Once Upon A Time… (no, too Disney)

It was all a dream, I used to read Word-Up magazine… (nope, too gangsta)

It was a stormy night. You know the kind when the lightning strikes? And I was hanging out with some of my artsy friends… Ooohweeoooohweeeoooo (Hummm… That sounds about right… Now Playing Appletree by Erykah Badu)

I was given my first relaxer when I was 5 years old in the garage that my best friend’s mom had converted into a hair salon.  My mom was on a business trip, so every day my dad would send me across the street to get my hair done for school. At some point while my mother was gone, I got a perm in that garage turned beauty salon. Had I have known that the relaxer would lead to years of commitment accompanied by a bruised scalp and split ends, I probably would have run home screaming bloody murder. Instead, I sat there inhaling the relaxer fumes (a smell I rather enjoyed right up until I got my last relaxer many years later). When I realized that having a relaxer meant my ears no longer had to get burned by the pressing comb my mother heated on the kitchen stove, I was converted (THANK YOU Little Baby Jesus).

By the time I entered high school, I began to feel differently about relaxers and the process associated with the quest for Jhirmack bounce back beautiful hair. Salon appointments always found a way of taking up my ENTIRE Saturday. At one point I had 3 stylists on rotation. I would drop one and go to the other if I was kept in the salon more than 3 hours or if I was left waiting idly for more than 45 minutes while she worked on someone else (anyone who’s ever been to a Black salon knows this means I rotated stylists A LOT). Every time I went to the salon, my stylist would look at the ends of my hair and declare that I needed a trim. The fact that my ends “NEEDED” a trim at every visit was frustrating. It became impossible to retain length and before long I had an ear cropped mushroom cut. I was done with the perm… But not with straight hair.

I elected to grow out my relaxer during my sophomore year of high school. No matter how much my hair shed and broke off at the line of demarcation (Line of Demarcation: |līn əv dēmärˈkāSHən| n. the point in one’s hair where two different textures meet) I refused to allow my stylist to cut it. Short hair was a fear factor for me! I continued to get my hair pressed (this time exclusively at a salon… You can turn off the stove and toss that weapon of ear destruction Mommy Dearest). Eventually my stylists began burning my ears too (what is it with you people?!). The anxiety I faced in the chair as the piping hot pressing comb approached my scalp and ears was too much to bear… I eventually abandoned my standing bi-weekly salon appointments. By the time I entered college, my regimen consisted of a nighttime bantu-knot session which led to a bantu-knot-out defined afro in the morning. This seemed to work fairly well and got me through my freshman year.

By my sophomore year in college I was once again ready for a change… The curly-afro had become more (let’s say) “popular” around campus and I wanted to do something that wasn’t so (let’s say) “easily duplicated.” I made the decision to lock my hair. I found a Locktician (Locktician:|läk’ tiSHən| n. A Beautician dedicated to the styling and maintenance of locks) who twisted my hair beautifully. I really loved having locks! I was for the first time able to retain a lot of length and experiment with color. My permed hair was so fragile I never considered color and my pressed hair broke off the few times I tried highlights. Despite my love for my locks I began to get the itch to change things up around year 9.

As I approached my 28th birthday, I began considering what changes I could make pre-Dirty 30. I knew whatever those changes were, I needed to make them well before my 30th birthday (no ¼ life crisis here). While I loved my locks, I missed being able to run a comb (just a regular comb… not a pressing comb… I STILL don’t miss that thing) through my hair. I traveled to NY and on my 28th birthday I went to see Dickey at the Hair Rules Salon. If I was going to take the leap and cut off all of my hair, I figured I would at least find solace in knowing that a famed natural hair stylist had scalped me in the event I hated it afterwards. Dickey was FAB-U-LOUS… He looked at my reflection in the mirror and asked if I was ready. When I nodded he swung the chair around and proceeded to Big (as in HUGE) Chop my hair. Dickey even started cutting from the front JUST so I wouldn’t/couldn’t change my mind. When it was all said and done I had a ½ inch TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro), a forehead that was not nearly as big as I had thought it was all these years, and a face I was truly seeing for the very first time. When I walked out of the salon and found no one looking in my direction, pointing, and shouting, “you sho is ugly” in that Shug Avery Color Purple drunkin’ drawl, I realized that I would be alright. Besides, the haircut cost more than any haircut I had EVER gotten in my entire life so I figured I better focus allll my energy on liking it… A LOT! By the time I returned to California I had gotten enough compliments dipped in East Coast swag to carry me through any second thoughts I might have had. I loved my new look SO much no one could tell me I wasn’t fly.

My decisions to change my hair throughout the years have been fueled by my desire to maintain control of myself, my coming to realize that I don’t have to look like anyone else to be gorgeous, my ‘accepting that change is beautiful’ thing, and my proclaiming that MY hair is MY business and I don’thave to make apologies or conform my looks to make anyone else feel… ANYTHING… Yup, Erykah Badu’s Appletree is the perfect soundtrack for this transition story…

See, I pick my friends like I pick my fruit. My Ganny taught me that when I was only a youth. I don’t walk around trying to be what I’m not. I don’t waste my time trying to get what you got. I work at pleasin’ me cause I can’t please you. And that’s why I do what I do. My soul flies free like a willow tree. Dooweedooweedoowee. And if you don’t want to be down with me, you don’t want to pick from my apple tree… And if you don’t want to be down with me, you Dumdumdiddy… And if you don’t want to be down with me, you just don’t want to be down.

What hair transitions have you made?