hurreya, hanan and hair   hurreya a. nasser and hanan

 

April 21, 2001
A personal interview with two curly haired hotties.

[Bird singing] "What the hell was that?" "I think it was a bird!" "Yeh, it's pretty."

We sat down in the privacy of a friend's back yard, her iron lawn chairs comfortable and cigarettes and water in our hands. Three women -- one Palestinian/Egyptian-American short curly haired, one Lebanese-American long curly-haired, one Lebanese-American short straight haired -- to begin to tell the stories of our heads, or, in particular, their heads: my friends of the long, curly brown hair. You've heard of talking heads? That's us. Heads the hair's on em. Is it a tale of heads, or of hair? If our head of hair could talk, what it they say?

H1: Hurreya | H2: Hanan | T1: Tania


T1 "What I have here, is I wrote ten questions, and then I'm sure you've had thoughts of your own, so, there's some things that I wonder. And I figure we can just go through them to the best of our abilities and then --. But do you guys have some places that you'd like to start?"
   
H1 "When I was thinking about this, and I was thinking a two hour long conversation," [everyone laughs in approval] " and I was thinking there was areas I wanted to talk about. The theme I wanted to talk about was hair -- and I was thinking body hair and head hair and like how that has shaped my sense of being a sexy person or not a sexy person. So I wanted to talk about hair and sexiness. Because there is so much to talk about with hair, and I want to talk about sexiness.

[everyone says yeh and uhhmm hmmm]

For me coming out was a new coming into my hair and sexiness."

   
T1 "Well, we can just go around." [exhales cigarette] "See, it's like... 'when you were a girl'...I'm interested in potential. I'm really interested in reaching our potential and I wonder how the limitations on our ability to look like we want to look might affect our potential or the limitations that we actually receivethrough feedback or through bodily feedback or through hair gestures, since we're going to focus on hair, affects our ability to reach potentials and at the same time to imagine what you want. So I have questions about who your favorite diva is, or divo, who your hero was when you were a kid. It might not have been like you wanted to look, but it gave you a sense of power and then how that... So I'm interested in potential and social codes that affect that."

"For me, she symbolized everything that my parents were trying for me not to be: sexy, strong, verbal, very fierce."
H2 "Well, starting off with that question about who was your favorite diva when you were a child, mine was Madonna. I have a very distinctive memory of her being on the cover of Time magazine. And hiding that away from my parents. For me, she symbolized everything that my parents were trying for me not to be: sexy, strong, verbal, very fierce. There is always some kind of controversy surrounding her so, I very much gravitated towards her. And she, was a diva for me. She symbolized so much what I wanted to be, in terms of potential."
   
T1 "Sexy, right?"
   
H2 "Yes, she was sooo sexy, I still think she is."
   
T1 "What about her appearance would your parents have objected to?"
   
H2 "Her clothing. And her lack of clothing."
   
T1 "Which Madonna are we talking about by the way?"
   
H2 "This was 80s Madonna. This was Madonna with the fish net stockings and the fluorescent . . . "
   
H1 "Like 'Borderline' Madonna?" H2 "Yeh, 'Borderline' Madonna, 'Lucky Star' Madonna. That's who I wanted to be. And yeh, lack of clothing... the way she would wear it. The way she would cut" [Hanan demonstrates with her fingers] "certain holes in certain parts of her body, and excentuating certain parts of her body. I mean, my parents were always trying to cover up, you know [puffs out shoulders] the shoulders, the hips and stuff. She was my woman.

She also had this wild kind of ethnic look for me, too."

   
H1 "Who, Madonna?"
   
H2 "Yeh, she totally did. I thought she was Latina the first time I saw her . Because her is hair is all..." T1 "Well, she is uhh...." H1, H2 " Italian." T1 "Italian, oh yeh."
   
H2 "So I identified with something, I mean talking about hair, she had wild brown hair in the 80s, and those bushy eyebrows. I mean, now they're pencil thin. But she really let them go in the 80s."
   
T1 "So she was ethnic enough in the 80s to allow you to identify with her?"
   
H2 "She had something. Yeh, she had something that made me go 'hmmm, she doesn't seem completely white to me,' She had some ethnic shine to her."
   
T1 "And it was mostly from your parents that you had to hide that? Did your friends or girlfriends or boyfriends share the love for her?"
   
H1 "Yeh, she was big in our neighborhood. Yeh, she was it for me."
   
T1 "Where was that?"
   
H2 "Florida."
   
T1 "What were the other things before we started that you thought we might talk about?"
   
H2 "I really like what Hurreya was saying, Hurreya you were talking about sexiness and hair. That, and hair loss. I've been losing clumps of it in the shower. And I've always looked at my hair as a place that will ever grow, that will always flourish. I've never had a problem with hair loss. But, I'm starting to get worried about that. I'm sure we could go a lot of places with this. I mean, but I've been starting to get worried about that. I've been losing clumps of it. It's crazy."
   
