Once Upon A Time….One Young Woman’s Journey Back to Her Roots
This is a reprint of an entry into a brand new blog about a subject that is as important as any that I can think of. In this issue of hair is wrapped every other issue of white domination. It is, I think, like pulse or blood pressure, a measure of ease with ourselves as we contend with all at odds with it. My personal observation: In the photos of JJ, her beauty increases with each step closer to her naturally luxurious crown (excessive coil-busting “fros” being better than hair that’s been laid to rest but a step away from the luxurious, vibrant texture in the last pic) . While some counter-examples may exist in which attractive presentation decreases with a more natural coiffure, I’ve never seen one. And, this, for me, is a purely aesthetic opinion, not a political one.
You can keep up with this young lady’s work in this area at her blog here on wordpress: JJ Goes Natural
Once Upon A Time….
My History, or Rather, Hairstory
If you would have told me years ago that I would eventually muster the courage to wear my hair in its natural state, I would have laughed in your face! I have to admit that I’ve been through it all with this hair of mine over the years.
I was born into the world with hair that would evolve from being baby soft to REALLY thick like millions of other Black women and men worldwide. My mother did not have too much difficultly maintaining my hair as a toddler, but my hair was seen as an insurmountable challenge for her as I got older. Washing it was easy, but combing and styling it was a whole ‘notha matter! It was very difficult for her to use straight-tooth combs in my hair since it was thick and tightly coiled. I would either flinch or cry while it took her HOURS to finish. I thought, “God, what could be worse than THIS?!” She couldn’t even do cornrows for the most part, so I usually had my hair put in bubbles and barrettes.
She could stand no more of this by the time I turned 8, so I started to get my hair permed.
I can remember her coming home with the “Just For Me!” No Lye Relaxer (or Chemical Mutilator) for the first time. It was this white box with the faces of other young black girls on the cover with curly and straight hair. I wasn’t necessarily excited about her getting the perm kit because I didn’t fully grasp what it would do to my hair. But when I got my hair permed for the first time, I absolutely LOVED how straight it was. I didn’t cry when she combed it, it felt sleek and I could shake it, and I had hair similar to my friends at Catholic school. I was the only black girl in my class for many years, so it felt great being able to fit in with my friends with long and straight hair. Little did mom – let alone me – realize the damage perming would cause to my hair.
Perming my hair was not too bad at first, but the overall condition of my hair started declining over time. ”Just Like Me!” simply didn’t work as it used to. I would get my hair permed on a Saturday, and it would get frizzy by mid-week. I went through two other perming products by the time I was 12 and dealt with the same problem. Even the perming process itself became more painful. When mom rubbed that white cream on my scalp, I felt like my head was literally going to catch on fire! I would get bumps, scabs, and burns all over my scalp as a result, and even developed a terrible case of dandruff that lingered for years.
Me in high school with short permed hair.
I eventually started going to mom’s hair stylist at 13. I noticed that my hair grew longer than ever before it became extremely short. Little by little, I just became sick and tired of my hair, was tired of dealing with the perm, and wanted a change despite not knowing what to do next.
My mother’s hair stylist suggested that I consider wearing my hair braided. She herself was transitioning to natural hair and thought it was probably time for me to give up the perm and start keeping my hair in its natural state. She said, “The braids will allow you to keep your hair and is easy to manage since you won’t have to maintain it each and every day.” This was great news for a borderline LAZY person like me since I did not want to do my hair everyday, let alone wear it natural. A family friend did my hair in braids for the next six years, and they were easy to manage like my hair stylist said they’d be.
Me as a college freshman with BRAIDS 🙂
The braids were long and looked like dread locs to many people, so I liked wearing them and getting them done every 2 months. They were also easy to wash each week and my natural hair kept growing until all my permed hair was GONE. However, I still had a terrible dandruff problem and noticed my hair was dry and full of dandruff between appointments. When I took out my braids in-between appointments, I would just marvel at my natural hair! I’d think, “Wow, my real hair is so interesting!” I had a big afro that extended from the sides from my head and upwards (to the sky, it seemed).
My desire for natural hair became too large to simply ignore, so I started wearing my hair braid-free this July. I have to say that it was one of the best decisions of my life. I loved those braids a lot, and definitely much more than my old-time perm, but wearing my own hair feels so much better and seems right for me. I do more with my hair than I have EVER done before. It’s healthy and stays dandruff-free throughout the week. More importantly, I’ve developed this level of confidence I never thought I would have as a natural. I also don’t associate my hair with being “thick”, “nappy”, or all these other negative words that are only tied to Black people’s hair. My hair is “unique”, “a divine creation” like all other hair forms, and is my “curly, protective shield”. I look forward to nurturing it the way it was MEANT to be nurtured and cared for both now and in the future.
That is my hairstory! Feel free to share yours 🙂