I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within
Some days I am indeed my hair. Sorry India.
When it comes to hair, sometimes it’s a pain in the donkey being a black woman. There. I’ve said it. Crucify me.
As a pre-teen I begged and pleaded with my mother to allow me to relax my hair – she caved, and what a mistake that was. My hair is naturally fine (I was not blessed with the coarse, thick long hair that is my sister’s trademark) so the relaxer did more damage than good. It wasn’t until college I decided to break the cycle by going back to my hair’s virgin state —something I learned that you can never actually do. Duh! Once that virginity is gone, it’s gone.
I was hoping to at least get my hair as close to its original makeup as possible. I spent the next few years natural, but mainly rocking micro braids or curly weaves. It was that way until April 2009 when I waved the white flag because I could not find a natural style to uphold the vision I had for my wedding. With a heavy heart, I allowed my maid of honor to relax my hair a few nights prior to the wedding.
Fast forward to a little over two years later and I am free of the creamy crack because I chose not to ‘touch up’ at the six week mark. I wanted to once again find my way back to my roots. To say that my hair is better off without the relaxer is not something I can pronounce with 100% confidence. This is most likely because I know very little about maintaining my hair in its natural state (or any other state, really) and it pays the consequence for my ignorance.
I recently spent a number of days removing braids from my hair and worrying about how to style it now that I wanted to take a braid/weave-break. A worry made worse by the fact that my hair is short, very fine and easily breakable. I had an anxiety attack over my fear that I would look Celie-Color-Purple-You-Sho’-Is-Ugly with my hair in its natural state. No chemicals. No hot combs. No extensions. Nope. Not a thing. Just me. As I am. With the change in my hair, the focus would now be on my face. How would I distract from the flesh moles that are my enemies? How was I to hide (or at least divert attention away from) the chickenpox mark taking prime real estate on the bridge of my nose since the age of seven? How would I keep people from noticing that my eyebrows are so thin at the end that it looks like someone shaved them off halfway? All my physical insecurities would take center stage now that I had to rely on my own beauty.
Despite the nauseating thoughts, I made the decision to move forward with this change. My household budget was demanding it. I no longer wanted to contribute to the $507 billion (Yep. Scratch out the m in million, replace it with a b and add a ridiculous amount of zeroes.) African Americans (hello women!) spent in 2009 on hair care and personal grooming items. This is at least according to an annual report published by Target Market News. I was stunned silent when I heard that number. How can that be when the Census reports that we make up only 12 or so percent of the American population? For the sake of all things sensible, I had to take fewer rides on this crazy bus.
I headed to the hair salon (knowing this would now become a special occasion trip) with a boulder heavy on my heart. Was I doing the right thing? Seriously? On most days I am a love-myself-unconditionally type of chick. Where was that girl today? Not even replaying India’s Video in my head could give me the confidence I needed. By the time I reached the salon, I had chickened out of my resolve to be a more spending-conscious black woman. At that point I just wanted to be one of the perfectly coiffed girls that sat next to me on the subway and walked alongside me from the train to the salon. I just wanted to fit in.
In an effort to fool myself into thinking I was saving money, I decided on the least expensive weave style available – $325. Add to this the cost of the hair, a deep conditioner and tip; I was looking at dropping $500 in one sitting. This literally made me sick. My stomach did not settle down until I told the stylist I had changed my mind. I just wanted to wash, deep condition, and cut and style MY hair. $500 – $145 = $355 that I almost wasted because of some false sense of beauty that I let dominate my mind.
The woman who walked out of that salon more closely resembled me on most days – one who understands and embraces the true meaning of 1 Samuel 16:7 – The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
It was with that thought that I put my headphones in, searched for I Am Not My Hair on Slacker radio, gave myself a mental high five that it came up right away and walked down the streets of Brooklyn as if someone had thrown rose petals down for me to step on. While I was indeed my hair for most of the previous week, today I was choosing not to be.
