Doing the Big Chop is often times a newly natural’s least favorite part along the natural hair journey for reasons that seem to manifest themselves with each backhanded compliment thrown their way. Many choose to transition for longer periods of time in order to avoid the pits, falls and bewildered stares from our loved ones & friends…but for those who do embark on the road to BIG CHOP and regularly digest the misperceptions and ignorance of others…be safe in this: you are not alone.
Today it’s remarkably easy to look back and regard with new understanding the bad compliments and judgments from most of my family. There were MANY, but none more complex and sordid than that of my own mother. My first BC over 10 years ago shook my mother up something awful…the cold shoulders, and questionable eyes followed me around for weeks…months at a time until the shape of my head grew into something more feminine. For a Caribbean mother hair….LONG hair at that, is your saving grace…your accessory du jour if ever you forgot to wear your favorite earrings or necklace.
There was disappointment and fear written across my mum’s face, and yet this was something I could not rightfully apologize for. At 18 I was swallowing up a new identity and outlook on life similar to many of my peers, and it felt right. Why apologize for coming into your own, no matter what path you choose? This was my first lesson…my first BC, and over time she came to understand.
There’s no momentous white flag to inform you of this acceptance, but hindsight will send you proof. Your loved ones still love you, still care and accept…even if they don’t understand. That is their own journey to take. Years later after a second BC, there was another teetering of doubt strewn across my mum’s face. Again.
Thankfully, this time it did not linger long enough to cause another rift. Instead, I talked to her as a young woman would to any mother, and allowed her the space to get to her kind of normal, I’d already reached mine. Her perceptions based on my decision to go natural remained just that…her own. And because of this…years later she was able to embark on her own natural hair journey. Ironically today, we’re able to gossip over the phone about hair regimes, products she’s trying, hair creams I love and at-home mixes that are incredibly easy to make!
We are all our doubter’s, mother’s, family’s greatest inspiration…even if we cannot see it from the beginning. Stepping out on fear, and loving the journey regardless of detractors and naysayers is what solidifies any person’s decision to be who they are. Believe in it though…there is safety in everyone’s true authenticity.
another great post Chai!
thanks for taking the time out to read & I certainly didn't want to imply that ALL Caribbean mothers respond the same way, my words and reactions in the piece are reflective of my own personal experiences, no one else's…and no, while I don't come from a Jamaican culture (your assumptions are incorrect) I still take great pride in my Caribbean roots…all that I've learned because of my upbringing and respect all those who do the same.
I can't stand when people talk about black people as if they are monolithic. My family is Caribbean and when I tell my mum about these kinds of negative reactions, she thinks they are acting idiotically, as do I. Not everyone in the Caribbean, is the same, so speak for the country your family is from, (which I have a feeling may be Jamaica), not the rest of us.
Sometimes, mothers forgot that their children, specially their daughters, grew up and developed a different personality form theirs. You were not a child anymore wherein you would obey whatever she wanted you to do, specially if it concerns your own appearance and personality. You have your own likes and decisions to follow.
I liked this post! I think I am still my harshest critic. I'm in FL and NOT a very Black area so I'm around my fair share of "other" people, including my husband. I am not always confident, but by the time I'm out of the house I don't even think about my hair any more.
My family was supportive from the beginning with the exception of my baby sister, but she likes it now. It wasn't a discussion, I just got sick of transitioning and breaking hair. My husband was at work, I got the scissors and did the deed. I have so many people tell me they like my hair better short and it's really curly. I'm 27, this is my first natural hair journey so I'm still coming into my own and working on doing it the best way for me.
My family was not too shocked, because I am known for doing drastic cuts on occasion (have done a total of 4 over the yrs). They all liked it and said , "I had the face for it". My aunt was a little concerned because my cousin cut her hair short and coincidentally lost a great deal of hair in the crown region (based on genetics more than anything else). My Mom wasnt too too happy about it, but she knew from a previous experience that it would grow back.
I have since let it grow out (ten yrs). Now, everyone just gets curious about what I will do next. They say it looks healthy and want to know what I use to care for it.
Great post! I BCed one week before Christmas, and even though I transitioned for about 1 year, my hair really looks short because of the shrinkage. I was already prepared to hear negative comments from my grandma, because she had already stated her views about natural hair. She didn't say anything about my hair being "nappy," but she did wonder why I cut off "my long hair." I was kind of shocked that my mom responded the way she did. My mom is also natural, I actually convinced her to go natural during my first transition back in 2007. She doesn't mind my hair being natural, but I don't think she likes that it appears really short. She kept pulling my hair to show me how long it really is (I think it is because she is used to seeing me with long hair). I kept my hair covered when I BCed the first time, but this time around, I'm rockin' it. I get more stares than comments, but I don't mind so much.
I enjoyed this post as well, thanks for sharing! I received nothing but love and well wishes from my friends. I got the most negativity from my fam; my granny said "you too pretty for nappy hair." Ummm…how do you respond to that? It was over a year ago that she made that comment and it still stings alil…
I have Caribbean parents and I can relate but I think it has more so to do with their generation than culture. My father who loves long hair absolutely did not like my TWA and even as it grew out. He even had the nerve to say, "I don't know know why you did that you had such long beautiful hair!" As if my hair grew out of my head that way…I'm convinced he actually believed that. My mom on the other hand rocked a TWA for the majority of my life so she fearlessly encouraged me to cut my hair and own my natural beauty. Gotta love family!
I enjoyed this post, thank you. When I BCed I was excited, but shortly thereafter I went to visit my parents, and I chickened out on showing them and put it in kinky twist extensions and didn't tell them I cut my hair. Such silly behavior from a 30 year old woman, but these self esteem and approval things run deep, don't they?
Hair looks wonderful by the way! When I BC, I got shock from my mother. I had been cutting shorter and shorter each month, so I guess it was like a I can't believe you actually did it kind of thing. I've never hear anything negative. Everyone is supportive. I inspired one of my student's parents to BC! I receive nothing but compliments, esp from men.
This is one of the best guest posts I've seen in a while (other than GG's inspirations). Your words are what I wish I heard twelve years ago.
The best part (IMO): "Instead, I talked to her as a young woman would to any mother, and allowed her the space to get to her kind of normal, I’d already reached mine. Her perceptions based on my decision to go natural remained just that…her own."
Taking the good road of respect goes a looonnnnggg way, even if the other person doesn't take it at first. Glad to hear your mom is on her own natural journey!
When I read about the horror stories women go through with their loved ones when they BC or even think about going natural, I am ever more grateful to have a family who loves all of me, not just the part from the hairline down. And I have the very kind of hair texture everybody's so scared of…and from my first BC down to today I've never gotten anything but love and support from my family.
Great post, great hair.
Peace, Love and Chocolate