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.
Me as a 4-year-old with no perm

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.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 🙂Me in college 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 afro freshman year

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.

July 2013 - The beginning of my natural hair journey !!

That is my hairstory! Feel free to share yours 🙂


9 Responses to “Once Upon A Time….One Young Woman’s Journey Back to Her Roots”

  1. Good article. it’s a good thing that sisters are going natural. Whether its no longer dyeing their hair.Starting to use natural products instead of artificial chemicals. Taking out false braids etc. Let this continue.

  2. Reblogged this on InnerStanding Isness and commented:
    Once Upon A Time….One Young Woman’s Journey Back to Her Roots

  3. If we can get control over this single thing – our hair – our whole life force will be advanced.

    LBM, I don’t think a stronger, more succinct statement of truth about this has ever been said.

  4. There’s a power felt from the courage to define oneself. Black women not succumbing to what others say is beautiful, not allowing others (including our own men and many of us) to devalue our natural beauty is courageous.

    I’m enthused by many young women in Brooklyn who have embraced the natural hair movement. My daughter never had the desire to mutilate her hair and has been encouraged by the totally hot sistas we see in ncy, especially Brooklyn.

    A co-worker’s daughter experienced anti- black hair at, of all places, an HBCU where she was told she’d have to get a straight weave to join a particular group.

    A beautiful associate with a lovely head of natural hair, weaved and wigged to try to lesson the workplace assaults and still ended up without a job AND without her beautiful hair that had fallen out from the stress.

    I applaud all Black women who applaud the Creator’ handiwork. If we can get control over this single thing – our hair – our whole life force will be advanced.

  5. @ Ndeshimona
    Thank you so much for your kind words! I think it would be interesting to see how those little girls do their hair now. All I know is that my daughters (if I have any) will not be getting that junk put in their hair.

  6. That’s a great story from a beautiful sista. It’s nice to see the slow progression to embrace her true self. I’ve noticed that this trend is starting to catch on. I say the more the merrier. This is the path we should be on anyway. We don’t have to waste our time trying to be accepted by whites. All we have to do is embrace our own culture and beauty. There’s no need to look outside of ourselves. I think when black women embrace their hair in it’s natural state—they are really embracing freedom.

  7. wow, I just recently did the big chop last month and I love my natural hair. here’s a little of my hair story lol. when I was young I think 7 or 6 I can’t really remember but my mom put a just for me perm in my hair . I didn’t really care about my hair as I was a child and just wanted to go outside and play.I remember it burned and my mom told me it took some of my hair out. Then when I was about 9 she put a jheri curl in my hair and I had that until about 16 then my aunt put a perm in my hair. my hair started becoming damaged because I didn’t know how to care for it. THen I went to a salon and the owner did my hair and did a great job and my hair started growing. Then my hair stylist moved to another city and I had to find another one which didn’t go so well. I found another stylist but It didn’t work because she would charge a low price when I first went then after that she raised the price. So after that my mom put the relaxer in at home. I’ve always dreaded getting a relaxer or jheri curl in my hair, one day i was thinking why am i doing this? and i couldn’t come up with a good answer. the only thing i could think of was because everybody else did this to my hair and i want to take back control so i started to transition back to natural, Now i’m 19 and natural again. I love my natural hair its short now but I love how soft it feels when I moisturize it and comb it out. Our hair is amazing if i have a daughter i will not put chemical in her hair. It makes no sense to me now to put chemical in the hair that we don’t know the long term affects of and to do that to young children all for what? to blend in to be somewhat accepted into a white society to look like everybody else, to be more accepted but never fully accepted only tolerated. It makes no sense that i would sit there and have a relaxer burning scabs on my scalp but ignoring it just to have straight hair. smh.

  8. There is a whole generation of girls out there whose introduction to relaxer came from ‘Just For Me’. I wonder if the little girls on the box still perm their hair or if they’re natural? 🙂 Great story and your hair looks beautiful!

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