I decided to “go natural” out of curiosity. I‘d never had a problem with breakage from relaxers or color and I’d managed to maintain both health and length despite retouches every 6-8 weeks. My choice to stop the relaxers was not linked to any notion that I didn’t love myself because I liked straight hair. Having a relaxer did not mean I was ashamed of being black nor did it mean that I was living my life by someone else’s standard of beauty. Simply put, a relaxer was all I knew. I became curious about my natural texture and decided to find out what was underneath the lye. So, my last relaxer was April 2009. I did my big chop in March 2010. During my big chop, too much hair was cut. The purpose of being a long term transitioner was so that I would not have to have super short hair; however, because a “shape up” turned into a total mishap, my hair ended up being shorter than I liked. I was furious and confused and forced to look at myself differently.
I had to battle a few issues: my self-perception, the perception of others, and frizzy, curly hair that I knew nothing about. I first had to come to terms with the fact that my hair was indeed shorter than I had intended it to be. I felt like a little boy (however THAT feels) and quite frankly didn’t know how to dress for my new look. Others told me to buy bigger earrings, try bolder makeup, or wear a chunky necklace. But those things weren’t me; as much as I love that look on others, my standard earrings are studs, I prefer a neutral face, and single strand pearls are my staple. If I’d gone with those suggestions, I would have felt more unlike myself that I already did with my frizzy fro alone. I considered a weave…I’d only had one in my life and hated it. I thought about a wig…I’d tried wigs on in the store and basically ended up looking like RuPaul. I resigned myself to figuring out how to turn my dried out fro into high gloss curly coils. I found curlynikki, which was a lifesaver. I hit YouTube and found SimplYounique: her tutorial on defining curls with EcoStyler was the first step towards regaining my sanity. I tried it and although I cannot say it was love at first sight, I was definitely on the road to liking my hair. Other helpful YouTubers were Taren916 and denimpixie (whose blog and product reviews have been invaluable).
Two months later, I’m still in the process of completely loving my hair. Some days I feel so fab and others I can’t wait to get home and hide. I know these days will pass and even with them existing, I have never EVER thought about returning to the relaxer because I know that I’ve made the right decision for myself and I do, in fact, love my hair (I will love it even more when it grows out!). I am choosing to embrace this uncomfortable period and learn about me. Although I do consider myself a pretty confident person, I must admit that I’ve found that some of that confidence has been tied into the opinions of others. Wow! I never knew that about myself. To know that something as simple as natural, short hair can throw your self-perception off balance is powerful. My family and boyfriend have been extremely, unbelievably supportive. All of my natural friends have been supportive. Some of my relaxed friends have been supportive. Other “friends” have openly mocked me and have been surprisingly unrelenting even when I ask them to stop or remind them that this is all new to me; thus, I’m sensitive to their comments. They haven’t seemed to care and it exposes them in more ways than one. Another unexpected revelation has been the support I’ve gotten from men. They have been far more complimentary and genuinely inquisitive than women.
To this end, I have a new found respect for naturals. I’ve never been one to make a distinction among women because, frankly, I feel that we have enough battles to fight without having to fight each other. However, I have to give kudos to any woman who can confidently rock her natural hair and face the scrutiny, and sometimes ridicule, that comes along with making that personal choice. Am I totally at that point of full out confidence? No. But, I‘ll get there and hopefully be able to offer some words of advice/encouragement/support to other naturals or naturals-in-the-making. One thing is for sure, I’m glad that I made the decision to embark on this journey and I know I’ll be better for it.