Every Natural has Their Journey.
I remember going to the salon with my mother as a young girl. Prior to the salon trip, my mother would consciously avoid scratching, patting the entire week to avoid a chemical burn caused by the relaxer. She’d go in with a kitchen bump-and-curl and leave with a thick and flawless tapered cut. I loved it. I dreamed of what it was like to feel the wind blow through my strands. I wanted to be able to flip my hair. I grew tired of bows and barrettes hitting my face as I played. And at the age of 8, my mother gave me the option to relax my hair. I said yes.
The thickness of my hair comes more from my mother than my father. My hair was thick and medium-length, but fabulous just as hers. I had spiral curls, tight curls, loose curls, and bump-and-curls. I had finger waves and beach waves. I even had braided styles, faux bobs, and buns. We spent more time together in that salon, bonding as we patted our heads and grimaced through chemical burns. From 8 to 12 years old, we went to the salon religiously.
This Road Leads to Breakage and Split Ends….
I don’t recall what happened in middle school. Maybe the costs of 3 older kids led to fewer salon visits, maybe my independence kicked into overdrive, maybe my mother believed in my ability to take care of my hair, maybe a combination of the three, but eventually my hair began to suffer tremendously from split ends and breakage. With my new-found independence, I began hanging outside with friends, exposing my chemically treated and fargile strands to the weather and elements. As I got older, I became more physically active in school, played sports, such as softball, and lived at the pool all summer. Also with my independence, I began washing my hair and blow drying it. I didn’t detangle, was too rough with styling tools, and resorted to ponytails too often. By the end of 9th grade I was bored. I big chopped at 13 years old.
Life After the “Big Chop”….
Initially, I regretted cutting my hair. I remembered going to the salon and watching the locks of hair fall to the ground. The result? About 2.5″ of my own natural hair was left and twisted into beautiful coils. The next morning, which was also the last day of school and the 9th grade ceremony, I panicked. My mother, with her quick and crafty fingers, cornrowed what was left of my hair. As a young teenager seeking my own identity, I felt I would be too different. Oddly, the other girls questioned and commented on the courage I must have had to cut my hair. And with the questions and comments, my courage and pride began to grow.
Luckily for me, the summer proved to be a great time for hair growth. I was a natural at washing, conditioning, and detangling my natural hair. And within 3 months, I went from a TWA to a decent size afro. My afro stood out among the sea of limp, relaxed hair in school and I often found myself serving as a sort of inspiration to other beautiful, black girls my age. My braided styles and quickly growing afro inspired others and sparked conversations. Others also began to embrace their own natural strands. I began “converting” others into naturals.
Like most, however, I straightened my afro once or twice a year. I enjoyed permanently coloring my hair different shades or browns, and reds, and burgundies. But, for the most part, my routine consisted of a monthly or bimonthly wash and condition, and a Bantu twist out, high puff, or a style with braids. I spritzed my hair with water. I oiled my scalp with Royal Crown and distributed the product to the ends. I used Jam to lay my edges. Natural hair was a breeze.
That is and was the allure of natural hair. Simplicity. You washed and maintained your natural hair. You styled your natural hair. There weren’t rules and methods. No products to be fearful of, no ingredients to avoid, no label reading. And as important and helpful as the new, continuous wave of natural hair care information is, things have become too complicated and too expensive.
And I must admit, I miss natural hair when it was simple…..
Stay tuned as life with natural hair became unnecessarily complicated and expensive…