1950’s Motown artist). And just like many of you, I’ve been burned by it. But as I look back, I’m so glad that I learned how to appreciate beauty on a spectrum, as opposed to beauty on the basis of another’s opinion or physical characteristics that God, did not genetically endow me with. Because no matter how straight my grandmother’s Meherrin Indian hair was, the fact of the matter is that there wasn’t enough “Indian in my family” to give me the kind of curls that S-Curl kit did.