October 1, 2012

Pressures of a Transitioner: Just Cut It Off!

by Bennii Blast of The Culture Pine

It is now over a year since you announced to the world your decision to stop relaxing your crowning glory, and got stuck right into your journey transitioning. During that time you have been inundated with questions and curiousness about your flourishing mane, which you are more than happy to answer of course, but there is just that one question that works a nerve in you;

‘What are you waiting for…why don’t you just go and chop it off?’

Let me tell you why I’m personally not too fond of this question. When I started my hair journey, my goal wasn’t solely to be natural, but first and foremost to stop using relaxers and grow healthy hair (if that makes sense). Relaxers were stirring up all kinds of havoc, and so I decided that I needed to let them go in order to relieve me of problems such as; a terribly irritated scalp and damaged hair. I was concerned with health reasons and the aesthetics of natural hair were to be a bonus. As far as I know, I have achieved that goal – a healthier head of hair and no use of a relaxer. So, why does it bother you that I haven't given my ends the final chop?

Now for me, the question above seems to devalue my achievement. It ignores the purpose of my journey and prioritises 'the' look instead of the improvement in health. It puts pressure on the person transitioning to take their journey to a place they are not yet ready to explore, and gives the impression that it’s better to hold that ‘all natural’ status. Pourquoi? Bragging rights? Maybe if I was doing this as some sort of fashion statement it would appeal to me but, the reality is; I‘m not. I am not in a hurry to claim natural status, as that is not the purpose of my journey.

It can become somewhat annoying when those around you place this kind of pressure, when the fact is; many transitioners may also use this period of time to mentally prepare themselves for cutting their hair - hence their decision to transition as opposed to taking the big chop route in the first place.

Everyone’s journey is different - such a simple concept, yet so easily forgotten. Transitioning is NOT a competition, so don’t ever feel the need to measure the length of your journey to the next person. If you are feeling the impact the pressure from others is starting to have, make yourself a list with the headings: ‘Reasons to Chop’ and ‘Reasons to Wait’ before you make any sudden moves.

After all…who wants to end up with an ‘after’ pic that features you crying a few rivers, matched with an expression that screams regret?

Not me! 


Have you felt pressure to chop? Do people tell you to ‘just cut it off!’?

45 Weigh in!:

Des said...

I definitely understand the questions and the pressure concerning why not bc? Or when are you going to cut off your relaxed ends? I transitioned for a year as a way to prepare myself for finally cutting of my relaxed ends and also as way to learn about my hair. I also enjoyed the journey and watching my natural coily hair make itself known. I saw the contrast between my natural roots and relaxed ends and saw how my hair was affected by both processes. Only you can decide when you are ready to take the next step in your goal for healthy hair and you shouldn't let someone else's opinion/comments push you to take a step your not ready for.

Tia Boyd said...

I think that since it's your hair your should do what you want, but I will admit I am one of those people that will always ask when are you going to cut off your ends. I ask this question not to put pressure but rather out of curiosity and a lack of understanding. I BC'd on the spur of the moment one day and going natural was not my intenet, I simply was sick of my hair and wanted a change. The going natural part came later. So I understand what you mean when you say that going natural wasn't necessarily your goal. What I can't understand for the life of me is where you get the patience from to deal with two hair textures. I attempted to help my cousin detangle her transitioning hair and I swear if she was an adult and I didn't think cutting her hair would tramatize her I would have got the scissors and made her natural right then and there, but I just dropped the comb and let her mother finish instead lol. Anywho I just always wonder at what point to you finally become fed up with the two textures because OMG it looks like a big pain in the who know what to deal.

silkynaps said...

Once my hair began shedding in clumps and my ends began looking straggly, I cut it off. Why hold on to it? I hadn't done any real soul-searching, but, more than likely, I was holding on to those pitiful ends for aesthetic reasons...afraid I wouldn't look good if I was missing 7 inches of limp, dead ends. Truth be told, I feel exponentially more fly with a short, but full head of natural hair vs. a short, but full head of natural hair with some sad, stringy, relaxed ends hanging on for dear life.

Alicia said...

The only time I'll ask that question to a transitioner is when they are either complaining about their straight ends (won't curl, can't style them, get tangled, etc...) or if their hair looks a mess because of the straight ends. I never realized this question bothered transitioners, but thanks for letting me know!

Carla said...

I transitioned for about 9 months before cutting off my relaxed ends. My hairstylist was the one who really pressed me to do it. I had set a goal date to cut my hair but obviously see couldn't understand why I was "holding onto my relaxed ends because it was just hair." I needed up BC'ing because I was ready and honestly my ends were barely hanging on. Whether you transition or BC immediately there will always be folks who have questions about what you're doing or did. That's just society and as a natural I've prepared myself for more if that. It helps you stand firm in your decision to do whatever it is that you choose to do :-)

NancyM said...