  [tweet tweet]
   
H1 "Yeh, coming out for me like, I grew up I just felt like I was incapable of being sexy. I mean, as a child I was not thinking about it in terms of being sexy, I was thinking about it in terms of beauty and being attractive. Being girly, feminine. And the hair all over my body, on my toes, on my arms, on my face " [she demonstrates] "I mean, that was not what pretty girls look like. And the curly hair was not something that.... I just wanted to straighten it all the time. I mean, my head of hair all of it was just problematic. And it got in the way of me being pretty, you know?"

"The hair all over my body, on my toes, on my arms, on my face, that was not what pretty girls look like. And the curly hair was not something that.... I just wanted to straighten it all the time. My head of hair, all of it was just problematic. And it got in the way of me being pretty, you know?"
T1 "Because of the society you grew up in?" H1 "Yeh, and the messages out there."
   
H2 "Did you iron your hair ever?"
   
H1 "I didn't, I didn't. I remember when you were talking about hair dressers, I mean,when I had my first ever hair dresser I was in the eighth grade. In the eighth grade I started going to Randy all the way up to my first year of college. And I remember one of the first times I was in Randy's chair, I said 'I want you to straighten my hair!' And he was like, 'No, I'm not going to do it. You come back in two appointments and then we'll talk about it. But your hair is so beautiful, and I don't want to straighten it. But we'll talk about it.' And I was like alright, we'll talk about it in two appointments. You know. But it never came up again. And I remember to Randy that was a big thing. He said I would damage my hair."
   
T1 "How old were you?"
   
H1 "12 or 13. 8th grade."
   
T1 "So you both had long hair?"
   
H2 "Yep."
   
H1 "No, I had short hair most of the time growing up."
   
H2 "Oh, did you?"
   
H1 "Yeh, because my mom hated taking care of it, so I never really learned how to take care of it. And I always thought, if I could just take grow it long it would be beautiful. And I had this image of long straight hair. And so I started to grow out my hair, and the bob-thing was in. And so I always wanted to get that cute bob. And I remember that those clip on bows were really in..."
   
H2 "Yes, yes."
   
H1 "And I was just convinced if I could just take all my hair..."
   
H2 "Yes," H1 [demonstrates putting her hands against her scalp]
   
H1 "If I could just put one of those clip-on bows in my hair and tame it . . . it would just take all my hair and just magically become, like, these white girls, in my school hair who have the really long, really fine blond hair. I was just like, ohhh. If I could just put a clip in my hair my hair would look like them. You know, and it never worked.

I got the clips. -- "

   
H2 "Yes,"
   
H1 "I got my hair long enough -- " H2 "Yes"
   
H1 "But it never works. And it is always frizzy , and fuzzy. I hated my hairline . . . uhm, but, but, when I was coming out. That's when I really left the house. And let my hair grow, and let it be curly and wild ,and whatever. And that's, that's, that was like the club thing all the time, was like, my hair became an asset.

And I was like, 'ohhhh, yehh.'"

   
T1 "Oh? And where was that? What kind of communities?"
   
H1 "It was queer. It was queer, the boys. I was a fag hag for a while. The boys really loved it. And frankly it was also like . . . it's a painful place. Too. Because of my own pain. What made me attracted. I went from growing up always thinking my hair was bad and then coming out among a lot of women of color, especially African American women, and having, like "good hair." And it became this thing, sometimes they were jealous of, sometimes they were attractive, sometimes, certain butch African American women would come touch my hair. And this used to repulse me when I was a kid. And now I was getting all this attention for it. I just, 'Oh yeh, touch my hair.' But, it's a hard thing... because I know it comes from a painful place about them thinking their hair is not so nice. You know? Because it's kinkier, it's nappier."
   
T1 "What were some of the terms that you heard or used for your hair, both "good" and "bad"?
   
H2 "'Damaged.'"
   
H1 "Yeh."
   
H2 "The way shampoo is marketed. The way they look for their clientele. 'This is for dry, damaged hair.' And mine was always for dry, damaged hair. And I looked for shampoo for dry, damaged hair."
   
H1 "Oh, me too!" H2 " And then, 'Fine, thin hair.' And then 'Normal.'"
   
H1 "Didn't the 'Fine, thin hair' always smell better?!"
   
H2 "Yeh, they always smelled better!" H1 "They smelled better! I don't know if it is that the grass is always greener, but .."
   
H2 "Totally."
   
