Kimberly, No Longer With the Good Hair

Trixie Karinski, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Rose Weitz, who writes about the importance of hair in the lives of women, says that we are sending a message with our locks; that hair—whether fine, kinky, purple, or cut close to the scalp—is “part of a broader language of appearance, which, whether or not we intend it, tells others about ourselves.”

Changing my hair transformed my relationships and my identity. When I changed it, it almost felt like I was being reborn, being given another chance to recast, re-create who I was—sassy, obedient, sexy, demure. But around my grandmother, I often followed her lead, walking with the weight of her expectations and the benefits of her struggle. She bought me clothes, jewelry, and gym memberships and mailed me newspaper clippings about which fruits and veggies I should eat to lose weight faster.

When hair is bound up with identity, history, and family, a hairstyle can bring women closer — or push them apart. In Oregon Humanities, Kimberly Melton tells how she finally styled hers in a way that reflected who she was, and demanded that her loving grandmother accept this as a sign of strength.

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