By now you have all read the story of the lady who used Gorilla Glue to lay her hair. We have all formed our opinion, some of you think she is incredibly stupid, some think she may be an illiterate who couldn’t read, some of you are sympathetic, some of you rolled your eyes.
It doesn’t really matter where I stand. But what this highlights to me, is how far we have normalised discomfort and extreme practices with our hair.
In the lady’s own words it took a month for her to speak out. Why? Why did she accommodate this discomfort for a whole month once she realised something was amiss.
Moreover, the very act of using glue in our hair, it is not normal. Whether it’s ‘designed ‘for hair or not, it is not normal. I have glued my hair many times and I didn’t even stop to consider the damage it could cause. And it did cause damage. Perhaps I didn’t consider the damage because I didn’t value the hair as much at the time - until I started to loose hair - until it started thinning - until I lost my edges.
We have gradually normalised extreme practices with our hair and we don’t even question or check each other, in fact we don’t even realise it’s extreme because we have normalised these practices: million dollar braids is extreme, Chunky tailbone length braids is extreme. Fat and long faux locs is extreme.
Extremities with our hair is not new, often we convolute the history, art and the intricacy of the hair style with culture and heritage. I’m here to question culture and heritage when necessary; tribal marks and female circumcision is culture too - a battle we still fight.
And this business of laying our hair for the type of flatness the lady achieved - extreme! - I once achieved a similar look with my natural hair. Let me tell you, I had to part my hair into three sections and create three pony tails which finally interlocked into one - and the amount of gel I used! Extreme! Youtube taught me! I promise you it was uncomfortable.
Our hair often can’t be swept back in one swoop! And perhaps manipulating it into all sorts betrays a subconscious desire to still fit into a perceived standard of beauty.
Black women have often normalised extreme discomfort - maybe it’s deeper than our hair. But we must begin to break away.
This Gorilla glue incident is perhaps a reflection of what we have all tolerated for too long. If we are prepared to be honest we have all flirted with extremes! I know I have. If we want to stop these acts, for the sake of the generation behind us, we may need to start questioning our standards of beauty and the length we would go to to conform.