To be honest with you, I had no idea what “natural hair” was. It was foreign, but eye-opening, the idea of not getting relaxers anymore- something I had been doing since I was eight years old. To my understanding, a relaxer was just something every young black girl did. The best thing about getting a relaxer was not having to endure stomach-turning braiding sessions or ear-singeing pressing comb experiences with my mother anymore. Relaxed hair was easier, more convenient, and just all-around better: or so I thought.
Fast forward 10 years and my 18-year-old self has a remarkable revelation: my hair had never surpassed shoulder length and had been neck length for over five years. Not to mention it was dull, broken, lifeless, thin, and terrible looking. I felt like I was completely out of options. I had been to countless stylists/salons, had more than enough “trims” that turned into full-blown haircuts, and I simply just wasn’t happy with my hair.
In June 2009, I finally decided to take matters into my own hands and began a healthy hair journey. I went on a no-heat challenge and started stretching my relaxer for 10-12 weeks. I learned about deep conditioning and properly moisturizing the hair, amongst other things. In only three months time, my hair had made significant progress. It was healthier and longer, shiny instead of dull, and I could actually do some cute styles with it. I felt hopeful about my hair for the first time in a long time.
It was around October 2009 when I first heard about going natural from one of my cousins. I was completely opposed to it at first because I felt like I finally had a routine that was working for me, and because the whole idea seemed a bit radical. But after researching natural hair and seeing all the beautiful pictures of women who were doing twistouts and wash and gos and other styles, I started to get curious about the tiny curls growing from my scalp in between relaxers. I became convinced that going natural would be the healthiest decision for my hair.
I started transitioning in December 2009 and pretty much wore my hair in flexi rod puffs. I got box braids installed in February 2010 and by June, curiosity got the best of me. What resulted was a two inch fro.
Which resulted in this thought: “Why in the world did I just do that?”
It was exciting, chopping off hair with the help of my sisters and my mom, but when that two inch fro stared back at me, I knew I had made a mistake. The “freeing” feeling that I’d heard so many other naturals describe never came. I had planned on transitioning for two years and now here I was looking like a child who got ahold of the scissors.
Everywhere I went, I was wondering what people were thinking. I wasn’t confident at all and I didn’t feel like myself, which was the worst feeling of all. I had done something just because everyone else was doing it, and now I had to face the consequences.
So after a month of wearing my TWA in hopes of becoming comfortable with it (and failing), I started to learn how to install braids and twists, which became a protective style that would eventually become my method of choice to grow my hair.
I’ve been natural for almost five years and my hair is now APL (I had a heat damage setback in 2012 but I’ve recovered!). But thinking back on the journey has caused me to ponder what the big chop really means. I see more long term transitioners now and truth be told, I wish I had been one of them. I would’ve saved myself the regret and the terrible pictures that will go down in the history of my life.
Keep in mind this is my experience. The big chop was not for me.
I asked myself, if you big chop down to a TWA and start wearing extensions, does it mean you don’t have any confidence? Or simply that you don’t like the way the short natural hair looks on you?
And personally, I think that what matters is being confident in yourself because if you aren’t, it will show. It’s also important not to be concerned about what other people think. A lot of people told me that my TWA looked good but I actually thought they were lying because I didn’t believe it looked good myself. My hair is an accessory that I can change and adapt however I so very well please. I can cut it, throw in some extensions, weave it up, curl it, color it, or put a hat on it. But whatever I do with it, it has to be because it’s my decision and I’m comfortable. There’s no reason for me to walk around wearing my hair in a way that’s going to make me feel insecure. For what? For who?
Please don’t get me wrong: I think the big chop looks absolutely stunning on so many naturals! This post isn’t intended to dissuade anyone from doing their big chop and/or wearing short natural hair. This is simply my experience. Going natural WAS the best decision for my hair; big chopping after only six months of transitioning was not. The truth is- short natural hair isn’t for everyone! But since becoming natural, my hair is healthy, it’s full, and it’s resilient. Even when I had my heat damage setback, my hair bounced back within a few short months. I love being natural! I love playing in my hair, discovering new styles, and navigating through this natural hair world with where so many women are able to share their own experiences and learn from one another. I wouldn’t trade it.
Long story short: you shouldn’t do anything in life just because everyone else is or because someone told you it was a good idea if you haven’t weighed the options of how this will affect you because you’re the one who has to live with it, not them.