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.