My decision to go natural was long and coming. One because it’s easier and two because my hair is a mass of curls and waves, that are only partially tamed by chemical and heat anyway. The deciding factor however, was the burning and breakage that occurred on abusiness trip. Due to procrastination that of course led to packing at the last minute, I forgot my black ceramic heat protectant flat iron. I had to use my roomie’s for the whole week I was in North Carolina. My roomie happened to be a Caucasian girl with bone straight hair. Even though I knew better, I thought; it’s a flat iron what harm can it do. I wanted to cry when I got home. There was so much damage.
Let’s rewind a few years in my hair journey. My mother, a child herself and therefore should have been stopped not encouraged to make tragic hair choices for me, decided that a Jerri curl was a great idea when I was in head start. I thought it was cool at the time. Michael Jackson had a curl and he was cool. So what, my Granny and Mama slapped chemical in 4 year old virgin hair in the comfort of our kitchen?
After the Jerri Curl, there were countless relaxers over the years. Has there ever been a black girl child that has escaped the hot comb? I remember sitting in Cousin Connie’s chair at Penny’s, and Aunt Shelia’s kitchen chair. (Both of these ladies were great stylists, by the way.) My mom and grandma continued to torture my hair until finally there was the life changing Wave Nouveau. From middle school all the way through the 9th grade I was teased tortured and bullied for this chemical choice. My grandmother didn’t get the “Jerri Curls are no longer cool” memo.
My step mom saved the day in my ninth grade year. She was a stylist. She had gotten all of the memos. She suggested that I let her cut her all of my hair off. Monica had just made her debut and her hair cut was the coldest. I agreed. I looked in the mirror sometime later and was so impressed. For the first time in 4 or 5 years I didn’t hate my hair. The best part was she was never afraid that I would “sweat my perm out”.
Rhonda had discovered something that I suspect my grandmother and mama knew and chose not to deal with it. I had naturally curly hair! Conditioner and moisture created beautiful and manageable curls. I could’ve stopped there. Kept my hair low and short and rocked it for years. What’s the fun in that though when your step mom is a hair stylist a talented one at that? All through high school at least once a week there was a new styles and even colors at times. I let it grow out, cut it, it was braided, and waved. I loved the microwave pony tail, goddess braids, and French buns. I could go on for days. There were four years of high school and seven days in a week.
Adulthood brought many more changes and styles. Pregnancy was either a blessing or a curse for my hair. My first pregnancy introduced me to the wonderful world of African braiders. I’ll never forget Ada Diop. She was my hero. Destiny’s Child had hit the scene the summer before, and I had to have Beyoncé’s braids. Ada made it happen. Those braids lasted for months.
In my second pregnancy tragedy befell my family. That, along with my own struggles with depression for various reasons ushered in the birth of the hair rag. I would twist it into a knot to create a bun, and where it everywhere. Once I was tired of that look, I convinced my step mom to cut all of my hair off again. I hated the cut the minute the last strand hit the ground. Miraculously I had a head full of hair by the end of that pregnancy and wore it braided for a while.
The years after the babies were just filled with more of the same growing, chopping, relaxing, braiding etc. Fast forward to right after the tragedy that befell my hair in North Carolina.
It was time for a relaxer, but the chemical would cause further damage, and I refused to relax just for the idea of having straight hair. So my journey began
I thought I would start with protective styles. My first attempt was an afro fall which I loved. I bought it because it was fierce and big and one of the most daring things I’ve done as far as hair goes. My kids and my father hated it so I retired it after about three weeks. Next was my very first sew in. I was determined never to be the girl with the tacky weave, so I spent 80 bucks on hair and went to the only person I trusted. She worked her magic and for some weeks I was wet and wavy.
A funeral brought the necessity of a quick weave. This is by far the worst mess that stylists have come up with. Let me get this straight. What part of molding my hair to my scalp, sitting me under the dryer for 8 years, and then gluing tracks onto that shellacked helmet is healthy? I removed the quick weave and was left with a mess of oily tracks, black glue and endless kinks and tangles. Hated it!
For a couple of months after that I tried every natural curl product on the shelves at my local Walgreen’s. There were several $ 9-12 misses. It sucked. (I would eventually find 1 product for 4.99 that worked fabulously, but like most naturalistas I need more than one to accomplish perfection) I decided to try micros one more time. I paid $60 and sat for two days. I won’t go any further into that disaster but it did cost me some edges.
Now the mass of hair is back. I’m still not sure how to manage it. It’s thick but not long. Thick but not healthy. Curly and wavy but with no particular pattern. I’ve watched hours of natural hair tutorials on YouTube, but have failed to execute any of the styles because did I mention my hair is thick? My quest to find the perfect hair product is far from over. I haven’t even tapped into mail order, or even spent $30 on some miracle in a jar. Some small voice in the back of my head has been whispering for months; “Big chop”. I’m almost positive this is the solution. One because YouTube told me so. And two because I’ve witnessed spectacular curl patterns come to fruition as a result of the big chop. Wait I’ve seen my own curl pattern become the thing of envy after chopping all of my hair off in frustration, experimentation, or just because I could. So why is this such a big step for me now? When did I start caring about the hair on my head? Will I let it define me at this point in my life? Have I always been defined by my hair? Oh my! I think I am my hair!
To Be Continued….