10.07.2011

|2| Why I Returned to the State of Natural Hair

Tuesday, 8.2.11...

It started…hmmm, well, let me think about this…truthfully, I think this “relationship” started LONG before I even realized it. For YEARS I have been frustrated with my hair, but just rolled with it because, unfortunately, I didn’t want to have to deal with the "napps" or just wanted it to look like and BE like “somebody else’s”. But, as I’m typing this, prior to the 4th grade, I can honestly say, I don’t even REMEMBER an instance of me worrying about my hair!! I think everybody else around me did, but I truly don’t recall worrying about how it looked! I just wanted to “play” and “be”!! Since the 4th grade, my hair has been “relaxed”.

[HOLD UP! WAIT A MINUTE!!...interrupting for a special announcement…I JUST had an epiphany!!!] I believe THIS was the pivotal “your hair ain’t right” moment in my history!!!!!!!!!
[…now back to the regularly scheduled programming]…In this "relaxing" process, my Mama actually used the same perm used for “curls”, but just left out the ‘curl’ step, leaving it bone straight and slick! Novel idea, I guess, but it still needed the activator juice, et al. I guess she wanted my hair to look like my cousins’ or neighborhood girls' hair...(Note: I was the ONLY “chocolate-skinned” girl in the circle most of the time...(more on this at a later time LOL))…”not nappy” and hopefully long so I could have cute, dangly ponytails to adorn with barrettes and bows, too!! And guess what? It WORKED! My hair indeed grew long. So, I guess this made me more “acceptable” or "presentable"! This continued for a couple of years until the 80’s “curl” fad hit and I just HAD to have one, too! Mama was dead set against it, but I finally wore her down and got a “curl” (YEEEEP, that processed/drippy all the time/embarrassingly stainin' ERR’THANG it came into contact with/contributor of the dreaded teen-age acne ‘Do) in the 6th grade…and guess what, again? My hair started breaking off!!

Needless to say, Mama was not a happy camper, but I didn’t care (really), I had my “curl”! LOL

Time passes with more experimenting…from trying to straighten it and curl it with a curling iron, (which completely FRIED it, thus MORE breakage), to cutting it into styles trying to look like the “cool girls” in school, but failing miserably! That went on until the end of my Junior year. Senior year, I was more comfortable with myself and developing my “own” style, so I finally got a regular “creamy crack” perm, then proceeded to rock some of the early 90’s “poofy” and “asymmetrical” ‘Do’s in style at the time. The 90’s spawned several more experiments, from self-inflicted haircuts, to failed beauty shop visits, to every style of braid extensions imaginable, to coloring, to perm after perm after perm/scalp burn after scalp burn, to breakage, to growth, to breakage, again…basically an endless, sad, and frustrating cycle!

Fast forward to 2007, still perming, hair grew VERY long (again), and I was really “feelin’” myself! Not literally, but you know what I mean! :) 2008 rolls around, same cycle of perming, same products used, but my hair started breaking off AGAIN. This time, I’m thinking, I have GOT to do something different. Wasn’t sure what, just knew I was BEYOND tired of perming my hair and/or putting braids in it…but yet again, ANOTHER year rolls by doing the SAME things.

November 2009, yet another perm. The same day I permed it, I ended up cutting it AGAIN because at that point it was so damaged and uneven I couldn’t even stand it anymore. “YEEEEEEP, something’s gotta change!!” I, then, started looking into getting “SisterLocks” versus “Dreads”/“Locs”. From the information I saw, (outside of the COST of getting them installed and the continued maintenance), I was sold on the “SisterLocks” and decided I was going to get them at the beginning of 2010…new year = a new look & FRESH start. That is, until, I saw the movie “Good Hair” (the Chris Rock "documentary") in December 2009. Let me back up a bit. I don’t recall when this movie actually came out, but I remember seeing previews of the movie and had made assumptions of what I THOUGHT it was going to be about based on those previews and simply dismissed it as just another movie making "us" look bad and refused to watch it! My “other half”, for whatever reason, decided to order the movie and we both watched it in December 2009. Not sure, (actually, I just don't recall) what HE got out of the movie, but to my complete surprise, it sparked a “movement” in me!!! It was in that moment, I decided I was NEVER perming my hair, nor did I want to wear extensions, AGAIN! I took away several things from that movie: 1) There are too many people and companies profiting from African-American women’s extreme dependence on hair care products, but are not filtering those profits BACK into the communities they are “serving”; 2) We as African-Americans are distortedly & embarrassingly dependent on weaves & wigs and waste a ridiculous amount of money on such…when your hair is a priority over ensuring you are financially secure…THAT is a problem!; 3) We, as African-Americans (and I have since discovered this even exist in the "Motherland"), have a deeply negative view of natural hair; 4) Hair care products manufactured for the “ethnic” demographic contain ingredients that are actually counter-productive to the HEALTH of our hair and maybe even our BODIES.
Since then, I have been on a “mission”. November 2009, turned out to be the LAST time I’ve permed my hair. I did unfortunately get “kinky twist” extensions at the end of December 2009, to give me time to figure out WHAT I was going to do with my hair. My thought then was to “transition” for a while until I had a “significant” amount of new growth and go from there. As the weeks passed, I began to “research” how to care for natural hair and subsequently decided against the “SisterLocks”, ultimately because they are so “specialized”, the effort of having to find a “certified” stylist (at the time I was in Virginia and not many people had them) to do them seemed cumbersome, and finally the costs of having to maintain them was excessive to me. The “kinky twist” extensions lasted until June 2010 after a very bad experience with a braid stylist in April 2010, which left me literally BALD along the temples of my head! It took THAT to definitively wean me from ever putting extensions in my hair again!

Finally, my “plan” from there was to “transition” without braid extensions, (working with the permed hair and new growth), for 6 more months so it could grow some more, THEN I would “big chop”. [deep down, I think there was still a part of me that was “unsure” about going natural, so it was probably a mental stall tactic]. BUT that only lasted THREE WEEKS!!! LOL So, out of frustration and spending WAY too much time trying to maintain the two textures in making my hair look “presentable”, on a whim, July 6th, 2010, I took my scissors and began choppin’ until about 3” of my NATURAL hair was left!

THE absolute BEST spur-of-the moment decision I’ve EVER made!!!! I didn’t expect the feeling I had and the feelings I have since developed. Though I didn’t look like the “made-up/fit-the-mold” ME I spent years developing and was used to seeing, (and I know this is gonna sound cliché), I felt “liberated” and “free”. In my adult life, I grew to develop a pretty healthy dose of self-confidence, but it was in THAT one moment, I completely accepted ME in my natural state…every COIL on my head and every THING on my face a person would characterize as a “flaw”. [I do still like my make-up, tho’… Just makes me feel “girly”!] :)

I no longer feel tied to the “standard of beauty” this society harbors. I no longer feel a sense of shame or embarrassment if my hair is “out of place”. I no longer wish for what our culture deems “good hair”.   But most of all, I no longer see afro-textured hair as a “negative” force of OUR existence.
…and THIS is why I returned to the state of natural hair! :)
...Until my fingers keystroke again,
~CoilyCoiff2010

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