Thursday, 16 June 2011

My Natural Hair Journey

First of all, sorry it's been a while. Things have been crazy busy with me of late - I promise to update later. :)

Where do I even begin with this one?

I had already started to write this post some weeks ago, but kept putting it off. I stumbled across a post about natural hair just this week and I just felt I should just put this up. What struck me more than anything was the apparent division between those with natural hair and those with either weaves or relaxed hair. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. I was just hurt. I couldn't believe how we as a people had pitched ourselves against each other over HAIR!!!! Of all the things in the world. God have mercy!!!!

As for me, I decided to stop relaxing my hair in August 2009. I transitioned for a while (trying my hardest to salvage the length), but to my surprise (or maybe not) my hair broke. I mean just broke off like I had taken a pair of scissors to the front of my hair and just chopped. It was a mess and so was I. I reluctantly went to the salon and was trying to negotiate with the stylist, to see if she could work a miracle - you know the kind where a girl walks into a salon and says make me look like this - pulls out a picture of Beyonce and she doesn't even have enough hair to do canerows to attach the weave to it. Yes, that kind of miracle. 

After begging and pleading with the stylist, she wore me down to submission. I had to cut it all off. I was so saddened. Knowing I wasn't pleased, she tried to make it look as pretty as she could. My hair (well, the back of it) was just past shoulder length when I walked into the salon. I left with about 2 inches of length. She tried to straighten it with a straightening iron (you know, to give it more length, lol). I left the salon and headed home (to my parent's). 

Every time I passed a reflective surface I'd take a quick glimpse and look away just as quickly. Maybe if I didn't look it wouldn't be true. I was a natural babe, whether I liked it or not. When I got home my sister opened the door. She was shocked and she screamed in excitement. I burst into to tears (I had held it in all the way from the salon). My mum and my sister both ooooh'd and aaaaaah'd over my hair. After much encouragement I pulled myself together and started to think I AM NOT MY HAIR! Lol.

SO to cut a long story short, I started this journey with much reluctance. I entered natural-dom kicking and screaming. I then decided to look up YouTube to see what I could do to it and how to maintain it. 

I've never really been someone who wanted to be natural, I was perfectly happy with my relaxed hair. But, coming up to August 2009 my hair just started to feel strange. It's like I already knew it was going to break. I  tried to look after it, treating it, not manipulating it too much, but despite all my efforts it still broke off. I could have cut it all off and started all over again with the relaxer, but I thought I would try and give this natural hair thing a go. PLUS, I have a young friend and sister in the Lord, who's been growing her natural hair for some years, who has been encouraging me. Her natural hair is almost waist length when straightened. Oh how I long for length like that. For the first nine months I hid my hair under either a wig, a weave or single plaits. Once I had some length, I decided to experiment and be bold and just leave it out.

The turning point for me was when a colleague of mine (an Asian guy) asked me what was up with my hair. To add insult to injury, he added "you look like Sideshow Bob" (think the crazy clown in the Simpson's). I had to pull this dude to the side and educate him a little about black hair. I told him, "for your information, this is my hair as it grows from the roots from my head". He didn't apologise, he just said he never knew and that he'd seen me with so many different types of styles he always thought my hair was what it appeared to be. That's when the light went on! Other people don't know what we really look like. I mean for real.

Now, please don't think I started a crusade or anything, but something did change in me from that conversation. I couldn't be mad, I had to realise that for the most part I'd been in hiding. I'm not saying we should all go and stop relaxing our hair by any means. Believe you me, there's been times I've wanted to grab some of that "creamy crack" and have an easier life. But I won't until I at least am completely comfortable with what I see when I look in the mirror. The way I see it, I've been programmed to see myself in a particular light for the longest time (my hair was first relaxed when I was six years old - so let's just say from the age of six). All this time my eyes have been trained to see me with long flowing hair that moves with the wind. Now for the first time I was seeing me the way God made me. And surprisingly, I didn't like it!!! But not because it wasn't beautiful, but because my eyes had been trained to see it as NOT beautiful.

I DO wear weaves, extensions, and braids!!!! I still like to do so and will continue to do so!!! However, I now also love to wear my natural hair out for the most part. I've gotten used to the "look" of it and appreciate it. I know and recognise that it's just hair. The hair is not even the issue, the issue for me is that I want to see me the whole me and like what I see.

HOWEVER, this is not a reason for us (black people) to war!!!!! It's just hair! A person's reason for being either natural, weaved, or relaxed are exactly that - PERSONAL. I personally would never preach to anyone or try to convince them to go natural because the thing that shocked me the most is how much work is involved in looking after natural hair. I now know and fully appreciate why my mum decided to relax my hair at such a young age (not that I would do the same with my own daughter though).
What else will we find to use to divide ourselves I wonder? Like I said, God have mercy!