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February 3, 2010

The Sudden Big Chop

SuburbanBushBabe is back and exploring the phenomenon that is the 'spontaneous Big Chop'.


What makes a woman impulsively and spontaneously big chop? How does the instant switch in hair personality from long and straight to short hyper curly coils and kinks affect them? And how do they cope with often negative reactions from those in their support circle and still feel good about themselves and how they look? And – is it really impulsive or does it just seem that way?
As one who has big-chopped at least 3 times but chose the little chop route for my last incarnation, I find the phenomenon of the sudden BC fascinating. I spoke with three women who did their own spontaneous big chops and who shared their stories with me.

I also tapped Curlynikki for her professional outlook -- not as the fab hair diva and creator of www.curlynikki.com -- but as a practicing psychotherapist who regularly counsels women through depression, low self-esteem and image development.
According to Curlynikki, “Hair for many of us is a big part of our identity. It says a lot about who we are--for better or for worse.” The sudden big chop “can be looked at as a way to mark a new season in life…. Many do it because of the anxiety to finally reveal their true texture. It's like ripping open that present two days before Christmas-- you just couldn't wait any longer. Instant gratification! “
But is emotional and mental acceptance as instant as gratification? Is it realistic to expect to feel instantly at ease with the new look? Here are the experiences of our three spontaneous Big-choppers – Ange, Monica, and Kaila (aka Subbrock).


Ange: “ I decided I was going to go natural and let my hair heal”

For Ange, a professional in the Washington, DC area, “I’d always wanted to grow my hair long and it was difficult to do so. It wasn’t until I started braiding my hair I finally achieved the length I’d long desired.” Then she became ill and had to choose between having "healthy hair" and preserving the quality of her health. “The choice” she said, ”was easy”.

Her hair started to break and fall out because of the prescriptions she was taking. “In the course of four years, my hair went from mid-back length to just a few inches below my ears, and it was very thin. It was then that I decided I was going to go natural and let my hair heal. I decided to go natural in August of 2007. I think God prepared me for this experience because I kept listening to "I Am Not My Hair. It was a very difficult and traumatic decision for me.”

Ange let her hair grow out from September 2007 to April 2008. But having the two textures was driving her crazy. Her hair was still weak where the textures met and she was afraid of further breakage.” She decided to go ahead with her BC ahead of schedule.

While walking by a salon of an old stylist, Ange decided “to walk in and see if my stylist would take me.” In a spur of the moment decision, she went from shoulder length, five inches of which was relaxed hair, to just over an inch long. Her feelings about the result? “I was livid. She took off all the length that I grew out! I should have known something was wrong because she kept cutting and cutting and cutting.”

It took Ange about a month to get used to the look, “but I loved the feel right away. The texture was great!” A couple of months after that, Ange was reaping more benefits. “I felt more attractive than I did before I decided to go natural and I was more at ease with caring for my hair because I didn't have to worry about the two textures. I was also able to do wash and go's, so I was especially happy about that.”

How did her personal community react? “I think only three people sincerely liked it. My aunt, who always wore her hair in a short 'fro, loved it. One of my friends, who encouraged me to go natural, loved it, too.

“Just the other week, I thought of cutting it short again! I've come to the conclusion that I either like my hair very long or very short. And I keep thinking that it would be soooo easy to have it really short again! This was a major issue for me because I loathed short hair before all this.”

