September 25, 2013
My mom coaxed me finally into getting my first hair relaxer. Her friend, Jessica, was a stylist and offered my mom to do it for me at her salon. It was my first professional hair treatment, which meant that my hot comb days would soon be over. No more scalp burns.
The day of the appointment, we went to Jessica's place. When we got there, we saw an old hair dryer in the center of her living room, a stack of outdated magazines beside it, a lazy boy pushed against the kitchen sink, and a box of Just For Me relaxer on the kitchen counter. Not to my surprise her apartment was her "salon".
After she sat me down and started working the relaxer in, Jessica got a little carried away in her conversation with my mom and left the perm in for too long. That night, I was left with scabs all across my hairline and a small bald spot at the crown of my head. It was the worst hair experience I've ever had in my life!
After my scalp healed, I kept going for follow up treatments with other stylists but I eventually started to get real bored with the whole thing. Ponytails, wash & sets were pretty much the range of my styling options and visits to the Dominican salons just weren't cutting it for me either.
One early morning, as I was taking down my wrap, I decided that I was not having it anymore. I went to a salon that specialized in natural hair, slammed a hundred dollars on the counter and told the receptionist I wanted all my hair gone. He directed me to Tonya's chair.
Tonya, a stylist at the shop, pulled out her scissors, gave me a quick smile and started cutting. Once I heard the first snip, my face became flushed with heat. It was literally five minutes that passed before she said “Ok you’re done”. I looked up, and was in disbelief. My head was filled with gorgeous baby curls. They were light, bouncy, and unique to me; kind of like a fingerprint. This is what was missing; this is what I needed. I was surprised but excited. She finished off the cut with a honey blonde dye and I was good to go.
My hair drew all kinds of attention, positive and negative. But for the first time I felt free, full of confidence, and was no longer susceptible to what society’s classification of beauty was. I finally had an identity.
The coming days and weeks I sported every headband, hair accessory and style imaginable. I had no clue that I would have so much fun with it. I did wash & go’s, twists outs, Bantu knots, Havana twists, French twists; I could go on forever…
My friends loved touching it. My mom fell in love with it. First thing she offered to do was to style it. "nah mom, you ain't touching this'' was what I kept telling her.
In a matter of a few short months however, this all came to an end. My hair became a hot mess. My bathroom became a war zone. Every morning, combs and brushes were being thrown everywhere, my curls were twirling and tangling around each other; the sink was clogged with hair strands; my hair was matted at the crown of my head; you get the picture. I was always in comb(at) with my hair. I started searching online hopefully for a solution. It took a few days of research before I came to realize that I have just entered the “awkward stage”.
The awkward stage is when your hair is too long to do a simple wash & go and too short to do a decent puff. Two years passed and the only styles I’ve done with my natural hair were ponytails. To make matters worse, my hair remained the same length throughout that entire time.
It took some time before I learned to style my own hair. The first few months alone, I dreaded the idea of going out. I was ducking and dodging anything that resembled an event, invite, or activity solely due to my discontentment with my hair. I tried replicating styles that I’ve seen but they never would come out the way I’ve hoped. But I continued practicing and learning. Websites, blogs and YouTube became a safe haven for all my natural hair experiments. After a while, I started picking up on several techniques, tips, tricks, and even developed my own alternatives, shortcuts, and methods. And I sure did love when the first of the month came around. Length check!
I have been styling my natural hair for awhile now at all different lengths without the use of direct heat, damaging hair products, chemicals, and hairstyles that place strain on the hair follicles such as weaves, wigs, small tight box braids and twists, cornrows, etc. When the follicles are consistently strained, the hairline may begin receding and in worst cases, alopecia may occur. Hair loss is a serious condition and is permanent so I stress that naturals learn to style and care for their own hair.
Our hair texture has the capability of creating amazing styles and shapes at any length that would be difficult for other textures to achieve. Many of us are however unaware of the various ways to style our hair or may not have a large repertoire of styles to choose from especially at shorter lengths. I’ve been natural on and off for about six years now. During that time, I had many setbacks. We all have. Highs and lows just come with being natural. When you however begin to gain more experience with your hair, you will have a lot more progressions than setbacks. Until then, it’s completely normal to make a mistake or two. You just have to STICK WITH IT. Overall, was it worth it for me? oh yes! And it will be for you when you begin to understand and properly care for your hair. It’s your hair after all.