A Caucasian mom asked about the hair texture of African American newborns. Basically wanting to know if it was common that hair started out straight and changed and why was it different in the back.
Well, my cousins and I pretty much all had straight, or very loose curls when we born. The curls tightened as we got older. There were a few who came out of the womb with a full afro and when looking at the baby photos we joked they should have been given a pick (black comb, learn more here http://kakakiki.blogspot.com/2007/11/who-invented-hair-pick.html, and see a picture here http://imgs.inkfrog.com/pix/bapmega2/pick.jpg,) as an infant. When the texture of hair is so curly and coarse, a pick or similar wide tooth comb is a must. I can’t imagine the tears that would be caused from a narror tooth comb.
From what I know in my own family, it’s common that there is more coarseness in the back, than in the front. We call that back area “the kitchen”. I never found out why we call it that. I just remember my mother, aunts and grandmothers doing my hair saying things like “we got to straighten out that kitchen” when going through my hair with hot combs.
That brings me to “pressing hair.” So basically hair oil/grease was applied along the hairline and to the scalp. Thick metal combs were placed on the open gas flame in the kitchen. Sometimes the handles were loose from so much grease and use. Granny grabs the comb by the wooden handle and tells me to hold down my ears. This is difficult because I’m sweating, my head is greasy, and my ears are now slippery. So the object of Granny’s game is to get the crazy hot comb as close to my scalp as possible, without burning me. This is all to straighten my hair. The smell is awful. What does it smell like? Burnt hair and grease. Go figure. Oh the grease popping. The holding down of my ears so they wouldn’t get burned. I do not miss those days and I am so happy to have my hair natural and in dreads. Oh and to top it off, that whole pressing, burning, straightening process of the hot comb took at least 45 minutes. That’s if I was perfectly still. For extra coarse hair, you have to use a blow dryer with a comb first, before you can even think about using the hotcomb with narrow teeth. Now to make it worse, I was a child who loved to run and play. I’m Black, and straight is just not the natural state of my hair. So if I sweated too much, if I got my hair wet in any way, it would start to “kink” or curl back up. It’d go back to its natural state and negate all the stress and fuss I just went through to get it straight. Trust me, I’m glad those days are over.