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Vocabulary Lesson

July 30, 2009
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of sitting down and interviewing my mom, my Nana, and my six-year old sister, Skya, about their her, my hair, and our hair as African American women.

These fascinating and informative conversations, traced our hair histories from when all of us were young through to the present (which the exception of Skya, who is young, so we just talked about her and her doll’s current hair realities).

I’ve been trying to figure out how to comb through these conversations and bring their lessons, humor, and poignant wisdom to life on this blog and I’ve decided to start with something that all of these stories have in common: Black Hair Buzz Words. You really begin to realize how unique and intricate a subject matter black hair is when you start to organize and define its lexicon. You won’t find these words and their definitions on an SAT, ACT, or GRE, but they are just as commonly used (if not more commonly) as anything you’ll find there. So without further ado:

Black Hair Buzz Words

Hot Comb: An iron comb with a wooden handle (although I think that some are electric these days, they probably even have blue tooth so you can make calls while combing…but we’re talking old school here) that is heated on a stove and used to straighten natural hair. A necessary evil. Both terrifying and beautifying. I wager that it’s impossible to find a black female who does *not* have less than savory memories of getting their hair hot combed.

THE Comb: The comb you see laying out and realize that its time to get your hair done. Typically a tear-inducing sight. I’ve blocked the description of mine from memory, but remember the terror of seeing it on the counter vividly. Skya’s is red and is named Rojo.

THE Brush: A family heirloom. Originally made by Avon and no longer in production. Has rows of plastic teeth that separate from one and other, which reduces the snagging, pulling, pain, crying etc.,when brushing through a thick head of hair.

“The Kitchen”: 1. Usually where hot combing and other hair activities take place.
2. The hair at the nape of the neck that gets particularly tangled. Usually the most difficult place to comb through, resulting in a lot of wincing, kicking, and head jerking, thus generally remains untamed.

Detanglers: Did not work on my hair.

TCB: The “less juicy” version of a Jheri Curl. Chemical texturizer, activated by water. Had my mom looking cute through the 80’s.

Perm Repair/Sulfur 8/Cholesterol: Products used on heads in my family despite their inherent nastiness simply because “they worked”. Perm Repair was made with placenta (we are still not sure from what sort of organism. Guesses are humans or pigs). Sulfur 8 smells like rotten eggs (strongly, from a distance). Cholesterol’s namesake and main ingredient are one in the same. Eesh.

Good Hair & Bad Hair: A controversial topic that will receive further discussion later. Good Hair is used to describe a baby’s hair when it is born, which is typically soft, easy to comb through, fine and sometimes even straight. Bad Hair is what appears on the same baby’s head 2 months to 2 years later when the kinks and curls come out to play and the parents (and other assorted relatives) realize that they are going to have to deal with a thick head of hair on what is most likely going to be a tenderheaded child.

Tenderheaded: Describes one who has a low tolerance for scalp related pain cause by combing, brushing, braiding and whatever else is going on up there. Usually one grows out of this “affliction” as they come to realize that its easier just to sit still and/or they start doing their own hair and have no one else to be mad at for yanking their head around but themselves.

Marketing: Convinced my mom that “Just For Me”, a relaxer just for kids, would work on my hair. It didn’t at all. My mom is now convinced that there is no way the girls on the box used the product in the box. Cassidy’s Hair: 1 JFM: 0

Bribery: Useful tactic in getting me (and currently getting Skya) to set and get my hair done when I was younger. Candy. Toys. Presents.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. BlogdenBob permalink
    August 14, 2009 12:53 pm

    maybe not the terrain you were trying to cover, but how about tumbleweave?

  2. CSB permalink
    August 15, 2009 6:30 am

    no youre right, not really the area I was going for BUT a great buzz word suggestion nonetheless. for all of you who do not know, here is the definition of Tumbleweave, as defined by UrbanDictionary:TUMBLEWEAVE n.A random grouping and usually tangled mass of fake hair, which is generally the result of someones weave being pulled out in a fight, that tumbles down the street similar to a tumbleweed.

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