As early as childhood, I remember being a hair enthusiast: mixing up concoctions, spending HOURS in the mirror styling my hair, and losing myself within the pages of hair magazines. Thankfully, my mother and grandmother kept me natural for most of my life, despite me trying to relax my hair and loosen the texture as early as 9 years old. Funny enough, my family never told me I needed a relaxer or that my hair was “bad,” but the images I saw in books, magazines, and on television told me otherwise. At the same time, my grandmother’s hair was a different texture than mine (if I were to categorize it, it would be a mixture of 3a/b/c) and always received compliments on how “beautiful” it was. Even though I had not reached adolescence, I knew EXACTLY what they meant.
I always found myself in the bathroom trying to create a home-made relaxer (until I realized what the real ingredients were post my teen years). My favorite concoction consisted of Vaseline and whatever else I could put my hands on- how naïve was I?! After years of pestering, and despite my mother’s disapproval, my grandmother finally gave me my first relaxer (at the time we people liked to call it a “perm”). You’d probably be surprised to know that I was NOT happy with the turn out. While she was slapping the cream on my head, I was picturing what my hair would look like afterwards: shakable and able to be blown in the wind- just like I’d seen in the magazines for all of my short 13 years on Earth. But this is not how my hair turned out… at all.
My grandmother, bless her soul, did the best she could with a box relaxer. After it was all said and done, she slapped hair grease far and wide all over my head- making it impossible for my scalp to breath. The most disappointing thing was that my hair was definitely not going to blow in the wind, infact, it probably wasn’t going to move for weeks! On top of that, my scalp burned and my hair was now wavy- not bone straight!!! Well, that relaxer phase lasted about 6 months and then I gave it up to go back to being natural.
In high school, all the girls had relaxers (unless you were what we called “mixed”). Although I was natural, I didn’t wear my hair out because it didn’t hang- it just kind of sat there. No way was I going to wear my hair supposedly down when it didn’t even go past my shoulders. There was an unspoken code against such things. So after sometime, I got tired of feeling alone, unattractive, and left behind in the latest and greatest hair styles.
While standing in the lunch line, I remember a classmate of mine (a white guy whom I had a small crush on at the time) told me that my hair looked like a brillo pad. I actually did my hair very quickly that morning because I was running late. People around us laughed, heck, I even laughed because I didn’t know what to say in that second. I don’t think he knew the damage he did to my ego in that moment. It just so happened that I had an appointment scheduled that day to get my relaxer done at a salon. Eventually I responded “I know, right? I’m going to get a relaxer today anyway.” And that’s exactly what I did to boost my self-esteem and erase a version of myself that wasn’t accepted.
Fast forward 8 plus years later, and I’m a much stronger person. Though I’ve gone through other hair changes since my high school days, (that include relaxers, weaves, colors, cuts, dreads, sisterlocks, and more) I’m happy that I made my way back to my natural self. These days, I hardly make announcements to people when I’m going to make a drastic change to my hair because it’s my business. Below are some of the declarations I made to myself in order to stay true to my hair and who I am as a person. If anything, don’t ever forget who you are as a person and what you were born with. If you don’t have any hair declarations, feel free to use mine.
Natural Hair Declarations
• Before I abandon my natural-born hair texture, I’m going to fight for it and try hard to understand it.
• Never again am I going to let someone else’s feelings about my hair dictate what I ultimately decide to do with it.
• I’ll remember that people will always have an opinion about my hair (negative and positive) but in the end, my positive opinion will always matter the most.
• I will focus on learning about my texture: its beauty, its needs, and what I can do to keep it thriving and healthy.
• Every day, I will look for my true self, just as I was made to be- inside and out.