Black Women Don’t Swim
It sounds like a bad movie title. I came across this article on Yahoo! titled “Why Black Women Don’t Swim“, which discusses the assumption (or perhaps even observation) that many African American females ardently avoid pools and other swimming.
While I think the article makes some near-offensive and off-putting generalizations, such as the fact that Madame CJ Walker made her millions by creating products that made black women “respectable” or that black people avoid pools because of their history of encouraging segregationist policies, I will admit that there is some truth to the issue that the article brings up: the black women-pool disconnect is a direct result of their hair.
Of course there are always exceptions and I know MANY black women that swim on a regular basis, such as my mom and sisters. But I am certain that before these frequent swimmers hop into the pool, they have prepared their hair and have a game plan for dealing with their strands after.
I know this because I’ve been there. In fact, I’m still there. Growing up, during our two-month long swimming gym unit, I would do alternate, dry-land activities until the last two weeks and cram all of the swimming in then so that I [my mom] did not have to deal with a 60 day chlorine vs. relaxer war taking place on my head. In college, I once ran home from the public pool crying, excuse me, BAWLING, because a friend had splashed my freshly permed hair. And most recently, despite 100 degree temperatures in the Central Valley of California, I decided to forgo the pool and continue sweating my a$$ off poolside.
But as I said before, it’s all about preparation. I remember before a trip to Jamaica my best friend Dani asked me to get braids so that we could go swimming together (she knows me oh so well!). I did and I swam for days!
As a natural with loose hair I’ve been swimming in oceans and rivers and know that, as always, the key is conditioner, conditioner, and more conditioner.
Sea salt and chlorine are uber drying so it’s croosh to make sure to get your strands re-moisturized after you’re done swimming. And if you’re in a lake or pond, well, you just want to get all of the potential grossness out anyways. Check out NaturallyCurly.com’s list of the best conditioners to counteract all of the dryness that may come after swimming. If you really want to be prepared, put on a little conditioner before hopping in and wear a swim cap.
I do think it’s ironic, though, this aversion to water. As a natural, water has been my miracle in a bottle, saving me many a time from looking like Don King and Jesse Camp’s (remember him???) love child!
The bottom line is I do not think that the swimming issue is anything deeper than the fact that for black women, it’s just a time-consuming and potentially costly hassle. Is it worth it? Sure, approximately 2-3 times a year. 🙂