Saturday, March 21, 2009

Great Grandma, Mamol, and Mama Wore Wigs

There are photos of my mother's grandmother in a wig. She was a church-going older woman who eventually surcame to diabetes. I have no idea how long she had worn wigs, I just know she did. I never saw her real hair; and quite frankly, I was too young to even remember how she truly looked when she passed. I just have those snatches of images. You know the frame work of a big woman, a bossy woman, a woman who did not go out in public looking "any old kinda" way. A chestnut brown woman with those big and small moles that arise from aging. A focused on "what she wanted" kinda woman.

I remember a lot of white dresses and missing legs... the smell of liniment and direction-giving. At least I think she was missing legs. My mother's grandmother on her father's side had diabetes, too. I remember for sure that she was missing legs, and that she also wore a wig.

These black women wore wigs, pressed their hair, braided their hair, and hid their hair under wraps. I am sure they also at some time or another, these same women, let their hair down, let it kink up, took sissors to it, or just gave up on it. It struck me today that I wanted to think about what generational time structures kept confined those little ladies in the paradoxical apparatus that was "atop their heads," atop their own natural hair.

My grandmother was born in 1920. Her mother was born in the late 1800's. My mother was born in 1944. Seemingly every 20 years or so, a generation of little black ladies passed on the cultural wearing of wigs to us in Waco. I was born in 1969, but I have never worn a wig unless it was for a play, film, or costume party. The closest I came to the act was braid extentions. Braiding in longer synthetic or natural hair to hid the length of my hair, but not necessaryily the hair itself was my variation on the theme I guess.

My mother wore wigs when we were children. She had three of four of those styrofoam heads with bobby pins and place combs, and netting and all. She was a licensed beautician. The heads sat upon her dresser for many years, coursing in and out of different 70's inspired wig styles. I was more interested in playing outdoors, but I notice them there-, the wigs, partial wigs and other hair pieces.

My mother still throws a wig on or hair piece in, even now that both her daughters have locs. She also still presses and curls. I think it makes her even more hell-bent on her wigs to see our carefree lifestyles. She likes to say, "Babydoll, I like what I have," and if we press her to change, she says, "no, no, no, no, no," and that's that. Why she clings to the wig, hair pieces, and press and curl is beyond me, but cling she must. I am talking specifically about my mother; my intent is not to disparage the wig, press and curl, or any other choice of hair style. Whatever you like, go with it. Please!!!

I believe eventually she will resort to wearing the wig full time when out "in public." Our family has a history of slight hair recession and loss, especially around the forehead and temple. Right now I am beginning to see the recession around my temples. I have a triangular area on both sides of my forehead near the temple where it is just "hair too short to tussle with." I am not ecstatic about it, but I am about to hit my 40's, and these things are a part of aging. So, I can see Mama wearing her wigs more often as she approaches her mid to late 60's and the "in your face" realities of aging.



My grandmother's hair was a soft and silver-white by the time she was in her 60's. She passed away at 67 of alzheimer's with that pretty lengthy hair of hers that was long on the top and at the sides, but noticeable shorter at the back nap and the temple area. Mama's hair is soft like her mother's hair, too. Her hair is also thinning at the temples and "kitchen." However, Mama will dye her hair until the day she dies (Ms. Clairol is recession proof). There will be no gray hair for her at all. And with that reality, I know the thinning hair pattern has been handed down to me.



I wonder if in the future, if I live to be 67 or 87 or older, if there will be a season for me to share in what the women in my immediate past experienced, the wig.



Blessings~

12 comments:

Brown ButtahFly said...

Hoepfully you won't have to succomb to the wigs. Looking at your lovely hair, I don't think you will sometimes, genetics iffer.
Anyhow I remeber my great grandmother wearing wigs I have a few grand aunts that wear wigs. not sure if my grandma wore wigs when I was younger but she wears them now( basically to hide her her real, her) It's damaged, short and thin. I tried to tell her if she stopps perming it, it will grow, but you know how older folk are. Now my mom she is in her 40's and has been wearing wigs on and off since her 30's. She also wears wig pieces. I just don't nderstand why.

I admit I use to wear wigs too, they look more realistic now, lol. I especially wore them while transitioning. I even wore one the first week I was locked. However I gave in quickly and was ready to be proud of my real hair.

Anyhow sorry for the long post, just wanted to share.

Take Care

Jena Evans said...

Brown ButtahFly,

Thank you for sharing your story. I hope you also post about it. I'd like to read yours/others perspectives. Be Blessed~

new2locs said...

OMG I think you're talking about my family! Listen, that's all I saw growing up & even still today! My grandmother & most of my aunts wore wigs. Those that are still here with me still wear their wigs today! They don't leave the house without it! I have one aunt who doesn't really wear her wigs like hair more like a hat (Lol) ask me about my loc's. Why you wearing them thangs in yo' head? When you gonna take 'em out? Um excuse me? That's what I wanted to say but said nothing. Got to respect the elders. LOL They just don't understand. Thanks for sharing your story!

Jena Evans said...

new2locs,

Thanks for your comments. It is great to read about your family wig experiences. Your locs are looking great, too~

Be blessed~

proverbs31 said...

My 60 yr old aunt is a wig wearer (outside) and a scarf wearer inside the home. She made a negative comment about my sisterlocks.

Anyhoo how did you combine your locks I want them larger as well.
hollywhite1@hotmail.com

Jena Evans said...

proverbs31,

Thanks for sharing. To give you one answer to your question that may help... during a DIY session...

do to two neighboring locs what you do with one loc using whatever tool you choose to retighten with... repeat as the new growth comes up...

Good luck~

cheleski said...

my grandma was a beautician. she had natural hair but wore wigs out of the house, plaits insde.i wore wigs in my 20s and 30s for the fun of it..now i look back and cringe that i thought that people thought that looked normal,lol...it was just a different era and it wasnt suitable to wear naps outside the house. interesting. thanks for sharing!

Jena Evans said...

cheleski,

Thank you for sharing your story...

I think I might like to read more about the evolution of the black woman's hair.. That would be intriguing...

blessings~

Meikmeika said...

You know, wig wearing seems to be somewhat of a fad these days. One of my close friends who's 30 wears them all the time. She's natural and doesn't want to show her natural hair until it's much longer. But also, I've been seeing alot of younger women wearing wigs these past couple years.

Jena Evans said...

Meikmeika,

I've noticed it too... I think it's nifty on one hand, and hiding for aesthetics is understandable...

Thanks for sharing~

Aya said...

Your Grandma's story sounds all too familiar to someone in my family. Just loved the back view of your locks. They are so gorgeous!!

Jena Evans said...

Aya,

Thanks...

I'm sure there are some old black cave people stories where there was laughter and bewilderment at the woman on the riverbed rock combing her hair out with a sturdy fish bone spine. How strange, some may have thought!

Blessings~