I know natural hair is not for every sister, so the following chronicle is not meant as a slap in the face to sisters who choose to straighten their hair. I hope you enjoy listening to my natural hair journey. Here we go…
Like many black girls, I was raised to fear and hate my natural hair. It was an ordeal that you and your mother embarked on every Saturday morning to straighten with tense hot-combing sessions in the kitchen. All these decades later, I can still feel the heat on the back of my neck and around my ears; can still hear the menacing hisssss of the hot comb raking through my strands. The smell of singed hair is an odor that’s filed away in my memory bank with other scents that just won’t shake loose: Chanel No. 5 and fresh-cut wood.
Our mothers had their work cut out for them. And, oh, pity the fathers who got left with their daughters, and needed to do the hair thing. This happened to me on said occasion:
Coupled with those battles of the bush, there were VERY distasteful names to describe our kinky curls:
- Bad Hair
- Sheep’s Behind (As hurtful as it is, I found some humor in this one.)
My hair was controlled with chemicals, aka relaxers or perms, when I got older. There were rules: You couldn’t scratch your scalp before the application, lest you wanted it burned like Hades. Due to the high acid content, it was also important for the applier to watch how long it was left on. The after effects: painful scalp sores…all for permanently straightened hair. And to add insult to injury, relaxers smelled like a combination of Drano, hatred, and sulfur. I suffered, feeding into the notion that my natural hair was scary and unfeminine.
Even though my relaxed hair was conventionally “pretty,” I felt like it was a critical patient who needed constant attention, and I was its ragged nurse. Perms made the hair very delicate; thus, using even minimal heat cooked it to the point of damage. The chlorine in pool water was rough on it, too, turning it red and frizzy. Humid days made it swell up like a sponge. Touching up the roots every six weeks was costly, the in-between stage was unsightly. It sent me into “hair hiding” with up-dos and hats, counting down the hours until I could get to the hairdresser’s for her to fix “the problem.” They call relaxers “creamy crack” for a reason.
After all these decades, I started seeing more sisters embracing their natural hair, and it looked gorgeous: fluffy, playful, and downright fantastic; like a marvelous halo. Why not me, I thought? I toyed with the idea of going natural and got my chance when I had to have foot surgery last year, and couldn’t drive. Going to the salon was out. I told my husband it was now, or never. He shaved off my relaxed locks in our bathroom with clippers, like I was joining the army. Naturals call this “the big chop.” I never felt so naked and free. I’m a girlie-girl, and never realized how much I used my hair as a security blanket.
I was bald and limping, but with each new inch I attained, I fell in love my curls.
It has been a journey of trying new things, like twist-outs and braid-outs, and numerous hair products. But I am having fun, gaining a bevy of hair accessories to rest in my nest of curls, and have no plans to go back to relaxing my hair. Although, I may straighten it with heat on occasion.
Natural Hair Glossary
Big chop – Cutting off ALL your relaxed hair.
Transitioning – Slowly letting the relaxed hair grow and eventually cutting it off.
Co-wash – Washing your hair with shampoo, infused with conditioner
Pre-poo – Prepping your hair before you wash it with warm or hot oil treatments or conditioning masks.
Twist-out – The style of twisting the hair in little twists all over the head while it’s damp to define natural curls.
Braid-out – The style of braiding the hair in little braids all over the head while it’s damp to define natural curls. It’s a little more defined than a twist-out.
Pineapple – A high ponytail in the top of the head, that favors a pineapple’s top leaves.
Protective styles – A style like braids or some other low-maintenance style that allows natural hair to rest and grow.
Has there been a “mane” event in your life? If so, please share!
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