On Thursday, I will have been transitioning for 20 months. I have not received any pressure to chop at all. My family and friends have been very supportive, so my transition has been pretty good. My original goal was to go for 24 months, which would mean chopping in February. However, my gut tells me that I want to start the new year with 100% natural hair, so I may chop in December instead.
Chopping is a personal choice and should never be done out of pressure or for anyone else but yourself.

Davina916 said...

I've always big chopped. (never transitioned) so no pressure for me.

Mishie said...

Some people go natural just for the sake of versatility - wanting to wear their hair straight one week and curly the next week. I don't know why it would even be an issue. Dealing with natural hair is a process and I think transitioning is a good idea for some. It gives you time to develop a regimine (sp). I've really enjoyed seeing the koily curls that have been springing from my scalp. My process has been fairly easy until recently. One side of my hair loves to mat up after washing. It just occured to me that I don't use henna on that side of my hair so I'm going to do a henna session over the holiday to see if that makes a difference.
I would pay good money for any product that would help with detangling. In fact, I bet most women would rush to become natural if a company developed a conditioner with tons of slip!

Nicole Cox said...

I think you hit the nail directly on the head. Everyone's journey is completely unique to them. I think the above mentioned question stems from an assumption that EVERY person decides to stop processing their hair because of a desire to express a non-altered form of themselves tangibly alone. That can lead to some confusion in the minds of those who espouse that mentality deeply if you delay in or refuse to let go of the "ends" that have a completely different symbolic nature to you (if any) than themselves. As you have so clearly expressed here, that may not be the #1 reason to all. For some it may be a side effect or a lower prioritized reason. On my personal blog I spoke, not to long ago, on my "spiritual" reasons to pursue the BC as viewed through the lense of my personal experiences and value system. But Transition bashing is not cool through any lense. I think the greater concept really should be to pursue the most natural expression of yourself, regardless the form. As long as there is health and growth of the inner person, then it is accomplishing its goal. Passionately expressed, Sister....N~

Bobby said...

Great article!! Im 13 months today post relaxer and for me is its all about growing out healthy hair, Im not in a rush to be 100% natural. This is a process both physically and emotionally. Im in control of this transition and nobody is going to tell me when to chop. And, some of those eager for you to chop are the same ones who wished they had transition instead of big chopping!!

Bobby said...

Oil and water would have untangled those relaxed ends. Its only so much pain to deal with as you make it. For one thing the more natural your hair becomes the easier it gets. I dont look at my relaxed ends as dead weight or useless hair, its my hair and Im not willing to part that just for the sake a being natural. When I become completely natural I will have the length I wanted and the skills to style my hair because I transitioned! OAN: Rolling the relaxed ends would have curled those relaxed ends but thats water under the bridge now....

Karen said...

"Truth be told, I feel exponentially more fly with a short, but full head of natural hair vs. a short, but full head of natural hair with some sad, stringy, relaxed ends hanging on for dear life."

And, I rather have a full head of natural long hair then a TWA looking like a man, dying waiting for it to grow back!! #realtalk

Mars Bar said...

I only ask "why don't you just cut it?" when a person is always expressing frustration or breakage. Or if they keep saying they can't wait until they are all natural and can see how their hair will be in the end.

AfricanVenus said...

I love this article. My intention was never to go natural. It was always just sort of an option. For years, I wore back to back weaves (always leaving a u-part in the front relaxed or pressed) and then would give my hair moments of rest. Weaves were my thing and I love them still. As I continued wearing them, my already fairly long hair just kept transitioning without me paying much attention. Every time I did an install, my hair's texture became more natural. Finally, I removed my weave one day and just started wearing it natural because I wanted to learn more about my hair (after much research, prayer and thought). Honestly, going natural, if you will, was happenstance. I liked the way I transitioned because my hair retained its length and even grew some to boot! I have no problem chopping all my hair off (it's nothing new for me), but I didn't see the point. In a way, I cheated but it served the purposes of my hair's individuality. My hair thrives when it's being left alone. My journey is a little different because only the u-part section is transitioning at this point. I don't have many issues with the two different textures. It narrows your styling options, but you deal. When I two-strand twist the u-part section, I bantu knot it also, so it matches the rest of my hair a little better. In a way, but using weaves, transitioning was a breeze and there was no pressure to big chop.

LouellaS said...

What a miserable, lowlife troll you are.

DiscoveringNatural said...

