“Does The Way I Wear My Hair Determine My Integrity?”
October 4th was the day I fell in love with my natural hair. In 2019.
I have thick hair with coils that are so tight it could suffocate your pinky. I still remind my mom of the days when I whaled as I squeezed my dad’s hand, positive that 60-pound me was causing him any real pain. Sunday nights were dreadful as I would anxiously look at all of the weapons lined up ready to tame the mane that was my hair: pink lotion, blow dryer with a comb attachment, comb, brush, grease, and two pillows for support. I knew that it would be an hour and a half worth of my dad saying “you’re almost done” and my mom sternly mentioning how “it would go a lot faster if you stopped moving."
Then in fourth grade, I got my first relaxer.
“Try not to think about it and it’ll burn less." This was the first time I heard my hairdresser of 14 years say this but it definitely was not the last. I was conditioned to believe that pain was a part of the beautification process. I didn’t even question how damaging this belief was because I fixated on how my classmates celebrated my hair for the first time. During recess, I remember how crisp the air felt across my scalp. Fingers nor air were able to penetrate my pre-relaxed hair. It felt like second nature to flick my hair off of my shoulder so that it could lie perfectly on my back. I slept on my stomach with my fingers interlocked and my head leaning to the right so that I wouldn’t mess up my hair. The discomfort didn’t matter because I finally blended in with my white peers.
It’s not that I hated my natural hair. I just never took the time to learn to love it. I became used to the fact that my relaxed hair made others feel comfortable. Reflecting on a few encounters I’ve had in the past, I am aware that I internalized some of the situations. But it’s hard not to when seconds into a conversation you can see their gaze slowly shift from my eyes to the top of my head.
In 2017, my cousin Reina convinced me to get my first sew-in. I walked out of that appointment looking for any reason to flip my hair: *turns head ferociously to the right* did someone call my name? *flips hair out of my face* what was that you said? I was IT, you hear me?!
After alternating from weaves and braids for months, my natural hair had outgrown my relaxed hair. Alexis convinced me to become natural and in a few short minutes, she had cut the final inches left of what tied me to my safe space.
I’ve been an undercover naturalista since 2018 but didn’t feel comfortable wearing it in its natural state because I didn’t know how to manage it. It was as if a stranger moved in and I had no idea where to begin the conversation. On October 4th, 2019, after I took my braids out, I appreciated the complexity of my hair for the first time. Unfortunately, I had scheduled a hair appointment for the next day thus not allowing me the extra time to bask in my new found love.
Being in quarantine gave me the opportunity to finally experiment with twists, products, stretching methods, and more. It is now clear that the negative connotations that black hairstylists have uttered towards my hair comes from a deeper-rooted societal belief that they unfortunately have succumbed to. And they’re not alone. I would be a liar if I didn’t mention that I feel the most confident going into an interview with a sew-in than with braids. It allows for my resume and personality to speak for itself.
Each coil on my head is finally receiving the love it has always deserved. I’ve fallen in love with the different sizes, shapes, and textures that I witness on wash days. I’ve fallen in love with how my explore page on Instagram is now filled with black women with 4c hair sharing tips and tricks. Now on Sundays, as I take a look at the weapons, I am reminded that no weapon shall prosper! (Or in this case, heat damage).
Side note: don’t come for me if you see me in braids or weave once quarantine is over! This naturalista thing is time-consuming and I applaud those who make the time for it but... I have to wake up for work at 3 a.m. and thinking about waking up a minute earlier makes me want to cry. Glad we got that out the way :)
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