“Stop showing your natural hair!! Don’t you want me to press it for you? To put a perm in it? To straighten your hair?” I heard that every two weeks from my mother. From the day I defied her wishes to get another perm touch up; forever saying goodbye to the creamy crack. To the day I yelled at her as an adult (from a safe distance that I knew would give me ample time to run), about how I would no longer straighten my hair. My hair, with its kinky 3c-4a waves, was never meant to be straight and always thrived much better without the damage of heat and straightening glue. Those were the thoughts in my head as I logged onto TikTok earlier this week at the now-viral Gorilla Glue Girl.
How can a 40-year-old woman go viral for putting glue in her hair that’s usually used for construction projects? Furthermore, WHY did this woman put glue in her hair? And let it sit for a month? And now she’s viral…and Black people across the world are praying that she doesn’t lose her scalp in the next few days as she tries to get the product off of her head. There’s nothing funny about this. If anything it is proof of the length people of color have gone in this country to conform to what “they” deem beautiful. And most girls of color grew up knowing their hair needed to be as straight as possible. That’s the problem.
I know there are people repeatedly watching her video on TikTok with lovely Farrah Fawcett locs wondering how this happened. Well, Becky let me let you in on a secret that every woman of color knows. If you walk into a job interview with your natural curl pattern nine times out of ten you aren’t getting hired. If you wear a straight Brazilian wig there’s a stronger chance your videos will be viewed more times online. And many men cringe and run a finger through your natural hair like your tresses came from a swamp if it’s kinkier than a 3a curl pattern. It’s not what most of us want to hear, but we know it’s God's truth. And if you think I’m lying, I know you’re a person that’s never had to worry about your hair looking kinky or professional.
For decades the only girls in beauty ads were white and the only hair products in this country were made for white people. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Latinx, Jewish or Black home in this country for the past sixty years that didn’t have a hot comb, a blow dryer, or a straightener. It was just so much easier to conform than try to learn how to care for your hair in its natural state; unless you wanted to make it for yourself because you couldn’t find natural hair products in stores more than fifteen years ago.
Showing even a kink of your natural hair and wanting to be professional just didn’t go together. I grew up in that world, the same one Tessica grew up in. The same one that told her blue contacts over her naturally brown eyes and straighter hair would make her ‘prettier’. Whether we conform and try everything on the earth to keep our hair kinky and healthy or buy every creamy crack glue and mixture to make it bone straight, we’re still screwed. We’re still analyzed and judged according to a definition of beauty that was never made for us to fit in to.
But how did this product get on her head; bypassing all the perms and hot combs along the way to this hell? At first, rumors started flying that she put the Gorilla Glue on her hair as a joke. Next, Tessica commented that she had put the product in her hair because she confused it with Gorilla Snot. Well, both of the products come in orange packaging and both have a monkey on the label. But how does one confuse the two when Gorilla Snot can be found in the haircare aisle and Gorilla Glue is in the home improvement aisle? Tessica just said that she didn’t read the product label at all, saw the words gorilla and glue on a bottle, and put it on her scalp altering her entire life.
I cringe and shudder each time I think about that woman sitting at home right now with a head full of Gorilla Glue. I saw her original video on Tuesday and I kept scrolling. No way could someone have done this willingly. No way would somebody go to these lengths to make sure their hair appeared as straight as possible. But it happened and she did. I grew up in a massive family with plenty of children that did stupid and crazy things with household products. I've seen the glue stories unfold before. Unfortunately, I feel as if I know what’s about to happen. Let me put it like this; if this woman survives this incident with her scalp and even an inch of her hair still intact I will be shocked. If this woman survives this incident with her scalp still on her head I’ll be shocked. The fact that she went to the hospital for help, and is not in the burn unit receiving the treatment she needs has me furious.
Sending that woman home with acetone was not the answer. That might be what you would do with a person who had white textured hair who’d put the Gorilla Glue in their hair less than 24 hours before, but not what they should’ve done in this scenario. Black hair texture is not the same as white. Our hair has way more protein than moisture, and our scalps are often dry and sensitive to chemicals. Acetone is a strong enough product that if you leave it on the skin long enough it can and will burn through your flesh, and there’s no way Gorilla Glue that’s been sitting on her head for a month is coming off with a five-minute soak of acetone.
Not only has her hair been glued to her scalp but that scalp and all that blood flow has had nowhere to go for over a month. The bacteria that naturally grows on our scalp and usually fall off or is washed away has just been sitting on her scalp. Every day Gorilla Glue is on her scalp it grows stronger and stronger. The new hair grows that usually would start puckering out of every Black girl’s head after a 30-day hairstyle is constrained underneath the adhesive of this strong glue that’s made for wood and metal.
It ain’t worth it. Whether she did it to go viral as a joke, or just to make sure her kitchen and nappy ends looked ‘appropriate’, it just wasn’t worth it.