Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Black Irish Hair

Our Auntie reckons we've got Black Irish in us. She's white, white skinned and blue-eyed, and then some wayback gene bestowed her with ebony hair- a whole helmet of fuzzy - kinked like a Papuan's heirloom, busting our Auntie right out of the O' Sullivan clique . She's often wondered about her origins. One of my sisters is the same. She has skin that peels and dies in the sun before it will tan, and hair of any South Pacific Indigene. The rest of us have ringlets at the pre-kink stage; mad, woolly, reddening curls and freckly, Australian skin that borders on the swarthy.

At fourteen, Stormboy is struggling with his curls. "But curls get the girls!" I've been trying this line for a while. I tried to explain the link between curls and testosterone, about genetics and how lucky he is. I conveniently forgot that at his age, I was curvy, curly and near on six foot and I desperately wanted to be everything else but. He has taken to hair wax and the straightening iron. He's got a kind of Bieber thing going on. Fruit of my loins, child!

Pearlie denied the Curl too, at fourteen. I think she owns a straightening iron for every year she's existed in her present human form. The anti-frizz, 'gliss' and smoothing muck spouting the sexy-straight-hair-jargon has been clogging our bathroom ever since 2006.

Some sociologists reckon that by the time kids reach their late teens, they return to the core beliefs they were raised with. I'm just hoping that my kids' curls will find their rightful crown.

That said, I've got a pharmacy of the stuff now, thanks to the said teens. Taming days are my weakness, especially when this frizzy old wild witch o' the west is about to be subjected to a job interview with Someone Important. I still fall for that. I'll spray or wipe the stuff into my hair in an attempt to look respectable. It usually turns the whole bird's nest into a dirty mess. Then I tie it into a bun. On my way to the job interview, folk will stop me in the street and ask if I can score some drugs for them.

Whole-egg mayonnaise, honey, olive oil, not letting a (straight) hairdresser near me and no brushing after washing are the tried and true formula for dealing with Black Irish hair. As I age, I'm getting to better understand my locks.

I walked into a hairdressers in my late teens and asked the man to cut my hair. He looked at me and started cursing in Italian. Then he produced a fine toothed comb and dragged it through my hair like I was some kind of heretic Lilith visitation. He was ripping my hair out by the roots and still cursing. By then I was getting cranky because it was really hurting me. The whole experience was quite unpleasant for both of us.

His apricot tree fruits every year out the back of his shop and they are so fucking yummy when he is away on holidays. I always remember that comb and laugh as my witchy hair snags on one of his branches.


  1. I (sort of) get that the Black Irish aren't really about a strain of Africans into 1700's Ireland. If anyone has any info about the Black Irish, please pass it on.

  2. The Irish and Cornish black haired people were supposed to have been descended from the Mesopotamians who came over for a bit of tin, and never went back.

  3. The origins of The Dark Irish the ones with black hair have been proved via DNA to be from the Iberian peninsula pre-bronze age.

  4. I tried to get a haircut in Vanuatu recently but the hairdresser declined to take my money. Why? My hair was straight and she only knew how to cut fuzzy wuzzy hair. She was afraid of scissors.

  5. I thought the black Irish referred to the gypsies ('the Travellers') of Ireland. I guess there may be a connection there to the Dark european gypsy heritage.

  6. Lovely blog. hair - it tells such a story doesn't it?

    Black hair - my contribution: my Dad was Irish/English Aussie. His mother had gorgeous red curly locks courtesy of her Celtic/Irish heritage, and the skin to match. My Grandpa, well I only knew him with grey hair but he had a really 'Roman' nose and I suspect black hair when he had some. My Dad inherited the beautiful curly but black locks, the Roman nose and the green eyes. My uneducated view: The Romans invaded the British Isles so my money is on them breeding with the locals.

    My hair is soooooo straight and I will murder the next hairdresser who tells me so (again). I blame my Dutch-Indonesian heritage. You don't see many straight Asians with curly hair.

    Of course I am the envy of RamSnake who hates his own beautiful curly locks and always wanted a divinely straight ponytail. We never end up with what we want....

  7. My wife comes from a long line of O'Byrnes descended from the hills of Wicklow. She has thick black black hair with not a hint of curl. She does, however, have a sallow skin and just loves the sun. She browns like nobody's business. Red hair, freckles and swarthy skin belong to my side of the family..

  8. Biological anthropology, via the internet, I love it!
    Thanks for all your input into the hair thing, and the Black Irish too.

  9. My son has a blonde afro, courtesy of his father's German ancestry. He deals with it by keeping his hair super short (though that probably wouldn't appeal to Storm Boy).
    Love your hair, Sarah. As a straight hair girl I always longed for some curls.

  10. Michelle, I had no idea about your Indo heritage. Please tell ...

    Barbara, Stormboy is doing the short/straight hair thing at the moment. Um. Don't know quite what to say about that without crippling the child's ego. But curly boys were always in my eyesight as a teenager. I hope he will get over it sooner rather than later.

    I always wanted straight hair when I was younger. It went with 'organised, shit-together, gorgeous, etc'. These days, I tend to enjoy my self more.

    Ciaran, she sounds like a right hottie.

  11. Made me laugh a lot...we of the curly clan :)