Monica: “I was tired of spending oodles of money and time in the salon to relax my hair and then set it on rollers for curly styles.”For Monica, a 27-year old, married professional in North Carolina, the only plan was “I was just not going to get a relaxer anymore.” Monica had talked about cutting for a year, but couldn’t bring herself to do it before her wedding. “My husband was completely behind me, but I just wasn't prepared for what might happen.“
Four months into her transition, Monica’s new growth compared to her relaxed hair was “like night and day. My roots were so thick that combing was definitely not an option unless it was flat-ironed.”
Having never before big-chopped in her life, Monica went into a professional salon shoulder length and came out with an inch and a half TWA. Immediately after, she was much more at ease with caring for her hair because “it was so short. It didn’t require much thought at all.”
Initially she felt anxious and somewhat unattractive, “but no one knew that but me and the Lord!” Her husband was a big support; “He massaged my scalp, clipped my ends, and just gave me motivation to keep going when I wasn’t sure if I could. My family was dismayed. They basically thought I had lost my mind….My husband was my rock.”
It took Monica about a year after her BC to get comfortable. Today, “I am much more confident about my hair. People around me are also embracing their natural texture and it has created a bond between us. They come to me for advice, because I was the first. Also, a coworker BC’d at the beginning of this year…. We learned about our hair together.”

Kaila (aka Subbrock): I BC’d 6 yrs ago and I’m still not used to how my hair looks and feels…it’s been a constant evolution.“My hair and I just didn’t get along--it was always frizzy and I was tired of straightening it everyday on top of getting relaxers. It wouldn’t stay straight, it wouldn’t hold a curl. That’s when I realized I was ready to get rid of it. I wasn’t thinking about going natural, I just wanted to get rid of that stupid hair. I was 21, a junior in college, and very spontaneous. When I BC’d, I had never even heard of transitioning, so it wasn’t even on my radar.”

Before the BC, Kaila (now a 27-year old SAHM in Greensboro, NC) had 3-5 inches of natural growth to work with. After the BC, at the longest part it was around 1-2 inches long. Immediately after the BC, which was done by her sister, a stylist and salon owner, Kaila “loved it! …I went back a few days later to get it cut even shorter.” And three months later, ”I still loved it. I always looked young for my age, so once I did my BC , I finally felt like I looked my age. I finally felt like a grown woman.”
Reactions from her personal and professional community were mixed. “My coworkers and all the families who came to the daycare I worked at gave me compliments all the time. My boyfriend at the time…flat out told me that he preferred long, straight hair on women. My parents hated it. Out of all the reactions, positive and negative, my parents' had the biggest impact on me. I was hurt and confused as to why they didn’t love the hair that they gave me.

For Kaila, getting used to the look and feel of her hair is a continuous process. Six years after her BC, “I’m still not used to how my hair looks and feels because it’s been a constant evolution. It did take me several years to stop dreaming and picturing myself with straight hair.”
Each of these impulsive big choppers had vastly different reasons and circumstances but similar issues and reactions.


Finally, I asked Curlynikki about what can help sudden BC’ers deal with changes in self-image, unwelcome reactions from their significant others, families, and other communities.
“Tapping into your genuine self-esteem. The real kind that is not attached to what your hair looks like, how much money you make, or what neighborhood you live in. It's easier said than done, but if practiced, will definitely improve overall mood, and overall self-confidence.” The tips in her Tyra.com article are perfect for this. Check them out at Some Tips For Improving Stock in Yourself

About Suburbanbushbabe: A somewhat hair-obsessed woman of a certain age, I am recalibrating my personal GPS to live and breathe what I value. I am deeply curious about how women reclaiming and embodying their naturally curly, coily, kinky hair affects self-image, self-esteem, authentic relationships, emotional and financial well-being, and communities.

14 Chime in!:

Maria said...

You guys are brave!!! I also notice that people tend to BC at night. I wonder why that is.

MandiFran said...

I thought I was going to transition. It lasted a month. After standing in the bathroom mirror crying while trying to detangle,I decided to go to my beautician and let her do the BC. Best decision I ever made! March 17th will be my two year BC anniversary!

guerillamilk said...

I mentioned to a male friend that I was thinking about going natural, and he said "But a woman's hair is her power. Don't do it." I went home and BC'ed immediately! It was the final push that I needed to take the plunge head first into discovering who I really was....LITERALLY!

Novella said...

