I remember the first time I tried to go natural. It was about 3 weeks before I turned 30, and I was up late at night scrolling on the net, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my hair next. I’d had a pixie cut that had grown out into a chin length bob, and I was entering into “Suburban School Teacher” territory, so I needed to switch it up fast. I liked the pixie that I had before (reminiscent of Chrisette Michele’s cut here) but wasn’t sure if I wanted to do that again. More and more women around me had been going natural, so the little hair devil in my head said “why don’t you do it?”. I said meh, why not and at 2am I chopped all of my hair off. I didn’t have any clippers with guards, so I got up extra early and drove to a barbershop up the street from me to get him to clean it up before I went to work. My “big chop” resulted in me having a Caesar.
I’ve worn my hair short before but this was the first time I felt really exposed. These prominent cheekbones were on full display…and I actually liked it. Most people I knew were caught off guard when they saw me. The lady that I worked for at the time wondered if I was ok (older black Southern woman in a sorority; I’d recently gotten a tattoo as well so I think she thought I was going through a crisis, lol) but for the most part, my hair being so short wasn’t an issue for me. What WAS an issue, however, was my hair itself. I hadn’t been without a relaxer since I was 12 years old, so it didn’t quite know what to do. I had to pile soooooo much product in my hair to get it to do anything, even with it being that short! Whether I wanted to work on the curl pattern or brush it flat for waves, it was in shock and really didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to look crazy on my 30th, however, so I decided to re-relax my hair again, only this time with the intention of transitioning it to natural again once it got to a length I liked. By that following Christmas, I’d grown my hair back out into a full bob (an ah-mazing bob-I never cut my hair again after that initial cleanup at the barbershop and whatever he did was magical) and it was the last time I got it relaxed. That was December 2011.
Surprisingly, the growing out process wasn’t as hard as I’d been told it would be. Now, I’ve been blessed with healthy, tough hair that can withstand heat every day, so instead of experimenting with twists or other protective hair styles like hair extensions or wigs, I continued to wear my hair straight, making sure that I kept my hair conditioned and my ends trimmed. Maybe because of my age, I stuck with old school tried and true products versus all of the new products on the market designed specifically for natural hair. I don’t knock anyone for using those, but I’ve always been a person that believed in keeping things as simple as possible, and while I do like to primp, I don’t like to fuss over my hair, so if it was something that would require 2+ hours worth of my time to do, I skipped it.
It took about 2 years but I finally grew out all of the relaxed hair and was able to fully see my real hair texture. I was actually quite shocked. I didn’t realize that I had coarse but kinky-curly hair (I don’t know what grade it is and never tried to find out). There are certain visions that I have from my childhood involving my hair: one when I was maybe 3 or 4 years old, at the lake with my family squatting near the edge of the lake with this huge mop of wild hair. Another is me in the 4th grade, trying to keep my head still while my mom straightened my hair with a hot comb before school. My hair was always a lot to deal with, so my mom did whatever was necessary to keep it looking decent. My hair isn’t long but it is thick as heck (and I was a wild tomboy), so I understood her struggle, lol. After hot combs, Hawaiian Silkies (shut up, it was the 80s) and braids, I got my hair relaxed at 12 and never really thought that much about it again until I decided to grow out the relaxer. We went to the beach that year and when I came out of the ocean my mom was like “when did your hair get curly??” Who knows, I shrugged. I just knew that this was it in its natural state, it wasn’t as hard to deal with as I’d thought it would be (lucky, I know) and I was happy with the versatility that I figured I now had….
Fast forward 5 1/2 more years and…. my hair was still straight 95% of the time. Outside of a few days of letting my hair “breathe”, I hardly ever wore my hair in its natural state. I liked the texture, but because of the length, I found myself having to manipulate it so much to do what *I* wanted it to do (shrinkage is real, yall), and it would only last that day. I would literally have to get up and fuss with my hair the next morning and as someone that is always on the go and usually running 5-10 minutes behind, having to constantly deal with my hair was not conducive to my lifestyle. And it could be age, it could be products, it could just be the Southern humidity, but even wearing my hair straight began to be a choir. My curl pattern stayed in tact, but I found myself having to constantly straighten it, which defeated the purpose of it me wearing it straight since it was more low maintenance that way. For years I had mastered my hair routine to the point where people didn’t even think that my hair was natural because I could get it so straight and full of body…but now it was becoming too much. If I was outside longer than an hour, frizz would start to set in. So after having a dream about doing it…
I relaxed my hair again after 8 years of being natural. And you know what? I’m actually glad I did.
I am an advocate for doing what works for YOUR life. Going natural is very popular right now, and while I love that it’s easier for women to make the decision to embrace their natural hair and all of the different hairstyles that you can wear, I started to question if I was continuing to be natural for myself, or because that’s what you should do? I mean we all know about the horror stories involving the “creamy-crack” and that being the catalyst for so many women to start on a natural hair journey, but what if you never had those issues? What if hair is not a political statement for you? What if hair is just…hair?
I’ve been cutting and coloring my hair since I was 14 years old, and I love how it can instantly change how you look and feel with just a few snips, so I had to take a step back and ask myself why I was continuing to do something that no longer fit my lifestyle. A few people were a little shocked and wondered why I did it, but just like Carrie told Miranda that she couldn’t stay single in New York for her, I couldn’t stay natural for them. I had to do what made sense for me. I’m very much a proponent of knowing when to seek change when something no longer benefits you, and being natural didn’t benefit my life any more.
I know some may wonder why I wrote this; usually the stories go the other way around, but I felt that I needed to share this because I want women to know, regardless of all of the messaging that we see out in the world about hair, do what makes the most sense for you. Whether it’s braids, hair extensions, twist-outs or a fresh press, be informed about the good, the bad and the ugly, but please only do what makes YOU happy. You have to live with your hair, and you can do whatever you see fit, how many times you see fit, regardless of which side society or your peers tell you to be on. Today it’s in a relaxed bob, but tomorrow I could very well shave it all off again (although I’m trying not to be that impulsive anymore, lol). For me, hair is just hair and at the end of the day, it’s about how I want to look, and as long as I’m happy with my choices, that’s all that matters. Make sure you’re doing the same for yourself.