By Bids Adesanya of www.bidsingraceland.com
So guys, I thought I would bare myself to you and speak a little truth. As the title suggests, this could get a bit controversial, but bear with me!
Picture a few scenarios –
1) You’ve got an important job interview for your dream corporate job. You’re natural. Do you a) rock a bun/conservative milkmaid look with your hair? b) slap on a wig or weave – you want to make the best impression and once you’re in (and completed your probation period!), you will rock your natural hair buns, twists, twist outs?
2) You’re going on a “blind” date and from pictures you’ve seen, the dude is gorgeous. You’re newly natural but your Facebook/Instagram photos (that your friend who fixed you up showed him) are all of you with long Poetic Justice braids. Do you a) rock your Teeny Weeny Afro (“TWA”) with pride? b) get braids installed quicksmart?!!!! After all, you don’t want the dude to feel deceived (you would hate it if it was you!) and once you’re in an established relationship, you’ll show him why natural is the only way.
3) You’ve been invited to meet the Queen/the Obamas or attend the Oscars/insert any pretty darn serious and formal situation you want to. Is your default position to a) rock your TWA/medium sized fro/big-a$$ fro and tell the haters where to go? b) get braids and do something fab cos God forbid you look drab? c) get a wig/weave installed and look so hella fly your haters cry?
I should point out that this article is not addressing people who are natural but want to experiment with a new look or are just plain bored of the same thing. This is also not meant to address genuine dedicated protective styling. This is addressing a certain type of person/personality trait that hopefully will become clear during the course of this article.
I went natural in August 2009 (well I started transitioning then) and Grace was born in January 2010 when I did the Big Chop (“BC”). Scratch that, I went natural for the first time in September 2004 when I did the BC but relaxed my hair in July 2005 so that my hair would look “done” for my university graduation. I shared a bit of my story here but essentially, after a year of wallowing in my ignorance and generally wearing braids to hide that fact, I succumbed to the relaxer.
So what’s changed since I went natural in January 2010? When I got my BC, I hated it. I’ll be perfectly honest, I was convinced I looked like a boy so I started wearing big earrings to compensate. I wanted to make sure everyone knew I was a girl when they met me. Then I got more comfortable with my BC and started getting regular cuts every couple of weeks. I even tried a cut that in my eyes was stupendous and I refused to listen to any opinion that stated otherwise. My dad implored me to wear a wig for my brother’s wedding. I declined. Instead I rocked my do proudly…until I saw the pictures. I felt ugly. I slapped braids on my head so quick!!!!!! Now note the reason why I did that. Not because I wanted to change up my look, or because I was bored with my hair. And not because I didn’t know what to do with or how to care for my hair. No I had LOVED my hair until I saw that actually it didn’t look as spectacular as I thought. The love turned to hate and I hid Grace under braids under the pre-text of “protective styling” (love that old chestnut).
2011 was definitely a better year for me in hair terms. Grace and I hung out lots more and I was doing a lot with my styling. I got highlights and it was all good. But then summer came and I thought…I want to look pretty for summer. So I got braids again. I went on holiday for the first time with my natural hair to Vietnam which I was super proud about, but as soon as I got back and was to go to Nigeria for an extended period, I got braids again because it just seemed easier and would be received better there. And again the following year, when summer came round in 2012 I got braids. But my biggest disappointment was when I went to Rome in 2013 and got braids for a FIVE DAY trip! I felt so disappointed in myself. The thing is, the rest of the year, I scream I’m proud of my hair, don’t talk to me about my hair, I AM MY HAIR! Ha! Ok not that drastic, but have I actually conquered those feelings of insecurity if I revert to braids or weaves or wigs every time I feel “unpretty”?
Another scenario for you, slightly more drastic. You’re married. There is no question about your husband’s love for you. But he’s recently moved jobs, it’s his company’s annual Christmas party, all the partners will be there and it’s kind of a big deal so he says “Babe I love you, but I don’t know how other people will receive you and I don’t want you to be hurt so I’m hiring an escort”. How would you feel? Remember Viola Davis at the Oscars in 2012? Some people railed at her for rocking her TWA at the Oscars. What was she thinking? Didn’t she realise that the Oscars is a formal event? Wendy Williams said she should have worn a wig!
Well that’s how I feel like I’ve been treating Grace. I love Grace and I am proud of Grace. I don’t want to relax my hair again. But every so often I do struggle with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to my hair. When I’m going on holiday, I genuinely have to stop myself from getting braid extensions as a default not because of the maintenance whilst on holiday but because I would feel prettier. When I am invited to parties or events, I do think twice about getting braids. It doesn’t help that some of my friends say they lovvvvve the braids on me. It doesn’t help when a relative asks me if I can keep my hair “like that” (i.e. straight) in reference to when I got my hair straightened by Nanosmoothing. It doesn’t help when people ask me how I plan to get married when my hair is natural.
But I’m getting better I hope. 2014 has been declared a braid free year. I plan to be better in terms of taking care of Grace. When I want to do protective styling, Grace is infinitely more taken care of when she is in styles like the Grecian braid or mini twists than when she is in braid extensions. That’s not to say I would never get braid extensions again. No. I just want to be able to prove to myself that Grace on her own is enough. I don’t need anything else. Other styling options remain available to me and it’s my prerogative what I do with my hair. What’s most important to me at the end of the day is knowing I can do with just Grace.