Three years ago I cut my hair. For many people, that will sound like a routine thing. You might be thinking “So what? Everyone cuts their hair every now and then, so what makes your experience so different?”.
Well let me explain: Think of the hair on your head. By the time you’re an adult you probably know that hair very well. You have probably figured out how to was it, condition it and style it so that it looks at the very least, decent. -That is not the experience I had with my hair by the age of 22. Sure, I could do a little of this and a little of that to my hair , but the difference was that the hair on my head did not actually reflect its natural texture and had not done so in well over 10 years.
My hair was chemically relaxed (a process in which you use a chemical to permanently straighten the hair to varying degrees) from the time I was in elementary school. I have absolutely no memory of what my natural hair texture was as a child. From the time I was old enough to sit still in a chair in my Grandma’s kitchen, my hair was being straightened by first the pressing comb (also called a hot comb) and later the chemical relaxer.
My hair remained chemically relaxed for a very long time. I accepted this as the norm. Most Black women that I saw as a child, teen, then young adult had relaxed hair as well. It was the standard at the time and considered to be a professional, neat, well groomed style that allowed for ease of care for our hair type. Our natural hair was considered too dry, too kinky, too bushy, too time consuming, too unprofessional in the workplace, and generally unacceptable. These messages about Black women’s natural hair were passed down to us subliminally at a very young age. Our hair was described as “nappy”-a negative word that was used to call our hair unruly and “bad”. While Black women (or Black men) did not devalue our own kinky,coily, curly locks of hair in the first place, we did generally accept the straight haired standards that were popular in the late 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
I accepted the straight haired mentality until I started college. That’s when my hair began to change from a thick mane to a thin, choppy, damaged mop on my head. I ended up chopping off my straight hair my Sophomore (2010) year of college and rocking a still straight and shorter hairdo. During that time I also discovered the world of healthy hair practices online and began to apply those techniques to my still straightened hair. This period of my hair journey (as its called in online hair communities) helped me to overcome many of the myths about my hair type and put me on the path to returning to my natural hair texture.
After allowing my still straight hair to grow back out to shoulder length and moving to Ohio to start grad school (where I trusted no one to touch my hair), I noticed that my hair was just not in the shape it used to be. I had bad dandruff and my hair was starting to thin again. Also, I could never seem to get my hair “salon straight” at home and damaged my hair trying to do so. It was then I decided I needed to transition my hair back to its rightful and natural texture. I had absolutely no idea what kind of hair I’d have, so I guessed it would be the kinkiest and coily-est of hair textures (I was wrong. I’ll discuss this in another post).
I started to research styles to help me make the planned year long transition (hoping that at the one year mark, I’d be ready to cut off the straight ends and be completely natural) and settled on one (the braid out) and started growing my hair.
One year and one month later (and a few hours before I had to be at work) I sat in a chair at a salon to have my hair cut (picture above). It was one of the biggest changes I had dared to make to my appearance and came with many surprises (which I’ll discuss in another post). Although having natural hair was a big adjustment, I knew I’d made the right decision and in the end the experience of getting to know something so personal and something that literally grows out of my scalp would be rewarding. I’d do it all over it I had to.
The moral of my story is: Don’t let the unknown scare you! Change is good!
Next Post: My hair now and my tips for transitioning