H1 "And the bottles were always nicer..." H2 "I'm sure they weren't, but yes , I totally completely remember that! And to me it was always so weird that you could name some hair as 'Normal,' and everything else as 'other' or everything else as 'Damaged' or 'too thin.' 'Damaged' was always the big thing. My mother was always like, 'Oh, we have to find something for your damaged, straw hair."
   
H1 "And I always thought that if I could, like, deep condition ...."
   
H2 "Oh yeh, deep conditioning... H1 "...try like, to put little masks on the hair and my hair line would be nicer...."
   
T1 "What was with your hair line?"
   
H1 "Oh because, you know, Randy explained to me, people just have different hair lines. And when I pulled mine back, it just wasn't smooth. It was frizzy."
   
H2 "The same thing happened for me."
   
H1 "I had like, a lot of the girls I aspired to look like, had these neat hair lines.' [demonstrates with two hands.] "And the hair would just pull back, and nothing would just boop pop out [demonstrates]. You know, and I would, I would pull my hair back, and within minutes it was just like bing bing bing [demonstrates]...
   
H2 "Absolutely."
   
H1 "And it was not a nice hair line. It was about cleanliness too. It was about smoooooth."
   
T1 "Did either of you, uh, uhmm, I mean, when did you begin to love your hair?"

"It was only when I went to Brown my first year and I was surrounded by women of color, that I really began to love my hair."
H2 "You know what, I went to a high school that was predominantly white full of that luxurious blond hair and the beautiful neat hair lines where they can put their hair up, and do all kinds of neat things with their hair. I went to that kind of high school. It was only when I went to Brown my first year and I was surrounded by women of color, that I really began to love my hair. Not to say that I didn't...the majority of my girlfriends back home in Miami were women of color, but we were all struggling with being in this predominantly white school that we were completely bying in to. So, we weren't loving each other [voice gestures to the importance of this], and loving each other's hair and loving each other's cultures. We were hating ourselves and criticizing ourselves. We didn't have that love to give each other and to give ourselves."
   
H1 "I don't think in the coming out thing, that I loved my hair...."
   
H2 "No. Yeh. Well I didn't either completely..." H1 "I mean, I, I, I use it as an asset. I realized I could be sexy. You know what I mean? But it gave me something. But I didn't love it. I still... Because it came from that painful place..." H2 "Yeh, uh hmm yeh "
   
H1 "...of other's people's pain. It was just that the contiuum broaded for me. It was just like that I had better hair. Which was gross. It was about... ugh." H2 "Oh yeh."
   
T1 "Do either of your identify as butch?"
   
H1, H2 "No."
   
T1 "Hmm, okay."
   
H1 "I think I've got some butchiness to me [flexes] ha ha ha..." H2 "I do too." [bonding laugh] "Especially when I picked up that barbeque."
   
H1 "But definitely in terms of my hair aspirations, it was 'high femme.'"
   
H2 "Long. Yeh. Me too."
   
H1 "Not to bring it all back to karoke, buttttttt [big cackles]. Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer as a kid, I mean I remember the 70s Barbra and 'The Champ,' no not 'The Champ,' but 'The Main Event,' where she had that big head of hair. Remember Barbra in the 70s? And she was doing that song with Donna Summer 'Enough is Enough' and they had those big heads of hair. And at that point I, not that I liked it then I didn't know... but it was, like, fascinating. It was like, 'Oh, they have big heads of curly, unruly hair."
   
T1 "Yeh, who do we have today for kids? I mean Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer were so international...that they probably, and so big, that they did offer alternatives. It was probably important for there to be curly headed, strong women for curly headed young women to feel beautiful through, if you can figure out that grammar."
   
H2 "Yes. Makes sense. There was also Diana Ross, too."
   
T1 "She has Donna Summer has straight hair, too, doesn't she? Or does she go through phases?"
   
H1 "I mean, the Donna Summer I think of has a big head of curly hair." H2, T1 "Uhh hmm." [we visualize] H1 "And they may have been extensions, but when I think of her singing with Barbra Streisand, I think of her then with big heads of curly hair. Which may be wrong, but in my mind that's the way I imagine them."
   
T1 Were either of your moms sexy and strong? Or your relatives, aunts, sisters?"
   
H1 "I saw my mom as very strong, but not necessarily very sexy."
   
H2 "I didn't see my mother as either strong or sexy."
   
T1 "Did they have curly hair?"
   
H2 "My mom does." T1 "That just wasn't what was going on with you folks?" H2 "No, hmm uhmm." T1 "You know because we learn through our parents. Was your mom's hair curly?"
   
H1 "Yes."
   
T1 "Did it help your battle?"
   
H1 "It was complicated. It was complicated."
   
H2 "Tania you were saying who is representing today, curly haired divas, big haired divas... I can think of a couple...like... Macy Gray. Macy Gray's got the big hair going on. But it's always a point of comic relief. Everyone always makes fun of her big hair."
   