Today marks 11 months since I have been transitioning. I have felt the pressure from others to chop it off, but that is my decision alone to make. I did write something about it on my blog: discoveringnatural.com. If you are transitioning, it has to be your decision when to do the big chop. I'm planning a long transition, and as of now, I am not too sure when i will chop. My initial goal was 2 years, but we will just wait and see. My growth is about half way, so I think in 11-12 more months, with proper care, my relaxed ends will be about an inch or less. Then I will BC, if this is the case.

DiscoveringNatural said...

What is your blog address?

DiscoveringNatural said...

Well said!!

Bobby said...

Thanks!!

CurvyCurly said...

Uhm, actually I'm guilty of pressuring my co-worker. She's just reached one full year of transitioning and I have suggested on more than one occasion that she should go ahead and 'just do it'. Okay, now I feel bad! She started her transitioning journey for health reasons. She gets excited when she sees other naturals with full or big kink/curly hair in all sorts of styles but is dreading having to go thru the TWA phase herself.
Thanks for sharing this article as it has provided me with a new perspective regarding this issue.

CurvyCurly said...

Agreed!

CurvyCurly said...

Does having a TWA automatically mean a woman would look like a man? There are sooo many beautiful ladies out here who have close cropped or TWA who represent the true essence of a woman because they are not their hair. Additionally, cute accessories, some mascara, and lip gloss can do wonders for adding a little glam.

CurvyCurly said...

Really good points! I plan on sharing this with my co-worker who's been transitioning for a year. You bassically just said the same things I've heard her say to others, including me *sheepish grin*.

butterdaisy said...

Very well said! I'm 7 months transitioning and don't know exactly when I'll get rid of my relaxed ends, but I feel no pressure too. This has been a fun, freeing project for me and I plan to stick with it.

silkynaps said...

It has never once occurred to me that anyone, friend or stranger, would think I look masculine. I guess, I have a high degree of confidence in my femininity. Not that the confidence is needed. Frankly, hair or no hair, there is nothing about my face or physique that would make anyone mistake me for a man. Any woman that doesn't feel the same should focus more on what's in her head than what's on it.

TNDRHRT said...

You're so right on mentally transitioning your mind for the big chop. That was me. I bc'd on Sept. 10. My last relaxer was in Jan of this year. Folks were telling me to just cut it all off, but I was not there yet. I thought about getting a weave, braids, or even wearing wigs while I transitioned. I did none of that for 8 months. I simply roller set or pinned my hair back and wore fabric headbands. Near the end of the summer in August, I was getting frustrated with my transitioning journey. I knew by the end of Sept I would have short hair. During my lunch break on Sept. 10, I went to the salon and had it all cut off. I had about 3 inches of new growth. Maybe a little more. I was mentally ready and I did it in my own time. Listen to yourself. It's your hair.

Nemetria Wilson said...

I understand what you're getting at. I transitioned for 7 months and would have continued to do so if I wasn't told that the damage from your relaxed hair could travel up your strand and start to damage your healthy natural hair. I didnt want to chance it so I just cut out the relaxer, well I had a professional cut it

CurvyCurly said...

Say that!

nicthommi said...

Nothing to to add but you are awesome. If you look like a man with short hair, then you look like a man with long hair. It's so ridiculous when I hear that.
Plus, the people who are always refusing to cut their hair never have hair that looks good. I could see holding on to something that makes you look better, but it's always people holding on to like 5 strands of hair.

Shashou said...

I transitioned for 9 months. I was done physcologically dealing with 2 differenct textures but I had been wearing my hair short for about a year prior and was ready to grow it out. So I waited to I felt I could wait no longer and I knew I was ready. I took that time to do a lot of reading and research. And years prior I stopped putting so many relaxers in my hair, so I had a good idea about what to do with my hair in order to extend the relaxer. I wore a lot of braid outs prior to going natural and continued to do so in my transitioning period and to this day.

Hilary B. said...

dealing with two texture is not easy, I cut off the sickly looking relaxed ends after transitioning for exactly a year. I really admire the women who can go longer than that.

Chan said...

I've been natural for 3 yrs, transitioned for 9 months. I was shooting for a year because I didn't want my hair to be too short, but I went ahead and gave in. Someone once told me long transitioners are taking the easy way out, and that you miss out on the full natural experience by not sporting a twa.(at 9 mos I did have a twa still) but, I disagreed with her. I feel it takes more patience to deal with two textures for so long. As well as deal with everyone wondering what's going on with you're head!

Megan M. said...

I know this is off topic and does not pertain to the "big chop" but I felt pressure to chop off all my heat damage instead of growing it out because watching youtube and people in my life just say cut it off all of it at once.

5naturals said...

I say do you. I bc'ed at 13 mos, 11 mos short of my 24 mos goal. I wasn't pressured, just anxious to see my hair in its natural state. While I LOVE my hair, I don't like the length. If I could do it all over I wouldn't have set a time limit at all, I would've just kept trimming until eventually the relaxed ends were gone.

tinka said...