Thankyou. Michelle for an eye opening bbbbillion dollar hair business …unbeeeeewevable! Back in the hotcomb/celie braids era we were afro puffs jacked up weaves as well. I'm not knocking people that wear weaves. The hair when done correctly looks beautiful. So it's easy to see why people have a "go to "on bad hair days. I rock my natural hair now. There has been some days though when frustration was at an all time high! Especially ….when I know I never needed a relaxer in the first place! You see I wanted people to see me not the wavy/curly hair. So I copied everyone else. Relaxed it cut it pressed whatever was in at the moment. Until oneday my daughter commented I was getting bald around my edges! Quickly sprang into action an decided come hell /high water I no longer would relax. Sad thing was I haden't even noticed! Still I cried many days knowing my virgin soft, curly, waves were gone forever. Yes over 5 year span, journey I'm learning to manage this "new roots "thanking the lord for strength to keep it natural. Thanking my mother who never never believed in anything superficial in the first place. She taught my sister an I to love what God gave …naturally including makeup no no.On the days An I do have them when I don't feel …I remember "my roots ". And keep scanning naturally curly lol.
That's cheap compared to what the women pay in New York!! a whopping $1,000 for a freakin weave. Now that's damn crazy. Women would spending money on that shit and don't put money away for their kids education!!
Thank you for your courage and "pressing" through those negative feelings to reality. I'm encouraged that you recall the Scriptures as a line of defense to combat the lies assaulting you. Today, I will be going over to a good friend who is transitioning and is having an experience just like yours. She is battling those lies and I can't wait to share this post with her.
I agree with the sista above…I'm from L.A. where there are MANY women who would consider $500 a serious bargain for a professionally done full sew in at a quality full-service, salon. Yep,that's right. And they are not hurting for customers. "Expensive" is and has always had a relative meaning. Thank you Michelle for your story and your candor. For me the most expensive cost I've paid is the damage to my hair from chemical texturizers and permanent hair color. Even if money is not an issue, no amount of $$$ can buy healthy hair back. I have had make some healthy hair care choices and wait for mother nature to grow it back.
Michelle, thank you for your honesty in this piece. It is a message that a lot of women need to hear. Even though I've been natural for 15 years, I still have some days where I am my hair, but those days don't come too often. Be patient and kind to yourself and to your hair and don't try to make your hair into something it's not. Find out it's natural tendencies and work with them, not against them. Research, experiment and find products that make your hair look and feel good. Personally I have found the books "Curly Like Me" by Teri Laflesh and "Curly Girl" by Lorraine Massey to be really helpful in developing more curl confidence. Sometimes reading how others have handled a similar challenge can be helpful. Good luck!
Wonderful article. Such a true depiction of what we as women go through with our hair. It can be such a struggle at times. Thank you for sharing. You are beautiful! You are inspiring!
from Anonymous 7.30AM
–edit, apologies "Michelle" NOT "Janae"
Thanks Janae, great, honest and inspiring post. I'd love it if all those billions went straight back to Black people, particularly women. I have beautifully patterned scarves and a standby wig for bad days, lol!
I live in NYC and know $500 is not out of the question for a weave, especially with quality extension hair that is reusable up to 1 year. We're not talking about chop-shop weaves in dingy or mid-scale environments, we're talking high-end, superb product, excellent customer service, educated cosmetician salon here. While it may surprise or even offend some, many women can afford to do what they want with their money (though Janae realized the amount became too pricey for her) and whether spent on a cowhide bag, leather boots, or the iPad 2 someone may always find your spending choices do not match their own, which is fine, because it's not their money. Good luck, Janae (that's my remarkable late cousin's name)!
I really enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for this, Michelle. Thank you for sharing your truth. Curly Nikki, thank you for giving people the opportunity to express themselves. –Saz
WOW – I loved this article. I thought I was the only natural in the world (I really did!) who had short, fine hair that just has not sprouted like I thought it would in its natural state. Thanks for your honesty and candid writing style!
I read this 2 days ago and I still cannot get over $500. It honestly pisses me off that black women rationalize spending that much on hair, given our community-wide economic situation. Sorry, maybe that offends some women here who have spent that much/wear weaves, but this is so problematic to me. I love this article because it's honest and eye-opening, and seeing that number really is just a wake up call to me. We need new priorities, quick fast and in a hurry! This is not an attack on the author of this article, by any means.
Thanks you for this article Michele!
