First of all…YAY! As most of us know, going “natural” isn’t the easiest of journeys but like all journeys it is incredibly rewarding. Some people are blessed to have the “it’s no big deal, it’s just hair” outlook but for other people, especially in the black community, hair means an awful lot. For a lot of us, our hair is a telltale sign of how we are feeling. We dedicate hours of time, pounds of product and hundreds of our hard-earned dollars to coax our mane to whatever styles we feel represent our moods at the time. Either way I suppose should probably just speak for myself because I know that when my hair wasn’t right, my day was sure to follow. It’s been that way as long as I can remember. And THAT goes back to the very beginning of my love/hate relationship with my hair. My story starts, when I begged my mom for a relaxer and she finally said, “Yes.”
I was the only black girl in an all white and very wealthy neighborhood with a little latino sprinkled in (shout out to my childhood bestie Carolina!). I wanted to fit in. I had no issue with my skin tone but specifically with my hair. The “problem” or so I thought, was always my hair. I wanted bangs and hang time (a long thick a** high a** ponytail). I wanted to be able to take my hair out of the ponytail my mom slaved over and have hair that flowed down my back and graced my bum. I wanted to have hair that blew in the wind the way my friends’ hair did but had a hard time accepting that simply wasn’t an option. My mother was in beauty school at the time or perhaps just starting. I knew about relaxers because she was relaxing her hair at the time and man was it gorgeous! My mom was just everything. She dressed well and accessorized just right. Her makeup was light yet striking and her relaxed strands were glossy and ever-flowing. All the while, in my baby mind I thought, “How come you can do it to your hair and I can’t!?” We all know that old story. A short time later she permed it and I was over the moon! Even had bangs in my second grade school photo. I was PUMPED. Soon after that I found out that not only do relaxers permanently change the texture of your hair but they also burned. And when I say burned we are talking about chemical burns that left my scalp tender to the touch. A few times the burns were so bad, they would scab over and take days to heal. During which my newly relaxed hair would get caught in the scab as they healed causing tangles and breakage. The pain was almost unbearable but the feeling of cool water running through my newly stick straight strands always made the pain a distant memory.
This continued for years. Every month like clockwork, I’d pull a chair to kneel on from the kitchen table, we touched up my perm at our kitchen sink until I was old enough to begin doing them on my own. In my mid-twenties is when I started to notice my hair is was just kind of…there. My hair was very fine to begin with but years of relaxing and heat-styling made my hair thin and very fragile. I was wearing protective styles occasionally as they fit in my budget but outside of that I was chemically straightening then heat-styling way too often. Then suddenly the natural hair movement hit! It was everywhere! All these brown girls that had very similar stories to mine where jumping the creamy-crack ship! For hours, I would lose myself watching video after video as these women of all ages transitioned over time or took the leap and big chopped their chemically damaged ends right there ON CAMERA. I was instantly inspired. I started to research relaxers and the damage they caused and tried to remember what my “real” hair was even like. Why you ask? Because in my relaxed hair days, the very second I noticed what we called ‘new-growth’ I’d drop everything and head to my local beauty supply store to buy another at-home relaxer kit before anyone laid eyes on my non-laid non-slayed edges. Before I knew it, this whole “going natural” thing began taking up a large percentage of my daily thoughts. I kept hemming and hawing about whether or not this movement was for me. Would my natural be too hard to manage? Or what if I looked ugly? After all, I couldn’t remember a time where my hair hadn’t been straight and frankly the thought of chopping my hair off no matter what the length or amount of damage was more than a bit overwhelming to say the least. As time went by, I felt like all signs were pointing to newly natural me. I started to respond to all those questions I was asking myself.
Q: What if I big chop and hate it?
A: You don’t even have to big chop! You can transition for as long as you’d like. The chances of you hating it are slim-to-none. There is so much freedom that comes with cutting off those damaged ends. It may be startling initially like with anything else that is new, you will get used to it with time. You also have the option of going to professional hair stylist and working with them to help you transition or find the right cropped cut to help you rock your big chop with pride! For those days where you just can’t seem to manage, protective styles are here to save the day! Wigs, weaves, braid and more are all available for whenever we need a break. Rest easy.
Q: What if I look ugly?
A: Umm wut? The hair that grows from your scalp is perfect just the way it is and you can do whatever you want with it as long you remember that your follicles are yours and nobody else’s! I hadn’t realized that for whatever reason (ie: society enforced norms) I felt like my hair, black hair, kinky-curly-nappy hair was “ugly” which is RIDICULOUS! Our hair can stretch, shrink, bend and tuck into whatever shape and/or texture we chose. If that ain’t a blessing, I don’t know what is.
Q: What if I can’t take care of it? I have no idea how.
A: Ok. You have a point. However, if you think about it, everyone walking this Earth starts learning everything with a knowledge base of practically zero. We can read about things and soak up as much info as possible which is a phenomenal place to start but until we put the knowledge into practice it is all speculation. Practice people! Bring your tablet/phone into the bathroom, start your favorite show or movie and take your time getting to know your hair in a new way!
If you’re still doubting whether you can learn how to handle your own hair or anything else new in life for that matter, keep in mind that we all had to learn how to do things we probably never thought we would be able to do with ease now. You will learn what your hair likes, loves and what it sure as hell doesn’t like. It may take time, some longer than others with a few setbacks to be expected, but after a few months it’s not so scary.
Here I am, two years into my journey and looking forward to what may come. As of right now, I have no desire to go back to relaxing no matter how frustrating my hair is being that day. Being able to say that alone is a win in my book.