I certainly agree that it is a woman decision to determine how she will style her hair. I have always big chopped. In fact before I went nature this last time (about 4.5 yrs ago) I chopped my hair off about every 2.5 yrs. So a big chop was never a big deal because it don't care about the length of my hair...it's hair if i cut it off unless I continue to cut it it will grow again. It's funny how long transitoners will say that I am brave...cause I think they are brave for balancing two different texture. I do think that a person who big cuts into a close cropped cut is brave because she is dealing with so many "pressures" like the ideas that women are not suppose to have short hair, and women certainly should not have short "natural hair." So a woman who chooses to cut it short is facting the ultimate societal expectation for women regarding hair i.e. that it should not be short the transitioner is not. If I am honest with myself I will admit that the only reason I haven't big chopped again (the itch is there) is because of the shrinkage. No one should feel pressured to cut if they are not ready. Toot your own horn!

KG said...

This is such a great article! People really feel obligated to show and tell you how to live.

Rashielle said...

This post definitely addresses something I've been going through! I'm new to the natural journey - about 4 or 5 months now - and I've already had people ask why I don't "just chop it off". I think people forget that the point of going natural is the freedom to do whatever your heart desires! I've rocked short, cropped hair styles for years now so the thought of having long hair - like when I was a little girl - is so exciting to me. THATS why I don't "just chop it off". And who knows, maybe somewhere down the road I will do a big chop, but right now, I'm enjoying how much healthier and fulled and yes! longer my hair is turning out to be :)

Roc$tar said...

That is exactly how I would feel, when I'd tell people I wanted to stop with relaxers. I just wanted healthier hair, at the moment I was not sure what "healthier" would be like or how I would get there. After doing some extensive research and watching many YouTube videos, I knew exactly what "healthier" meant for ME! I wanted to cut away my relaxed hair, I transitioned because I was unsure of what I would look with short hair. When the urge was taking over, I made the choice to Big Chop with confidence!

Angela Swinson said...

I have been transitioning for 15 months and I do not plan on big chopping. Yes I like my length and I plan on keeping it. I have gotten trims every 3 months and so my most
processed ends are gone. the point of going natural is doing you. Noone is going to define my journey or make rules for me.

Nicole Cox said...

http://bloomtci.blogspot.com I hope you enjoy the entries....thanks for the interest! N~

Miss Anne said...

I can todally relate to this!!! I started transitioning because i wanted healthier hair... and healthier my hair is! I am almost 9 months transition andmy goal was to transition for 18 months - 2 years. I do get asked why I am hanging onto the relaxed ends, but I'm not exactly hanging on to them. I'm monitoring the progress of my hair and dusting as I go along. When the last of the ends go.... they go.
Until then.... the transition journey continues!

Crystal White said...

I transitioned for 10 months and I COULD NOT WAIT TO CUT OFF those dead, relaxed ends. I did the big chop on Saturday and am so thankful I did. To say everyone "cries a river" when they do the big chop is misleading. I was ESTATIC when I did mine and you know why, because it's JUST hair and it will grow back! Why are so many black women that attached to their hair that when it's even trimmed they act like the world is ending??? I don't get it. I've cut my hair numerous times because 1. my hair grows super fast and 2. because it's just hair. It's not like I am cutting my right hand off.

Roc$tar said...

For me my hair defines who I am. It also was important to me because it shows Black girls can have long beautiful hair too. I am one of those people you mentioned, I use to cry over just a trim, I was so attached to my hair. I felt relieved when I finally decided to Big Chop, though.

Ama said...

I have been transitioning for almost two years now and do not plan on cutting my relaxed hair anytime soon (started with BSL hair and continue to maintain this length with regular trims). Ironically, people think I'm 100% natural because of the thickness of my hair! For years, I unknowingly "stretched" my relaxers for months at a time just because I hated the smell, running from the rain, etc. etc. and I never relaxed "bone-straight," which has probably contributed to the strength of my hair and its ability to endure during this long-term transition. I appreciate my length, take care of my hair and experience very little breakage, so would should I "chop"? Long-term transitioning is not for everyone , but if you're patient enough and have locked down a healthy hair care routine, do you!

Gen said...

I'm natural now but when I was transitioning all I got from naturals were "cut it off" and yes it irritated me. I feel that that was a decision that I had to make, much like the decision to go natural. I did not need anyone telling me to cut when I know that I was not ready. It just made the situation more uncomfortable.


I say to anyone transitioning make sure cutting is what you want to do. Do not do it because someone else said you should. You may not be happy or comfortable with your new length and hair which can lead to another decision that you may regret. If you feel you can handle the two textures without cutting your relaxed ends then do so until your heart is content.

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