What beautiful stories. I recently did the BC
on 12/24/09 due to an allergic reaction to a the Iodine in the contrast from a Cat Scan and medicines after getting being hit by a car. This caused me hair loss and wreck havoc on my scalp.! For over 40 yrs I was definitely a slave to the relaxer. So no more chemicals
for me. Thanks for Sharing !!

isis-athena-virgo said...

that's awesome that the women were able to bc on a whim. i have transitioned for a year and i wanted to transition for 2 years. however, the itch to bc is great. i have planned my bc. i have had time to think about it, well for about a week. i probably would have cut it as soon as i thought about it, but i have braids in my hair. i have gotten the "don't cut off all of your hair" comments (especially from males). my boyfriend supports me and tells me i will be beautiful regardless of what i do to my hair. this site along with my fotki friends have encouraged me to think outside the box and go for it. i'm still going to need advice, but i think i'm prepared enough to try. thank you!!

you can always check out my fotki page and leave or share!
http://members.fotki.com/isis-athena-virgo/about/

isis-athena-virgo said...

corrections!!! i was typing so fast lol. this site, along with my fotki friends, has encouraged me to think outside the box and go for it.

and you can always check out my fotki page and leave a comment or share similar experiences. also, you can tell me what my hair type is!!
http://members.fotki.com/isis-athena-virgo/about/

Kinky Rhonnie said...

I didn't know that so many of my NC pals were Carolina girls like myself. lol

Thanks for sharing your stories ladies.

They were so inspirational.

Just Kitty said...

The article is so me. I bc'd on friday 1/30/10 after transitioning since 4/24/09. I planned on goin for a year but I just got the urge one day.

I BC'd at about 1am afterwork. I like my new cut but many of my coworkers do not. The worst comment I got from a cowrker is "Your hair makes you beautiful and right now you not looking so beautiful" My response was "Thank Mary I don't measure my looks to your standards. Cause I bet my tattoos make me ugly also."

I admit the negative comments I get hurt my feelings & when my feelings are hurt I want to curse them out (Panamanian + Cancer = Short Temper) but since I have been reading sites like this I have become more educated on how to handle such situations.

Thank you Suburban Bush Babe & Curly Nikki for this article...

Beautilicious said...

wonder i hope im making sense.
.Yes we easily can get natural shampoo (its everywhere..both online and in stores).i luv the company..
when i found out i couldn't use its medicated hair loss shampoo (cause it has natural herbs which works)...so..i only use it in extreme situations like when my hair is too messy.

I know .finally walk down the streets with my healthy new hairs i use so much shampoo but i have thick hair that's very currrly.

Iht9, the thriven will be for my mom, were both heavy users when it comes to this shampoo..our hair just enjoy it up.

she had a gud success with acacia concinna i mean truly guud results.but the problem with it, it smells great. i literally transformed.

Anonymous said...

Wow Ange, your story was inspiring. Your TWA is beautiful on you!!!!

Anonymous said...

I agree, what seems like a spontaneous act is really months or years of serious consideration. At least it was for me. I tried several different times to transition but my identity and self esteem were too linked to my hair. I was finally able to BC 3 years ago. I'd said goodbye to my hair while I transitioned so there was no emotion attached to hair that wasn't mine anymore.

The funny thing is I can't remember how long I transitioned or the date of my last perm, or the actual date I BC'd (It was Jan 07). I know I had a small curly fro with about 2 or 3 inches of coily hair.

All of these women are beautiful. Sometimes we use hair to hide ourselves. But when the hair leaves, our most prominent and beautiful features leap forward.
Bosandi

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a new transitioner, and am thinking of getting a BC today . . . I am really scared since it took me quite some time to grow my hair out of a horrible cut, but I am ready to move on with my life after relaxer. This site is great for inspiration - and I really appreciate all the advice!

Anonymous said...

I was natural until I was close to 40. I was always curious to experience having a perm . When I finally did it ..I felt ugly and for days I covered it with a hat..now I am transitioning....missed my hair a lot...

Micaiahty said...

I woke up one day and chopped off my hair. If was like that rip the bandaid off and just do it moment for me. Once i saw all my hair on the floor it was then I had the "Oh Lord, what have i done" episode. LOL

It was the best thing I ever did, March 22, 2008.

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