Good article! 500$ IS ridiculous, but I shamefully admit to spending close to that for a weave installation + hair. HOWEVER, the hair is reused up to a year, and I actually really like (ok LOVE) weaves! But I think it's important for it not to define who you are, it's a convenient hairstyle for me and its actually helped alot with my hair growth/maintenance. Point is,the way one decides to wear her/his hair depends on the mood. The occasional splurging is ok, but dropping ridiculous amounts of money on hair ALL THE TIME is pretty sad…
This is BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN. I will share this with my mom who has struggled with having fine and very thin hair her whole life as well. Thanks SO MUCH for sharing!
"I decided on the least expensive weave style available – $325. Add to this the cost of the hair, a deep conditioner and tip; I was looking at dropping $500 in one sitting. This literally made me sick. My stomach did not settle down until I told the stylist I had changed my mind. I just wanted to wash, deep condition, and cut and style MY hair. $500 – $145 = $355 that I almost wasted because of some false sense of beauty that I let dominate my mind."
WHAT IN THE HEEEZZY?!!! Where do you live??!!!
Great post. But you know…sure, our hair can be fickle and fragile…but the most important "f"-word in regard to natural hair is FUN! It was raining cats and dogs last night…I just wrapped up a evening Biochem class and I went outside confidently. All the other black women watched the rain through the windows in fear. Natural hair is fun and free. It took me a long time, but I now have a nice bun. I threw it in there and walked to the L-train and took my tired behind home, leaving all the relaxed and weaved up women behind. Ain't nobody got time! Just try to remember that. Take care of your hair. But know that natural hair is resilient and can withstand more than you think. NO WORRIES!
Love this post!
As a husband, I too have to say…500 bucks!?!? Good Lord, that's a lotta money!!! I've learned a lot over the last few years about hair from my wife… nevertheless, the financial piece of all of this still boggles my mind!
I so enjoyed this article, somedays im not my hair n I feel like the world is staring at every flaw possible. But with the grace of God Im learning to love myself flaws n all 😉
Beautiful hair and great write up!
I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVEEEDDDD Your article!!! I needed that today 🙂
yeah $500 sounds like alot for a weave but if you think about it most stylists charge up to 200 for a sew-in and depending on the quality of hair you use you could easily pay up to $80-90 per bag of hair.
Thank you for this honest article!
man for $500 that weave better come with a 'happy ending'! im a super broke college and i can barely spend $10 on some damn sheamoisture without cringing at the price lol. i dont know how ya chicks did it! i got my hair a handful of times and i never got a perm cause my hair was F*CKED!but once i gave up the heat i never felt the need to go back because i finally found what make my hair looks awesome!i never have bad hair days because my hair used to look busted EVERYDAY lol 😀
Your hair is beautiful
Very moving article Michelle, thanks very much and keep your head up!
Lol, I second the $500 instant hair. Wowzers! I just hope with all these ladies deciding to go natural that they wont be discouraged and go back to relaxers. Natural hair is so beautiful and it exudes so much confidence to those who chose to wear it as such. I can say that I'm not my hair but a big part of me is; natural hair to me represents removing the security blanket that we have put in place and just be ourselves.
That was my reaction too when I saw $500.00. My mouth literally dropped open. WOW that's a lot of money for "temporary" hair. Thank you for sharing your story. Although I can't relate I appreciated reading it. Once I went natural (nearly 10 years now) I never once had any desire to ever perm my hair.
Michelle, I really appreciate your honesty with your natural hair journey. I experienced the same concerns on a daily basis. It is such a hit and miss with natural hair. I have different textures all over my head so it can be a bit challenging to style some days. I often feel like Celie when I do my own hair. It doesn't always come out to my liking. To be honest, I have never been good at styling my own hair. So this has truly been a learning experience for me. This is my second time going natural and I am hoping I can stay natural for life. I often think about going to the relaxer. I feel it may be so much easier. However, when my hair stylist styles my hair I feel rejuvenated and confident with my natural hair like I can take on the world. I try to pamper myself once a month to get my hair done. All I can say embrace your hair. Also give yourself a break and pamper yourself every now and then and have someone else worry about styling your natural hair for a change. Have someone else do those two strand twist or coils. Thanks again for your article.
Hair weaves and relaxers are all that most of us have known for so long. It's an addiction that takes a long time to break. I have been natural for six months and I am still getting used to it. I get a lot of nice comments even if deep inside I feel insecure about it.
