Ode to the wide-toothed comb

the gate - Jamaica

The gate that sealed my fate…

When I was a little girl, I absolutely dreaded combing my hair, especially after having it washed. I have a distinct memory from my first trip to Jamaica when my Mom announced one day that she was going to wash my hair.  A high-speed chase ensued, as I took advantage of the fact that my Grandfather’s house- unlike our apartment in Toronto- had a back door which led around the house to the front courtyard, giving me a chance to make a break for it…Much to my dismay, however, the front gate was locked, which prevented me from running right off the property (to safety).

“Pleeeease just cut it off, pleeeeease, Mommy, cut it off,” I screamed, as my Mom, Dad, and company, chased me around and around the house, til they finally cornered me…and, alas, my fate was sealed…Sadly, my Mom did not cut my hair off that day- she proceeded to wash it- and let’s just say I ended up paying a pretty penny for making her have to exert extra energy to get the job done…

wash day smiles - Jamaica

Me, after the ordeal, with my signature post-wash chiney bumps (aka bantu knots)…my Uncle Geo (middle) and his friend somehow managed to make everything better

Needless to say, I hated washing my hair.  And washing my hair never went down without a fight, which also meant I’d have sudsy water running into my eyes and sometimes even into my nose, which only made the situation worse.

I hated washing my hair because I knew that after the washing and conditioning, came the detangling part, which meant having to endure my Arch-Enemy…the Comb.

fine-tooth comb

My Arch-Enemy for many years

Due to the spiral shape of Black hair, it is prone to getting tangled: the curls end up linking up with each other, forming knots and snarls, which can make combing difficult.  Back when I was a girl, the standard comb was not made with textured-haired girls in mind: the teeth were fine, and therefore couldn’t get past the tangles.  On top of that, in their efforts to “detangle” the hair quickly, our mothers and other caregivers would just yank the comb from the roots, which made for a less than pleasant experience, to say the least, filled with lots of screaming and tears.

So, when the wide-toothed comb finally came on to the scene (around the time when I was eight or nine years old), I counted it as a blessing from on high; and ever since then, my life has never been the same. My wide-toothed comb has changed my life so much that I wrote it a love poem:

 

Ode to the wide-toothed comb

O wide-toothed comb

When you came into my life,

you removed the pain and strife

of combing through my curls.

 

tail combO wide-toothed comb,

Once I was tender-headed, and

Doing my hair was dreaded

Since the tines were way too fine

 

 

O wide-toothed comb

Using you, I’ve not regretted

And forever I’m indebted

To your wonderful design

 

O wide-toothed comb

Now detangling I’ll survive

And my hair will grow and thrive

‘Cause you’re made for natural girls

~ Ndija Anderson-Yantha

wide tooth comb

 

Pretty corny, I admit, lol! But having suffered through my own terrible experiences with having my hair combed, I know that the detangling process can be one of the most frustrating parts of having natural hair.  However, I also want you to know that your child’s natural hair IS actually manageable- you just have to be armed with the right tools, products, and techniques.  And trust me, having the right type of comb or brush can make all the difference!

Here are some tips for detangling natural hair:

  • Separate the hair into 6-12 sections (depending on the thickness) using your fingers, and hold the sections with butterfly clips or ponytail holders
  • Take a section of hair, and use a spray bottle to spritz with water
  • Apply a water-based moisturizer to the section
  • Use your fingers to gently work through the ends
  • Use a wide-toothed comb or a detangling brush to work through the section, while gripping the section with your other hand to absorb the pull of the comb/brush through the hair
  • Comb through the ends first, and then work your way up to the roots

AVOID

  • Raking through natural hair with a fine-toothed comb- this will not only damage your daughter’s hair by ripping through the curls and causing breakage, but it can also make for a very traumatic experience, resulting in tears and creating negative feelings about her hair
  • Combing through natural hair when it’s completely dry, if at all possible- moist hair makes the detangling process easier, as it allows the comb to glide over the curls easier

Believe it or not, combing natural hair DOES NOT have to be a nightmarish process: with the help of a wide-toothed comb and/or a good detangling brush, combing and styling your daughter’s hair can instead become a time for growing closer, passing on traditions, and creating positive memories that will last a lifetime.

What types of tools and techniques do you use for detangling natural hair?

 

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