We speak with Emma Dabiri, author of ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, on her relationship with her hair, and motherhood.
‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ discusses the history and social constructs associated with black hair. “...Far from being only hair, black hairstyling culture can be understood as an allegory for black oppression and, ultimately, liberation.”
How has your relationship with your hair changed over the years?
“WOW – it seems like my hair has always been a focal point – the difference is now it’s a markedly changed relationship, one that has evolved from traumatic to joyful!”
What does leaving your hair natural signify to you?
“I always say that when I went natural when I allowed my hair to get big, to grow up and out as nature intended and when I started braiding it, the traditional way of maintaining natural hair – that the energy around me shifted. It precipitated a new and fulfilling shift in gear both in terms of work and focus.”
When you became a mother for the first time, did you make any realisations on both your past and present identity?
“Funnily enough this all coincided with becoming a mother myself. My relationship with my son changed everything. Certainly I became more grounded. Breastfeeding was a revelation for me. I breastfed my eldest until he was two and that experience was very profound. My body was capable in ways I had never imagined. We’ve been conditioned to think that we’re not enough, that we’ve got to improve ourselves constantly. I was coming to understand that we’re immensely powerful as we are and that a lot of external things are just distractions that bring little added value, in fact a lot of it just diminishes what you have naturally!”
Has motherhood changed your relationship with your body? If so, how?
“I was really slim before I had my first son. As someone who had been very obsessive about food and weight when I was younger I had to make a real effort not to focus too much on the pregnancy weight I was gaining and to take a relaxed attitude to losing it. It took probably about two years but over that time I returned more or less to the way I looked before. I’d always been pretty small chested so having boobs for two years was something of a novelty and I was a bit sad to see them go, but my body was just doing what it needed to so I let it get on with it. I had my second son almost a year ago now and my body looks very different to how it was before.
I can't compare it to after my last pregnancy as I didn’t weight myself then but I know it took at least 1.5 years to lose the weight. When you think it takes 9 months to gain it, that doesn’t seem too bad. I think second time round, me being older, and the lockdown meaning I’m out and about a lot less, that it might take me longer to look the way I want (or I might have to make more of an effort ha!) but we’ll see. I’ve also realised that while I still want to lose more weight, and tone up my arms and tum, I’m under no obligation to get back to the same weight I was before. And hey, the boobs are back!!!”
Find Emma here: @emmadabiri