My decision to go natural was sparked by my amazing sister.
Growing up I was the one with the “good” hair. Full of body and could hold a curl for days. Long, thick and seemingly indestructible despite quarterly relaxers from the time I was 6 or 7 and she was 4 or 5. I would be in the chair for hours it seemed, while she would get to play because her hair was finer, shorter and kinkier. In high school, while I lived with my hair in a ponytail with a curling iron in my bangs, she primped, fought and fried her hair into submission, never achieving exactly what she wanted. How she would fuss about me not doing anything with my hair. I promise you her attempts to “help” me were not appreciated..
As adults in our twenties our hair stories continued. Me, hair lazy and in the middle of medical school and then residency, lived in ponytails until I couldn’t hide my kitchen and then off to the beauty shop for a relaxer, trim and waiting for the day I could afford to be a weekly regular in the shop. I truthfully didn’t care as long as my hair wasn’t falling out in clumps. She, in the ultimate act of frustration and defiance to the creamy crack gods that had never answered her prayers, chopped hers into the most daring of TWAs. I was jealous of her boldness and flair and the fact that she could be blonde, red or if she had wanted even purple, without being told no, it will ruin your hair. I had worn a ‘fro for a short and sad period in college, after a trim of ALL the damaged hair gone horribly wrong, and felt tied to the creamy crack that let me be lazy.
After residency, I had the cash for every other week hair care and enjoyed going in and coming out with my ‘do done and only needing a wrapping scarf, comb and brush in my house. I didn’t even own a hair dryer because I never touched one and only pulled out a curling iron if absolutely necessary for a special occasion. I found a stylist who was willing to take me to a fabulous blonde that lasted until I became a traveling doctor and had to leave him behind. But a quick return to my natural dark brown and all was well again.
Even after moving to Germany I was always able to find someone who kept my hair long and full (Thanks to Tiffany, Whalina, and Tanya). I even got highlights again, though no one dared for full blonde with the hard water here, so why rock the boat. Maybe they mentioned my hair being dry and that I needed to oil my scalp more. Yes, they struggled with my dandruff, but they kept it manageable and Kemi oil was cheap enough and if I put it on a few days before my next hair appointment I could avoid the lecture, be hair lazy and get compliments from others.
Meanwhile, a few years ago my sister began letting her ‘fro grow and began twisting her hair. I didn’t know the term then, but my girl rocked some beautiful twist outs. Suddenly, her hair was versatile, bold and totally fitting her personality. It didn’t hinder her and she was free to have it how she wanted it without spending hours in a shop. It could be funky or professional and worked when she was teaching from a stage or in a small group. Not only that, it was thicker and healthier than I ever remembered it being growing up. But still, I couldn’t imagine doing the same. How would it look? And I’d actually have to mess with my own hair, what would that be like? Even when I was home in March of 2008, I couldn’t imagine rocking a natural. That was definitely her style, not mine.
But oh, the difference a year can make. I think it started when I went home at Christmas and my sister and two cousins with thicker, longer hair than mine were all rocking beautiful afros. One cousin was getting hers done professionally every two weeks while sis and the other, did their own. I was struck at how beautiful and different they each looked. My hair began to feel boring and normal.
I came home with the decision made to see how long I could go without a relaxer. It also didn’t hurt that I began to have to chase my beautician from location to location. I love her, but having to figure out if she was in her shop or the on post one began to get tedious. I dreaded sitting for hours in a beauty shop at the end of an already long day and was even more frustrated that my hair looked great for me to drive home and wrap it for bed. I also hated rushing to make it to the shop on time, only to wait an hour or more before she even got me started. As my hair continued to grow, there was also the issue of the highlights. We had put them in during 2008 but had not touched them up because it had to be done after my relaxer. As I went longer without a relaxer the more I began to loathe the line between highlights and new growth.I began to wear braids more and loved my hair when I took them out. I also would just wash my hair and then use gel to get whatever curl or wave I could get and rock it out. As people at church and work accepted my unconventional styles, I realized that I was the only hindrance to my going natural. I kept hoping that Jay, my stylist, would embrace the idea and would help me take the leap to chop it off, but that never happened. What happened was that my sister announced her wedding day for August and I went into a moment of panic. How could I wear my partly relaxed hair and not distract from her wedding? I could cut it, but what if I didn’t like it? I’d have to live with those pictures for the rest of my life. So I decided to get it braided. Not cornrows, but microbraids with extensions so that I could style my hair and still look sleek for the wedding. It would be long and my parents would at least like that more than “puffy” hair.
Those eight weeks of microbraids helped me turn the corner. At first I loved my microbraids. They were much lighter than I had expected and they allowed for quite a bit of versatility. Half up. Pony. Let them down. They looked great. I loved how I looked at the wedding and the compliments didn’t hurt either. But as the weeks passed I was fighting tangling ends, an itchy scalp and I missed feeling my own hair. I missed the wavy texture of my own hair that I had been feeling since March. I hated the feel of the synthetic threads on my neck and how the front of my hair was beginning to pull out, leaving balding patches in the front. I determined that when I got the braids done that I needed to keep them in for 8 weeks to make it worth what I’d spent to get them. By week seven, though I cut them to a shoulder length bob that just missed my own hair length. Then began the tedious process of taking them out. Since my own hair was mixed in with the braids I couldn’t cut them above the knot, so I picked them out over a week’s time. I was so happy to get back to my own hair that the idea of braiding again, made me cringe. So that Friday evening when I came home from work, I took out my scissors and chopped my own hair! I am loving my new hobby, my hair and it’s care. Thanks to CN.com and my curly sisters here, I feel like I’m developing a whole new me!