Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Natural Hair Story

Everyone has a story behind going natural and since I love reading others stories...I thought I may as well share mine. 

This could get a little bear with me.

I guess I should start at the beginning. I was born...not with a full head of hair but with bald spots. Luckily, it didn't stay that way and it wasn't long before I had a decent head of hair.

From my earliest memories (I was around four), I remember noticing my hair was different from most of the other girls that I went to daycare with. We were in Germany at the time and I don't remember there being any girls with similar hair to mine.  I would go to a ladies house and she would spend FOREVER braiding my hair. I hated sitting down for so long and I especially hated how much my head would hurt after. 

We eventually moved back to the states and there was no more lady to braid up my hair. My mom was doing my hair...and she was rough. Getting my hair combed was like punishment. She would comb my hair so hard that sometimes my butt would lift off the seat. Not such a pleasant memory.

It wasn't until around the 5th grade- we were living in Iceland- that I really started to resent my hair. I was the only black girl in my class. My hair was "different".  I wanted hair like the other girls in class. I wanted to keep a brush in my desk and brush my hair throughout the day, but it's kind of hard to brush cornrows!

I should also mention that I had an older brother that wasn't the most pleasant to grow up with. I don't remember a day passing without my brother telling me how fat and ugly I was. And I don't think I have to tell you that words really do hurt. As a result I had a really low self esteem. It was probably why I was so shy at one point.

Anyway, I was also the last of the girls I hung out with to have natural hair. All my friends had a relaxer. Of course, at the time I didn't exactly know what a "relaxer" meant, I just knew I wanted hair like everyone else. And also if my hair were straight...maybe I wouldn't be so ugly.

One day, my mom asked me if I wanted to get a relaxer. And my answer....YES! So we read through the instructions and 30 minutes later I finally had straight hair. And it was pretty long too. I couldn't stop touching it and was very pleased.

I was in the sixth grade by this time. After the first relaxer my mom found a lady that liked to do hair. When I needed a relaxer she would give me one. This went on for a couple months. But then we moved again. This time to England. (My older brother didn't come with gradually my self esteem got higher, especially when this boy I went to school with said he thought I was "pretty"- I went home and looked in the mirror and decided I wasn't so bad looking after all. That was a good moment for me!)

Now I was a seventh grader. I thought my mom would start to do my relaxer again but somehow she just magically didn't know how to do them anymore. But I needed one because on the instructions it said "every six weeks". So I started doing them myself. And it's a miracle that my hair didn't all fall out. I didn't understand that what I was using was a chemical-so I would leave it in well past the recommended time and overlap it over already relaxed hair. 

Once I got the high school I ditched the Just For Me relaxer and started trying different brands. I had the Precise relaxer a couple times because that's what my aunt used and she had really nice hair. It was a good relaxer but it didn't come with any neutralizing shampoo. So I just didn't neutralize it. I did that a couple times-again I was lucky my hair didn't just fall out.

Another time I relaxed my hair I remember getting some of the relaxer on my forehead. For some reason I didn't wipe it off. It was a tiny bit. The next day it had eaten through my skin and my forehead was bleeding. THEN I neutralized it. Definitely not one of my smartest moments.

Around the 11th grade I considered going natural. I just kept thinking of Thelma from Good Times and how much I loved her fro. And around that time I was addicted to UPN's Monday (or Tuesday?) night line up. First I saw Tracee Ellis Ross in Girlfriends and then Mona (real name?) in Half and Half rocking their natural hair. All of the sudden I loved natural hair. The bigger the better. I wanted to go natural...but I had no idea how. I remember mentioning it a girl I went to school with but she said something about my hair wouldn't grow anymore if I did that. For some reason I believed it.

Plus my hair was getting pretty long and when I found out I would have to cut it to go natural I wasn't so sure.

This is my hair at it's longest when relaxed although I didn't think it was that long. It was curled too so if it were straightened it would have been longer.

Not long after that I decided to dye it. I went to the store...picked a black for the bottom and a pretty brown for the top then went home and slapped it in my hair. The lighter brown didn't take like I wanted it to but I liked the way it came out.

Sometime after that I had a big haircut. And a lot was cut off. It looked nice though...healthy but definitely thinned out. 

Fast forward to college. I had natural haired friend that stayed across the hall from me. And her hair was so pretty. I saw her do twist outs and really began to realize how versatile natural hair was. From there I started watching youtube and reading hair forums.

The hair forums were a big eye opener. I always knew a relaxer was a chemical but for some reason that didn't necessarily click until I read it there. That's why it ate through my skin and once I left a hair in a tub of relaxer and when I went to open it the hair was still in there- except it was dissolved. And that's what I was putting on my head and inhaling every month. And for what? 

I also hate how western beauty ideals had been so imprinted on me.  So going natural would be my way of sticking my middle finger up at them. 

Another reason I decided to finally just go ahead and ditch the relaxer was because I figured one day (in the very distant future)  I would have children. Maybe a little girl. And whatever her hair texture I wanted her to know it was beautiful just the way it grew out her head. I wanted to be a natural hair "role model", which I think is very important. I didn't really have a natural hair role model. My mom has been natural all her life BUT she always straightens her hair. She never wears as is, and her hair texture is very different than mine. 

 I had a big tub of Motions relaxer that I used to use and when it ran out I wasn't going to replace it. That was December 2007. 

I was officially going natural.

I remember telling a couple people and they were very judgmental.

 I went natural a little before it was popular to "go natural".  Some of the comments I got "Why would you go natural? Are you still going to straighten it?"(why would I go natural to flat iron my hair all the time- does that make sense or was I trippin'?)

For the next couple of months I wore my hair in a ponytail with a headband. Then May 2008 I big chopped. It took some getting used to. That's a picture of me with my TWA (teeny weeny afro). Excuse the no makeup and the messy brows...

This picture is after a year natural....

Some more natural hair pics:

I had this preconceived notion that with my hair "nappy" no guy would be attracted to me. I couldn't have been more wrong. I remember being in the laundromat and a complete stranger walked up to me and told me how much he loved my hair. Major confidence boost!

That's not to say every experience with men and natural hair has been a positive one. This one guy-for some reason unknown to me- thought it would be perfectly acceptable for him to tell me how much he hated my hair. How he thought I needed to straighten it so I could be attractive. I won't even get into what I told him but I went off a little- or a lot. 

But thats definitely not the norm. Most people aren't so bold. Unless they are your family. I think it's because they are from the old school and they grew up with the mentality that hair should be straightened.  My grandmother on my moms side loves to tell me how she "prefers" my hair be straightened. And my parents really seem to dislike my hair sometimes. To them my hair is dry, or undone, etc. And sometimes it's hard to hear. But sometimes the support I get from complete strangers is enough to erase the negativity.

For the most part though, I've gotten to the point where I just don't care. If you don't like my hair- you can kick rocks. I love it, and that's all that matters. And that's a great place to be.

It didn't take long at all for my hair to grow...although it still looks short sometimes. Shrinkage is real. And although many people complain about it, I think it's great.

So...I think that's my whole little story! 

Thanks for reading :)