Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Hair Journey

Going natural was an act of love to myself.

I got my first relaxer when I was twelve years old and in the sixth grade.  I remember up until that point, my Mom spent hours doing hair - mine, my two younger sisters, sometimes others, in addition to her own.  With our hair straight, it took less time.  I don't remember thinking poorly of natural hair, as I LOVED the old pictures of my Mom and Dad with their dy-no-mite 'fros from back in the day; I think perhaps I may have thought of getting my hair straightened as something akin to a rite of passage.  I do, however, remember that four years before then, when I was eight, I wanted to be White like my favorite actress on a soap opera so I could be thought of as beautiful and be rich and live in a big house like they did on television; but then I remember seeing the women in Essence magazine and that was the end of my thinking that to be pretty you had to be White.  Thank God.  But I digress.

I was the queen of low-maintenance hair, keeping my hair long so I could always pull it into a ponytail on bad hair days.  While my sisters were getting bangs and stacks (remember those?) cut in their hair, my signature look was long and curly or wavy.  After leaving college and working in the corporate world for a few years, I got tired of my roller-set look and started wearing my hair straight.  After many episodes of TLC's What Not To Wear, I also got the courage to let go of the long-hair look and cut my hair shorter and shorter, eventually wearing a graduated bob and bangs.  (Shout-out to Phelecia Williams of Phelecia's Hair Studio in Kennesaw, GA, whose hair cuts always made me look great!)   At some point in here, I began to fantasize about going natural.  I would slip my fingers into my new growth and long to know what it would be like if all my hair was like this.  This went on for years!  I got tired of frying my scalp once every two and half to three months - I would go as long as I could - and I was weary of feeling the hot flat iron so close to my skin every time I had my hair done.  I gave myself all sorts of artificial timelines for when I was going to go ahead and DO IT - when I went back to college, when I left corporate America, when I turned 35, and on and on.  The last requirement I listed turned out to be the one I fulfilled, and thank goodness I had that to spur me on.  What was I waiting for?

I had my moment of truth one day I was on my way home from work and I was supposed to wash my hair and have it flat ironed.  I really needed it done because my hair was flat and oily, and I didn't want to go to work one more day looking like a wet dog.  But alas, my plans went awry.  I said to myself, NO MORE!  I decided I was going to find out what I needed to do to go natural and REPRESENT - I was determined to look at least as good if not better with my hair natural as I did with my hair relaxed.  I went online and researched incessantly.  I had great timing; so many products, advice and salons were now available to answer this collective yearning Black women have - and other curly-haired women have, I discovered - to stop beating our hair into submission and embrace our hair textures.  I was also fortunate to be supported in my mission by those closest to me.  In May 2009, I started getting twist sets on a weekly basis as a transitional style. (Shout-out to Wanda Washington of Natural Beauty Boutique in Duluth, GA!)  My last relaxer had been in February.  I read that hair grows at a rate of a half inch per month, so I figured I would cut it in July.  That freaked my Mom out - not going natural, but having hair that short - so I put it off a few more weeks.  That turned out well, because I found the super-awesome Giselle Grant, formerly of Curltopia in Smyrna, GA, now of Salon Au Naturel in Marietta, GA.  On September 4, 2009, she did my big chop and showed me how to care for and style my hair in a way that pulled together all those weeks of research and preparation I had done for this moment.  Ah!  Knowledge is power, y'all.  As she was cutting, I was looking in the mirror and I LOVED what I was seeing!  I could see my face!  I know that sounds weird, but I could see my eyes, my cheekbones, me looking back at me in a way I had never seen.  I haven't stopped checking myself out since.  ;-)

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