My dad said recently the only thing he can count on is that my hair will be different every time he sees me. I could only laugh because it’s sorta true. It changes often but I actually only rotate between three styles: stick straight, wavy and crinkly curls. It’s because last year I decided to go natural–return my hair to it’s chemically untreated state. For 7 months I let it go without a chemical hair relaxer. These styles are the best ways I found to work with the changes my hair is undergoing.
Changing to natural hair
I haven’t had hair that wasn’t chemically processed in some way since I was probably 6 or 7 years old. Whether it was my mother using Ms. Clairol, Jheri curl or hairdressers using whatever the most popular relaxer of the time, my hair has not been it’s natural texture in a long time.
When I was young my family used a hot comb and hot curlers to do a press and curl. For those who don’t know that term it means to straighten hair using a comb and curling iron that was placed on a stove to heat up. This was time consuming and didn’t last very long, even for a kid who was spent most of her time on her bed reading. My thick, coarse hair would quickly “snap back” as we say–meaning it would return from straight to kinky, some call it nappy.
When my Aunt Emily used to sit me down in the kitchen to make my hair pretty, she would always say, “Gurl, your hair is so thick, so thick.” As a very sensitive child I always took that to mean thick was a bad thing. Now I think that it was a compliment knowing how hair thins as one ages.
Most days I liked my evolving hair. When it got hot, it got harder to deal with.
It seemed to take more time to do my hair. For it to be shiny and well conditioned I timed that it’s best to let a deep conditioner sit on it for two hours. The benefit was that my hair seemed to get healthier and it definitely grew longer pretty quickly. Wearing it in a curly style created through curling irons, twisting or on occasion braiding, meant I used less heat on it on a daily basis. I used professional styling products made with titanium and ceramic-blow dryer on lower setting, 2 flat irons and an three-barrel iron that made wavy hair. I also used an all natural shampoo and conditioner made by my hairdresser.
Chemical Hair crack attack
I’m sad to say I caved in. I told myself I was only going to the hairdresser to make sure my hair was healthy. I got to the salon and inhaled the smell of permed hair and I was a goner. I wanted the unnatural, stick straight, easy-to-comb hair back. I needed the fix.
I struggle with being a product of a culture that growing up told me that my real hair wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t pretty enough. That my real hair might keep me from getting a good job, a good man, a good anything. It makes me angry. It makes me angrier that I still can’t get beyond it. Inside I still prefer my sleek chemically straightened, shiny hair to the hard to comb through kinks of really, really tight curls. That it’s mostly people that look like me who also grew up the same way that give natural hair the most grief. I had many younger people who had already gone natural cheer me on. I had people my age mostly wondering why I would do it. It’s funny the impact your hair has on others. “Are you making a political statement?” asked some. In what other race is wearing the hair you were born with political? Black folks are the only people who’s hair is political or unprofessional or controversial in it’s original state. Sigh.
Now, I’m trying again. It’s been nine months since I last sat in the hairdresser’s chair and partook of the chemical crack. This time I’m also trying out a hair oil she made and sometimes I still use Mizani and Olive Oil hair conditioner when I want to get a more stick straight texture. Right now I’m at a stage where my hair is a mix of textures and difficult to work with. But I’m still curious to see what my real hair will look like when all the relaxer has grown out. I hope that I love it when I do. Or I hope that I can grow to love it.
Change is hard, but change can be good.