I am my hair (at times), but other times, I am NOT my hair. My choice to go natural was probably one of the hardest things I’ve chosen to do and it’s not for why you think.
I’ve been wearing my hair short for years now. The difference now is I don’t comb relaxer through it. My go to look was blonde hair that was laid like Little Richard’s and I rocked the heck out of it. No muss, no fuss. Just wet and go. I always got complements and I felt really good about how I looked. There are not very many hairstyles where you can wake up cute! About 2 years ago, I started hearing more about natural hair, not from anyone in particular, just smatterings of talk on social media, on public transportation and in black magazines especially. Mostly what I gleaned from it was that natural chicks LOVE talking about “I don’t have a perm” or “I haven’t had a perm in 3 years”. It was spoken as if it was a badge of honor. I really didn’t understand all the hoopla.
As time passed, I started following a few blogs, I saw that there is something to this natural hair thing. There was a sense of beauty, tenacity, creativity, a community and commitment. I didn’t know a TWA from ACV or the difference between a twist out and flat twists (the jury is still out on which is which), but what I did know what that natural hair GREW! I don’t mean the regular old growth we get after a touch-up after 2 months. I mean GREW!!! Once I started browsing bloggers photos of their big chop (BC) or their transition, I was in awe of how much black girl hair could grow. I decided that’s what I wanted my hair to look like. Long, big, bouncy, relaxer-free (did I say long) hair. The problem I had before going on this journey was that I was never a fan of how natural hair looked. Dry, big, puffy, dare I say nappy. It was never attractive to me. I have to attribute that to my grandmother and great aunt. They are from Atlanta and were brought up in the 20’s and 30’s. Back then, hair was pressed out or women wore wigs. I don’t ever remember seeing a photo of any of my grandmother’s sisters with afro’s or twist outs. Women wore their hair pressed or pulled back or under a wig. I remember when I was little and my aunt used to see women with natural hair and sometimes she’d make a snide comment. I would get teased if I didn’t want to get my hair straightened after a wash. She’d say, “I’ll make you stay like this if you don’t sit down!” Heaven forbid I was made to walk around with what is now called a wash and go. I would have just died! My whole life , my hair was washed and straightened. Then I wanted a jheri curl and my mom got me one. Soon thereafter, my hair went bye-bye!! What did a little girl know about taking care of a jheri curl? NOTHING! It broke off so fast I didn’t have time to adjust. I hated my hair after that. I was embarrassed and so ashamed. I was teased and ridiculed. It was one of the single most traumatic times of my childhood. I didn’t have short hair before this tragic episode and now I did. It was a crazy period of self-loathing and I wasn’t even in high school yet. My hair journey is all a blur now, I blocked it all out. I do know at some point, I just lived with short, relaxed hair and I got used to it.
Let’s fast forward to today. I combed my last bit of relaxer in my hair on the day of my friends birthday party in December 2012. My hair was laid that day. I LOVED it. At that moment, I hadn’t decided on stopping the relaxers, but that was it for the relaxer. I went to my stylist to get a shape-up and told him that I’m thinking about going natural. He was not the least bit encouraging or pleased. His comments were like, “You won’t last”, “Are you sure you want to do that?”, “You workout, you won’t have time to do it.” It was surreal. I’m not sure why I didn’t expect this from him, but I was still a bit shocked. Maybe he was right. I stayed away from him for a while until I wanted my hair color changed from blonde to red. Of course he dyed it the wrong color and I hated it! He picked my hair out and I looked like Ronald McDonald!!I had him cut it right then. All that wonderful growth, GONE! That was the last straw for me. I’ve only let him shape me up and once I find a great natural hairstylist, I’m done with him.
My choice to go natural is multifaceted. Part of me loves the possibility of having beautiful long, healthy, big hair. Part of me feels that after a certain age, its time to let go of all the preconceived notions of what makes ‘good hair’. Part of it is because my husband LOVES natural hair (and he doesn’t want to take out ‘nar ‘nother weave in his lifetime). The biggest part is that part of me needs to learn to be more comfortable in my own beauty.
That last part is the hardest part for me. I’m not sure why, but I’m not always 100% comfortable in my own beauty. We all have flaws, trust and believe, but I think women as a whole are very critical of themselves. I hear the not-so-positive self speak from other women and I sometimes cringe when I hear it from myself. I know that there is beauty in everything and in everyone, the challenge for me is to find it and to not let it go so easily. I’ve had more than my share of creamy crack moments over the past 6 months. It would be so easy to give up, but the challenge for me is to stay steadfast in my natural hair journey. My husband is so supportive! I sometimes wonder if he’s crazy for listening to my rantings, yet he still encourages me to press on, reminds me how beautiful I am and just keeps on loving me.
I had hope to try braids as my first protective style, but I’ve had nothing but bad experiences (bald spot, whimpering, tears, hair tumbleweeds, you name it!) with them and I’m scared to death to get my hair braided. I even went so far to solicit recommendations, make an appointment with a shop, only to cancel an hour before. Scared was putting it mildly, I was terrified! I know at some point, most naturals opt for braids or some protective style. I know at some point I’ll have to do it, but for now, I’ll stay scared.
Today is a good day. I am my hair and my hair is me. I combed it a bit differently today and I’m seeing myself with fresh and hopeful eyes. Everyday I’m getting closer. I’m not sure to what, but I do know there is a lesson in the journey. I still don’t know all the terms, pre-poo and how to ACV rinse or about a 100 other things that some naturals go through, but I’ll learn as I go. I’m still hopeful I’ll find a kind and caring natural hair stylist very soon to guide me, until then, I’m going to keep on LCO’ing or LOC’ing or whatever it do to get ready in the morning, and keep moving.
Love peace and hair grease (or coconut oil)!