It’s 2005 and I am 7, and my mom does my hair up in little braids with bright beads and barrettes that match my clothes. My teachers complain that they’re distracting. My mother tries to reason with them that braids are just about the only to manage my hair. They don’t care. The seed is sown.
It’s 2006 and I start getting my hair pressed. My Sundays are spent with aloe vera leaves pressed to the burns on my neck. I start to hate rain and develop a fear of heat tools that lasts to this day.
It’s 2008 and all the girls at school brush each other’s hair. Becky asks if she can brush mine. I want to fit in so I tell her yes. I want to disappear when she runs away yelling to the class that I have grease in my hair.
It’s 2008 when I ask my mom why my hair isn’t like the other girls’. She tells me it’s just how I am, and that my black hair is nothing to be ashamed of. I want to tell her she’s wrong.
It’s 2009 and I sit on the floor in my living room crying as the chemicals burn my scalp but I don’t move until twenty minutes have passed. After its been flat ironed it’s silky and straight - but it’s not straight or silky enough, not white girl straight. I touch the chemical burns on my scalp and wish I had left the perm on longer.
It’s 2010 and I’m three weeks late on my perm. That awful, bushy new growth is starting to grow under my perfect straight hair. I hate it. I think it’s ugly and dirty and I wish it’d just go away. I remind my mom to grab the extra strength relaxer.
It’s 2011 and I’m going through my scene phase. I want nothing more than to tease my hair and put it into backcombed pigtails and clip dream catchers into it. But I can’t. It bushes out at the slightest hint of moisture and tangled in the bat of an eye. I hate my hair in both its natural and treated forms.
It’s 2013 and my hair can’t take anymore. It’s damaged beyond repair and I’m forced to cut all thirteen inches off. I’m left with the natural hair I’ve hated my whole life. I cry for weeks.
It’s 2013 and my first healthy curl has appeared. I think it looks pretty. For Christmas I wish for more.
It’s 2015 and I have a fro as big and round as the sun. My curls frame my face like laurels. I put on my hoop earrings and love how I look.
It’s 2015 and I feel the need to reinvent myself. I cut it all off again, from twelve inches to three. I cry for days.
It’s 2016 and my curls are more defined than ever. My natural hair is my glory. I style them into a flat top or a coiff or whatever I feel like. I consider growing them out again.
Your hair journey will not always be pretty. It will not always be healthy. You will not remember all of it fondly. But no matter how rough or how long, it will always be worth it.
Can we just appreciate the before and after hair picture (and eyebrows). The picture on the left I was about 1 year into having my hair natural (although i did still straighten it) and the gif on the right is my hair now, 4 years later
My hair has been growing a lot and looking healthier lately, so I decided to pay a tribute to these lovely people for helping me achieve my goal. I change my hair routine all the time, but having been basing it off of theirs.
I did it. I did the thing you’re not supposed to do. The thing that natural-haired girls across the globe cringe at with shock and disgust. The thing I denounced 4 years ago while screaming at the top of my lungs about how much I loved being chemical free. You know the thing? Yeah I did it. I got a relaxer. *Cue gasps of horror.*
“What happened? What is wrong with you? Why did you do this? After all of these years, tell me you’re joking.” ….Those were only some of the comments I received after ending a 4 year natural journey and returning to the creamy crack. Some of the other ones were, “I oughta beat you!” (jokingly, of course) and, “Sellout.”
Now, in my defense, I didn’t go on a natural hair journey on purpose. It started off by the desire to have long permed hair. I was a sophomore in high school when I started stretching my relaxers. I had always stretched for about 3 months, 4 weeks later than most women I knew, so I decided to be bold. I went nearly 8 months without a relaxer. This was a terrible, terrible idea. Rewind to wash day, June 12, 2011. I stood in the shower, water cold from standing there for 2 hours, with a comb tangled between my new growth and relaxed hair. I used up almost a whole bottle of Suave conditioner for this detangling session, yet the comb was still stuck in my hair. Great. Promise that you won’t judge this next statement. After two hours in the shower with a comb stuck in my hair, I had a breakdown. I simply grabbed the scissors, cut the comb out of my hair, and then cut the rest of my relaxed hair off. I stared in the mirror with a short afro- completely the opposite of my original goal- shrugged, added a headband, and went about my day.
I decided to remain natural for the ease of it. Maintaining short natural hair was a breeze. Even the awkward mid-length hair was easy because I could do a twist out and still have a cute afro. Problems began to occur 2 years later when I entered college. By this time, my hair had grown substantially. Doing my hair became a time consuming burden. In order to keep my hair looking nice while going to school, I turned to a barrage of protective styles, including braids, twists, weave, and wigs. Those were my best friends over the past 2 years. I became a self-proclaimed weave queen. During this time, my hair was flourishing underneath the protective styles. Whenever I gave my hair a chance to breathe, it became overwhelming. My styles would not last in the humidity, doing my hair took entirely too long and didn’t work with my schedule, and I couldn’t even enjoy my length–my number one reason for going on a healthy hair journey.
Because of all of these difficulties, I pondered relaxing my hair once again for about a year. My number one reason for not relaxing my hair was that I felt like if I did, I would be a sellout. People knew me as the girl with big, natural hair. My brother and sister both admired me. My brother began to grow out his own hair and my sister big chopped. Friends always complimented me on my natural look. Even when I got weaves, I always got big, natural looking ones. Big hair became synonymous with my name. How could I leave my new image behind?
It wasn’t easy. After a year of pondering, I made the decision to relax my hair when I remembered that:
It’s just hair.
It’s MY hair, and I can do what I want.
I can go natural again. I did it once, right?
If my main reason for staying natural is that I didn’t want to be seen as a sellout, I need to reevaluate the importance I place on other’s opinions of me.
I wanted to see length! I wanted to swangggg on these chicks like…
Today is August 8th, 2014, 2 weeks post relaxer, and I am indeed swangin' on these chicks.