by Chai of Back to Curly

I’m sure many of us have watched & digested the natural hair video that’s evidently gone viral since the 1st hour of it’s posting several days ago. A young woman in clear visual distress, takes to her video phone to record a myriad of tribulations associated with her ‘unmanageable’ natural hair. It’s a doozy….certainly entertaining well throughout, yet once you’ve reached the end mark of the video you’re left wondering if in fact she’s just spilled the beans on what many newly naturals have long been feeling, but are either too frustrated to speak on, or are still in search of that ‘miracle product.’

After first viewing the vid, I chuckled and empathized as she guzzled her slurpie & hightailed it to the wig shop to cover up her TWA. I laughed but also felt a pang of sadness for something that has evidently ballooned into a clear unattainable idea of what it means to be natural today.

Can we talk about the Wash-n-Go for a sec? Mmmkkaaay.

A brief background on where I’m coming from first: As a woman who went natural a little over 10 yrs ago, I still feel there is a ton of lessons to learn as far as how to care for one’s hair. I doubt this will ever change, much like my skin, body and other aesthetics change over time and require different needs, so goes my hair.

Looking back over the years, it’s clear to see what was lacking in my journey. I had very little to work on as far as product knowledge, proper methods to wash/detangle textured hair…the importance of moisturizing…etc. There were very little resources at my disposal 10 years ago, and in hindsight while this may seem disastrous to those just going natural today, it was a personal blessing.

I did not have to filter through what’s today become the prodigal language for most naturals (wash-n-go’s, hair typing, protective styling..etc.) I’ve adjusted my vocab over the years to stay inclusive on the natural hair scene, but a part of me still continues to hold tight to what it was like not to have to worry about the debate & divisiveness that props up from the ironic misunderstandings.

Tami from What Tami Said makes an interesting point:

Drop in on a natural hair forum and you might think caring for natural hair is like nuclear physics. Gotta figure out your hair type…4c…4a…3c…To co-wash or not to co-wash?…Use this brush not that one…Buy this expensive product and that one, too…Let this thing sit on your hair for 30 minutes, followed by this thing and that thing for just the right curl…And a lot of this is done because we are supposed to look like the neatly curly women on the “after” side of that Miss Jessie’s page. Except most of us naturally don’t.

What she addresses here is the possible Tyranny of Natural Hair, a new conformist ideal we’re all attempting to mold into each time we struggle to understand the directions to yet another hair pudding or custard.

I generalize this all as the ‘Myth of the Wash-n-Go’ because this was my wake-up call. I distinctly remember watching Youtube vid after Youtube tutorial, trolling through the often times overstaturated forum boards filled with advice…standing in front of my mirror and attempting to recreate an image that would never…or could never be an authentic representation of me.

Truthfully, while I dish on the proper maintenance and stylings of the ‘traditional’ wash-n-go, hardly ever do I clock in under 30 minutes when attempting this style. I haven’t met many naturals who have either (save for the TWA gals, heeeey!), & I think this is why it’s often kept in the confines of the warmer months.

Realistically, what ultimately goes down is a washing/light conditioning/styling/slight drying = end time of 1hr (if that) . Now, like it or not natural hair…no matter how you slice it or style it, takes not just time…but patience. You cannot cut corners 9 times out of 10, and expect satisfied results. How often do many of us spend a minimum of 30 minutes in a Hair Salon & expect top notch results? Maintaining natural hair is all in what you know, how you use it…rather than what you use to achieve the perfect twist-out, braid-out. I don’t doubt there are many women who do get up in the a.m. brush their teeth, wash-no-go, and head out the door, coffee in hand to greet the day in less than an hour. Yet, for the majority of women living their own day-to day, whether with children or attached to a textbook…this is often not the case.

Today, I choose to take care of my natural hair because no one else will. I wash/style/condition because currently there are not enough hair stylists working their magic fingers on a woman with highly textured hair…I don’t trust that. I trust me, and what I’ve learned in the over 10 years that I’ve been on this journey. None of it was easy, nor did I expect it to be. I learned to manage the frustrations, overcome the inevitable obstacles and love that me & Fro are still here…taking compliments, biding time until the next lesson needs to be learned. Taking care of one’s natural hair can be easy…over time it certainly does, but much like other instances in life, you have to earn your place…follow your own path and demystify your own misconceptions of what going natural is really about. There is no singular ideal to having/wearing natural hair….no sameness to all of our looks & styles. Forget what marketing brands & companies who are vying for your attention ( & $$$) have to say. Reject the mold & begin to cultivate your own version of you.