Do you know what today is?
It’s my “nappyversary.” It was one year ago today that I let go of a whole lot when I chopped all my hair off.
I found two pieces of my straight relaxed hair in one of my Bibles, among all places. That old hair was a symbol of a part of me who always felt self-conscious unless her hair was “done” professionally. I’ve come a long way since then.
Fear of the Unknown
Many Black women are afraid to do the big chop for fear of:
a) what their face will look like without hair framing it
b) what their natural texture looks like
c) what others comments (especially significant others and close family members)
d) learning to care for their natural hair without chemicals
e) any combination of the above
But not me.
I’ve actually been fighting the urge to big chop again for the past several months! In fact, I was surprised by how much I loved the no-to-low maintenance of a Caesar cut from the barber every 1-3 weeks. I was used to having long relaxed hair, but I deferred to styles that didn’t require me to do much. I’m as lazy as possible without looking real tore up in public. If I can wrap it, put it in a bun, braid it, let it hang down, or not have any at all–while still looking good–I’m all in.
What I soon learned is that taking care of natural hair (that is, natural hair with a hair length long enough to put a comb through) requires MORE work than relaxed hair. (Some people will argue with this logic, including the lady who inspired my BC in the first place, Sunshine. Although I respect her immensely, I disagree with her opinion that maintaining relaxed hair takes at least the same amount of work as it does with natural hair.)
I didn’t have growing pains during this first year of nappyness, but I did have growing points, and they were interesting…
Like the day in October 2010 when I looked in the mirror and saw my hair making little waves and curls all on their own (because my barber–who made house calls–changed his cell phone number and I couldn’t reach him anymore).
And the ladies in stores who would compliment my hair (the lack of it, that is), and say, “If my hair was like that, I would cut it/go natural too– but I can’t do that with MY hair.” Made me say ‘Hmmm….’ on the inside. On the outside, I’d just say, “I didn’t know what my hair would do after I cut it all off. But I’ve made peace with it.” I’d also mention my MIA barber–that had a lot to do with it too! And if my daughter is with me when observations and comparisons are made, I am quick to point out that I am still learning her hair, too (she’s never had a relaxer, but we have different textures, so our hair responds differently to the same products).
I have made so many friends because of having natural hair–it’s unbelievable. That’s not to say that everyone I meet with locs, twists, or fades has become my BFF. But if you approach people respectably and ask thoughtful/sincere questions about their hair, they will almost always tell you what you want to know. It’s an everyday occurrence for one natural to ask another questions like, “Who did your hair?,” “Did you make that flower you’re wearing?,” ” or “What products did you use to achieve that style?”–even if they’re strangers. If I’m the person being asked about something in this vein, the question is usually, “Where did you get those big earrings?” I have become a certified earring fiend and have spent a large percentage of my income on accessories in these past 12 months.
Last June, I was in Raleigh for a natural hair expo (one week before my big chop). As I was getting into my car, I let the windows down for air, and a woman named Ebony pulled up in the spot next to me. She asked how the event was, and we started talking about hair and stuff. I think she liked my personality, but the deal was sealed when I asked her where I could find a Wendy’s before I got on the road (I lived 4 hours away at the time), and showed her my coupons. She said, “That’s it, we’ve got to exchange numbers,” and after that, she had me follow her to the closest Wendy’s, and never did go back to the event (smile). We have been friends ever since.
Living in Atlanta, GA gives me access to so many resources for all things natural hair– I think this city much be the capital. People here of all races are very accepting of it. Natural salons are a core point of small business throughout the metro area. Hair shows and expos feature it, salon stylists teach about it, bloggers talk about it, vloggers do demos on it, several Meetup groups and support each other because of it, and many types of vendors make money from it. The natural hair industry is absolutely booming here, and I’m grateful to be in the midst of so many valuable resources. I have made many, many friends from conversation that simply started with talking about caring for natural hair.
Now that my ‘fro has grown, and I’ve reached my nappyversary month, I decided to have my hair blown straight and flat-ironed. I was surprised by how big my hair was before the process, and how long it was afterward. Will I keep it straight, cut it back off, or do more “natural” styles? I don’t know, but I love having the choice, and being ok with it no matter what.
You see, real acceptance starts with yourself. You can see 100 sistas all around you, beautiful, proud, intelligent, natural-haired sistas, all encouraging you. But if you don’t face your own emotional issues about your hair (like what someone said about it in the past and how it made you feel, or being upset/unfairly treated because your sister always had “a better grade of hair” than you), you’ll never get over it.
Often our attitudes about our hair form when we are very young, and are influenced by the comments and teachings of those closest to us. I am no exception. In my forthcoming book, What’s Wrong With Me?, I touch on my own memories of this very subject (stay tuned for the excerpt).
Don’t ever believe it when someone tells you, “It’s just hair.” It may be just that to them, but for many Black women all over America, it’s much, much more. Especially in a culture that is ever so opinionated about our looks.
Do you celebrate successes, defining moments, and deliverances? (Psalm 116:12-13) Turning points in our lives are not relegated to take place only on holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. The day you come clean about a situation or change your life in some way is always a wonderful day to remember. We should never forget these game-changing moments because if we do, we’re doomed to regress back to where we once were.
What can YOU celebrate today?