Michelle, great article. I must say Amen, because there are days when I begin to think this natural thing is for the birds and how easier it could be if I went back to the relaxer. Today is one of those days, as I had to pin up my failed attempt at two strand twists last night. I have been transitioning since Sept 10. I cannot say that on those days when I am my hair that I have an aha moment of clarity about my hair and my swagger appears. I just focus on the blessings in my life and figure that I'll just have to regroup on the hair front. 🙂
Ok I've never gotten a weave of any kind and I'm no expert, so excuse my reaction but:
Y'ALL SPEND $500 ON THIS SHIT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!
FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS TO GET A WEAVE?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
omg i cant even.
I totally get your drift! I live in Kenya and here alot of women are into relaxers, fake hair and supper straight hair. I started having relaxer in my hair when I was 2 years old (I KNOWWW!!) bu my hair actually loved it. My mum would actually put in deep conditioner in my relaxed hair and it grew so well. I later did a twa for a few months and then started growing it again with the relax and treat regimen….and boy did it backfire! My hair was weak, thin and broke so badly. In late 2009 after high school, I decided to go natural; now a year and some months later, my hair grows so well. Women in the streets give me dirty looks because my hair isnt straight and braided(most of the time I wear a wash'n'go or a twist-out)and I've learnt to deal with it, because this is me, A beautiful African woman, embracing her hair :).
Ow, and btw, alot of women now ask me how I style my hair; talk about a turn-around,lol. Awesome article, and I love how your day ended. I've had plenty of those days
Wow, Thanks for sharing your story. I can definitely relate.
For the majority of my childhood, I wore micro braids because my mother who had long think relaxed tresses was unsure of how to deal with my very fine, cottony, short hair that only continued to break with relaxers.
Funny the thought of going natural never occurred to either one of us at that time. She would simply take me to the salon to get a relaxer and then take me to an African braid shop to get my micro braids every three months. I can remember being so disappointed each time we removed my braids to see how broken and weak my hair still was even after "keeping heat off of it and leaving it alone for months at a time" as our stylist recommended.
In college due to budget constraints I finally let go of the micro braids which was a relief to me b/c I was sick of sitting for hours taking them out and putting them in. However, by then my hair was so weak from years of braiding and breaking. Therefore, I decided to begin to relax my hair myself with a more"mild" relaxer and hope for the best. Big mistake! My hair only got worse. To this day, I am still embarrassed when I pull out photo albums and look back on much of my college pics at how broken and pitiful my hair looked.
I finally decided to go natural two years ago. At that time I was wearing sew ins along with a mild relaxer by a professional but like you I was spending about $500 every 3-4 months! My hair was growing tremendously but I would always have one or two breakage spots where my hair was left out.
I finally woke up one morning and decided I was absolutely fed up with having OTHER peoples hair in my head and it was time for a change. So I went to the salon and asked her to take out my sew-in, came home did my big chop and have not looked back since.
I am now 2 years natural and due to my fine hair strands it has been hard to find a style but my hair is so much healthier so I can't go back. Henna has helped thicken my texture a little, and using glycerin mixes helps some too (not in the summer though!).
I am getting married in Hawaii this December and of course the question has constantly come up among my friends and family of what I am going to do with my hair. Although I am a little anxious with the high humidity that occurs year round in Hawaii I know that however I wear it-it will be a reflection of the new and improved me :).
This was AWESOME (when you get to the end)! Cause 2-day is a bad hair day for me. I tried the baggy method O/N, rinsed this morn and now my hair is in a frizzybun with a headband, I cant style 'til I get home 🙁 – Wont be doing that again. But in the meantime I walking down the hall with my head high and confident!
Despite the outward confidence I project about my appearance and my hair, I STILL have many days like this. Thank you for sharing and showing that not everyone of us loves their kinks and coils every single day
Awesome article…and your hair looks pretty in the pictures. Very fluffy and soft. All the best on your journey!!!
I dont know how to thank you for this post. I too have the exact same story. My last relaxer was Sept 2010, a short while after my wedding day. Today I have an appt and I have been wondering should I give up and just start relaxing my own, short, coarse hair. Thanks to you, I'm deciding not to be my hair today 🙂 ~Inspired, Tiffany
I just want to compliment you, Michelle, on this article. Well done!
As for the question posed at the end, on good days, it's all good. On bad days, well, this is one of the reasons I have an abundance of gorgeous scarves. NO ONE but me has to know what's underneath. 😉