In April, my RSS feed picked up an article that Clutch Magazine posted about the Black Girl with Long Hair blog. After a subsequent thorough perusing of various related natural hair blogs and YouTube video tutorials/reviews, I decided to stop relaxing my hair, and did what I considered a big chop (BC). Right now I consider it to be BC#1 because I chopped off more in June.
What is crazy about this to me is that I have ALWAYS been a Black girl with long hair, and it’s mainly because all I know how to do to it is wrap it and put it in a ponytail. I could never deal with the onset of new growth. So for the past 20 years (since I was 13 years old)–I relaxed my hair religiously every 5-8 weeks. I dealt with the burn, the hours of waiting for my turn in the salon, then and sitting under the dryer for another hour or more to finish a style, since my hair is so coarse and thick.
Conscious, Yet Ignorant
When I got pregnant, I started to pay more attention to what I ate, and I chose to use the Bradley method for childbirth. After my first trimester, I switched from a traditional ob-gyn to a midwife so I could have maximum control over my baby’s birth day. I also chose not to use an epidural or any other drugs during labor, because I didn’t want the drug to possibly affect the baby. But what I didn’t understand—out of pure ignorance—is just how harmful lye is. It’s almost funny remembering how I brought my beautician a box of no-lye (calcium hydroxide) relaxer from the store ON MY DUE DATE, because I didn’t want to have to fool with my nappy hair and my firstborn. I actually thought the no-lye version was safer than the lye! It wasn’t until years later that the movie Good Hair showed a scene where Chris Rock and a scientist look at what lye (sodium hydroxide) does to a soda can.
I was praying for a son so I wouldn’t have to do hair. The thought of having to do my hair was bad enough, but being responsible for someone else’s hair scared me.
Then I had a girl.
Fast forward about 7 years, and after most of my hair appts, my daughter complements me on my hair, excitedly asks me if she can touch it (it’s always silky and long), then asks why hers doesn’t look like that. I would not pay a beautician to do the same work on her hair, because it wouldn’t last on my active little one’s head more than a few hours. But I thought more and more about it, and I didn’t want my chemically-altered straight hair (that I sacrificed time, energy, and serious cash to obtain) to affect her self-esteem. Children believe more of what we do than what we say. I could tell her she’s beautiful all day long with her curly hair, but I never wear my hair natural, who am I fooling? I started thinking about my own uncomfortable attitudes about my hair that I’ve held onto all these years.
I got a lot of crazy looks from the ladies in the salon in May, asking why in the world I was cutting off so many inches of my hair off. That BC#1 looked great for about 2 weeks. Then came the moment of truth when I had to wash it. I always dread washing my hair because I can never ever recreate a style from the shop, or straighten it as well as it originally looked.
So from there I bought and rocked a short wig for 2 weeks, and I got many compliments. But with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees every day, I quickly got tired of wearing it. I went to a natural hair salon and the main suggestion was for me to get micro braids. The only problem was, this person that did micros was only available 2 days a week, and she flipped her appointment book over several weeks trying to “squeeze me in.”
You can’t squeeze in an appointment that takes over 8 hours to complete.
Meanwhile, one of the natural hair blogs announced a Natural Hair Expo in Raleigh, NC. Raleigh is an easy 3-hr drive for me, so I made plans to go. I went alone (I travel alone a lot) but everyone I met was friendly and approachable. I had a lot of questions so I went to a couple of classes, and even walked up on people with compliments and questions. But my hair looked tore up. I had washed it and I couldn’t do anything with it, styling-wise. I had come to the right place. And when I left, I even befriended someone in the parking lot who was considering whether to go inside (because we discovered that we both love coupons, lol)!
Just in the nick of time, I considered the unthinkable. While checking out my updated subscriptions on YouTube, I got hope and inspiration from Sunshine (username sunshinelovespeace). She is an entrepreneur, wife, and mom who looks to be about my age or younger, who uses her channel to motivate other young women to set goals, follow their dreams, and be their authentic selves. I often find myself nodding and saying, “Yes!,” “That’s right,” or “Me too” as I listen to her various messages.
Her videos in June 2010 show her with a fade haircut like the ones men get. I was astounded by how good it looked on her. And even better was her motivational message, which was to not be afraid to do the BC because of how you may feel or what others may say. (Alternatively, when going natural, you can “transition” instead, that is, keep your hair as it and cut it little by little.)
The Real Cut
I watched her videos and realized—I can do that too! So I paused the videos as she turned her head at different angles, took a few screenshots with my screen capture software, and brought the printouts to a barber to hook me up, hoping for the best. I had my glasses off the whole time, so I couldn’t see the progress of the cut, but I saw the hair falling on my cape. BC#2 was in effect.
I thought about what people would say to me when they saw my new look. I know so many Black men that prefer their women to have long hair—the kind they can run their fingers through. I’ve seen videos from men who just don’t find women with natural hair styles attractive. But I had conviction and the clippers ran for a long time—there was no turning back.
When the barber finished with me, all I could say was Wow—I can’t believe I had the you-know-what to do that! He thought the cut looked good on me too, so when a vendor came in to take lunch orders, he bought lunch for me while he was still cutting!
But that was just feedback in the barbershop. The real test was going to be reactions from people I know. So I put my new pic on Facebook and waited. I rolled up in church practically bald.
You know what happened? I got a ton of complements. Not one person had a negative comment. Even people who I waiting for a sarcastic comment from. It was all love.
One comical scene in Good Hair is where Chris Rock takes afro wigs and other kinky hair textures to beauty supply stores in L.A. and offers them for sale. No one was interested. One of the store owners made it plain—she said, “No one wants nappy hair.” I also read a blog comment from a reader who said something to the effect of, “How often do you see people of other races rocking kinky hairstyles?” It made me think.
I am experiencing hair freedom right now. Trying to make my hair “behave,” and fighting against the way it grew out of my head (call it nappy, kinky, whatever) caused me so much anguish over the years. It greatly affected my self-esteem, and “bad hair days” were not just a cliché for me—they were real. Before you can change your feelings about yourself, based on your outer appearance, you have to change on the inside and believe in the right things for you.
My decision to go natural is not about being radical or political. Nor am I suggesting that you’re wrong if you learn about the dangers of relaxing your (or your child’s) hair and continue to do it. I’m just sharing the beginning of my natural hair journey experience in the hopes that it helps someone. You do you and I’ll do me.
I’m hoping that now my hair will grow out healthy (unless I decide to keep this fade for a while) and that it won’t break off at the crown anymore like it always has. I understand that “good hair” is healthy hair—in any texture.
Some people think the word “nappy” has a negative connotation. I think it depends on how you use it. Which term do you prefer—nappy or natural? Does it matter?