“What do you call it?” That was the question that a young woman of color asked me about my hair a few years ago. “What do you call it?” I replied simply, “my hair.” And she asked, but what do you do to it? I replied smugly, “I wash it.” She prodded about how it got to be so curly, and asked if I was mixed with something? I, in the midst of my sarcastic mind said yes, my mother and my father, but being that I was at a nice dinner with colleagues, through all of my aggravation, replied, “It’s natural. I don’t have a perm. It’s just my hair.” Whilst my white colleagues laughed and mocked, “what do you call it?” My fiancé and I were thoroughly annoyed. I thought: how is it, that a black woman doesn’t know that our hair textures are as diverse as our skin tones? Was she so thwarted in thought, by society’s image of beauty, that she had never explored the magnificence of natural black hair? Was perming her hair ritualistic? More commonplace than dental cleanings? Had she grown into adulthood not knowing that perms are not the natural state of black hair? I was perplexed and aggravated, insulted and bruised. Not by her words, but by her ignorance. Yet and still I was strangely invigorated by my conscious decision to be how God made me, rather how man wanted me.
Initially, when I contemplated “going natural,” I was living in Atlanta. I was only perming bout every six months or so. I continued to allow my perm to grow out and wore my hair in a wavy wash and go. But, while caught up in some emotional related low-self esteem moment, that summer I decided to cut, color and perm my shoulder length hair. Then I moved to Houston, and I was among a large population of natural women. Again, I was inspired. I cut my hair even shorter, but kept it permed. When I decided to let it grow out, I went to a “nappy” shop to get a two-strand twist. The owner had these beautiful golden blond, shoulder length sister locs. One of the girls in the shop did them. I was sold. I continued to wear two-strands and braids until one day, I had an epiphany-I wanted to revert, completely to my natural state, the way God intended me to be. As I cut my braids out, I got happy. I knew any remnant of perm that I had would be gone. I went back to the “nappy” shop and got another two-strand the following week. I had made up my mind that when they came out, I would make my loc appointment. I kept them for about two months and when they came down and I washed my hair, I was so taken by how wavy and curly my hair was. I thought, well I can loc it anytime, let’s see how this curly thing goes. I went and got a line up in the back, and since then I’ve been happy to be nappy. I’ve only re-visited the thought of locs once sine then, but it was very short lived.
Now, admittedly, there were some rough times when bun wraps, two-strands, hats and even a kinky wig were my best friends. But as I came into my natural beauty, I let those things go. I realized that for years I had been hiding behind my manufactured hair. At times I had let it consume me. But as a natural, I was so free. I was able to be myself, in all my glory. When I returned to my hometown in 2004 after an 8 year absence, I made my debut at a local nightclub in a fully blown out fro. I was so confident and beautiful that night. It was amazing. In all my years living there, I had never been treated like I was that night (or those subsequent.) I was turning the heads of men that as boys in high school wouldn’t have given me the time of day. People came and asked if they could sit at my table. Some that I recognized had no idea who I was. I was refusing drinks left and right. What mutiny was this? They saw me as a different person. I believe with all of my heart, that had I not gone natural, when I returned I would have been the same ol’ meek lil’ Lori. Not the confident, self-assured woman that I had become.
In my natural state, I exude a confidence and self-worth that I would have never known hiding behind my processed hair. I have never felt as content, as I feel now. Through my transition, I learned to love me, all of me- no qualms, no guises, just me. When I achieved that self love, as cliché as it sounds, I was able to open up to another. I was rocking an uber-fro on the day that my best friend asked me to become more than just friends. He, now my husband, loves the fact that I am natural. He thinks that I am beautiful and sexy and vibrant and original. I attempted to wear genie locs, after 10 days, he told me that he missed my hair. When I took them out, he asked that I never, ever again as long as we are married wear my hair in any way than in its natural state. He loves my natural hair. He loves that I am me, un-edited. I thank God for allowing me to be who I am. I encourage all women to embrace themselves as they are, in all of their natural beauty. There’s nothing more beautiful than a confident, natural woman that knows her worth as an individual.
-Being me and loving it!!