H1 "There was a while in terms of that model aesthetic of pretty, when big hair was, like, I'm thinking of Andy McDowell, when curly hair was model hair pretty. When that kind of hair was elegent sexy."

"I understood what it was like to have long hair, regardless of if it was curly or not. I dropped it everywhere and everyone always wanted to touch it. I didn't like that kind of invasion on my personal space."
T1 "Okay you are painting a picture of reading against the grain, I mean like all the hair products are not geared towards your relief. The bottles were cooler and stuff for people with 'Normal' hair. And your hair was an ordeal, it sounds like you were saying. And I had long hair for a while -- one year -- and I would leave it, it would fall off everywhere. So I understood what it was like to have long hair, regardless of if it was curly or not. I dropped it everywhere and everyone always wanted to touch it. I didn't like that kind of invasion on my personal space. And the feminization that automatic assumption of feminization, to the public. But mostly I found it to be unruly."
   
H2 "Your hair?" T1 "I would lose it everywhere. Like in my partner's bed. And people would comment on it, 'Oh, there's your hair.' I didn't like losing parts of my body in places. I think that's a long-haired thing rather than a curly-haired thing. I don't think that's exclusive to someone who identifies as butch or who has had short hair. But I certainly wasn't used to it. And my partner automatically started doing the femme thing with me. Cuz I had that hair. So there was an automatic conflation of long hair with femmeness."
   
H1 "It's interesting what you say there about the hair falling out as being about across hair. I remember even with short curly hair, like my hair fell out a lot. Because I think people shed. But somewhere inside my young body, I felt like it was a part of being dirty. Because I was the one who would clog up the bathtub . . . "
   
H2 "I clog up the bathtub!"
   
H1 "You know, I felt like it was my dirtiness. Which was connected to my hairy legs and my hairy toes and my hairy arms."
   
T1 "So being hairy made you feel dirty?" H1 "It was a part of me who never felt like I could get clean, and smooth." [laughs]
   
H2 "Yeh."
   
H1 "To get it tamed. That was what was sexy: clean and shiny and smooth."
   
H2 "I can definitely identify with body hair. I have definite issues with that. I hadn't really noticed it. A happy kid, happy with my body for the most part. It wasn't until other people noticed it, 'Oh, did you ever noticed these hairs that you have?' It was other people comments that made me take a really critical look at my face and then I started noticing, 'Oh, I have it here. I have it on my ears, and on my neck.' I just started waxing. And now, I feel myself in the cycle. I don't ever want to break out of it. If I stop waxing, I am terrified."
   
T1 "Do you feel that it changes in the communities that you travel through? Do you ever feel there's any relief within your....I'm not going to say your professional communities, because my assumption is that those are pretty white. But are there places where you go, I'm wondering if there a place where your lifelong sense of your hair finds relief. A place besides the club, where you get some kudos for it?"
   
T1 "But I mean, have you ever been hippies, or, do you think that the solution is a woman of color community or an Arab community? What anxiety goes away in those communities?"
   
H1 "I don't think it goes away." H2 "I don't either." H1 "No, it is still in those communities. I think that certainly a lot of them, I mean the time I was most self-conscious about my hair was when I was living in Egypt. I mean granted I wasn't necessarily moving around in feminst circles. But I was surrounded by Arab women. And they were telling me, 'Why don't you wax your arms? Why don't you wax, or halawa your face? Halawa your arms?' It made my hyper sensitive."

"The time I was most self-conscious about my hair was when I was living in Egypt. I mean granted I wasn't necessarily moving around in feminst circles. But I was surrounded by Arab women. And they were telling me, 'Why don't you wax your arms? Why don't you wax, or halawa your face? Halawa your arms?'"
T1 "So there is not a sense of being hairy in Egypt?"
   
H1 "Oh, hell no. I think it's the colonial legacy. I mean look all the women on TV. They have dyed blond hair. Artificaly dyed blond hair. And very smooth faces." H2 "Yeh, light skinned--" H1 "I got a lot of flack for not removing the hair on my arms." H2 "Yeh."
   
T1 "Underarms?"
   
H1 "You know when I was coming out I let the hair grow on my legs and arms...."
   


  ...and then back we went to the party. A frozen moment, like life is, with so many possibilities, full of depth, coordinations of environment, consciousness, comfort, and focus, folded into time . . . .

FIN


haadis: discuss this issue with other bintelnas readers on the message board

 
did you enjoy this? tell a friend about it!
Their name:
and email address:(name@domain.com)

add a comment:

Your Name:
and email address:


All illustrations and writing Copyright 2007 The Author except where otherwise noted.
Site design Copyright 2007 Bint el Nas. All Copyright and Trademark Rights Reserved.