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Going Natural

For many women, getting a new haircut or hair style is like shedding old skin and stepping into shiny, new skin. The catalysts for a new hair style are often breakups, like Angela Bassett’s sassy hair cut in “Waiting to Exhale”; having a baby, getting married, losing weight, and various other life altering events. I know I’ve changed my hair for various reasons myself. For me, going natural was an affirmation to Westernized society that it had lost its hold on one less black woman. I even started a blog called Happy Nappy Head.

Last year when I became pregnant with my second child, I decided it was time to go natural all over again. I didn’t go natural because of the chemicals from the relaxer (those chemicals have been proven to not affect the fetus by the way), but I went natural because I felt it was time to definitely grow into this skin. I also wanted my sons to see their mother happy with herself, and not relaxing her hair to fit into any particular beauty aesthetic. If I want them to really find a woman who is happy with herself when they are ready to marry, I have to show them what that looks like.

I already had my hair short but had been neglecting getting my touch-up because I was too nauseous to care about it. As it were, I had less than an inch of new growth which was fine with me. I had gone natural several times before and it didn’t bother me at all to shave all my hair off, much like Bianca had to on last year’s America’s Next Top Model. My boyfriend was supportive and loved it instantly. My mother, who has been short and natural for decades, was pleased. In general, everyone was happy with my choice. Strangers of all races stopped to look and some even complimented my hair. Some Caucasian women I worked with told me they wished that they could go as short as I did themselves and bemoaned their own hair. I was flattered and reassured that it was never mandatory for me to relax my hair amid the pressure from my peers who suffered from years of conditioning. I always felt disappointed that I buckled under pressure and begged my mother incessantly to chemically treat my hair so that I could fit in and hopefully have the other kids at my middle school like me. As an adult, I made peace with that decision when I reclaimed a part of me that was lost in a failed attempt to assimilate and be accepted.

July 2007, I made the big chop. Here I am in September 2008, and my hair is a curly mass that sits regally atop my head in a cute, yet big, Afro puff. I have promised myself and my family that I will never use chemicals to straighten my hair into submission again. I don’t even want to. As time passes by, the hold that the relaxer once had on me is loosened even more. Quite frankly, It’s “in a coma” and I am about to pull the life support on even having that as an option.

I feel free from societal and social restraints, enabling me to be absolutely content in the fact that I can actually say, without hesitation, that I am confident in who I am. Can you imagine? Every month, whether I had money or not, I had to set aside something so that I could get my hair relaxed. I didn’t want that “kitchen” or those “beady beads” to show. I had to get that brown gel to keep my edges flat if they started to get “nappy” before I could get that touch-up. God forbid that my natural hair shows itself. Damn that! I had to get that lye in my tresses quick, fast and in a hurry lest someone find me unattractive.

At twenty-six years old, however, I am quite sure I know who I am. I am who I wanted to be when I grew up. The picture wouldn’t have been complete for me, had I not gone natural. For someone who has always been a maverick, relaxing my hair just to fit in was anti-me. What did I have to hide? Nothing or nobody but myself and that disappointed me.

As my hair grew out and I found more resources online, I realized that there were dozens upon dozens of black women who shared my story. They wanted to reclaim themselves and their true identities. They had grown tired of hiding behind a chemical process, and so did I. Sisters who went natural would walk by and compliment me on my hair and I would compliment them back. We would look at each other with knowing, even if we never said a word in some cases. We just knew. It was like joining an exclusive club or something. I felt like a brand-new woman. Caucasian and African American men would look at me with wonderment. I am sure not everyone liked it, but I don’t live my life for them. I’m here to tell you, a vast amount do like it. The most important man in my life likes it: my man. He’s so sold that he begs me never to relax my hair or alter it. For his part, the bigger the Afro, the better.

I live in Seattle. I don’t need to tell you how rainy it is up here. I may have to worry about staying warm, but I don’t have to worry if I forget my umbrella. The rain is no longer an enemy, neither is the pool at my gym should I desire to use it. What I learned from being natural may now be cliche, but it’s a lesson black girls should learn as soon as they are old enough to understand. I am not my hair. My hair is me and being me is just fine.

If you would like to go natural, here are some tips:

1) Check your new growth. If you don’t want to do a big chop, and would like some length before you cut off your relaxed tresses, try wearing hats, headbands, or putting your hair in styles that will allow your hair to grow such as braids (not too tight).

2) Once you’ve gone natural, get positive reinforcement. Trust me it’s hard to break the chains of relaxers and chemicals, but it’s easier once you see that you’re not alone. Join internet communities or go to salons that cater only to natural hair. Recently, I’ve seen a vast number of blacks in advertisements with natural hair. This helped me. I even had clippings of gorgeous models with short, natural hair on my fridge to help me on those days where I didn’t feel very feminine. I also fell in love with comic book character Misty Knight, a black beauty with a huge Afro and the ability to kick lots of butt.

3) Take care of it. It’s hard to figure out where to start, but you will figure it out. Each hair type is different, and the products that you used when you relaxed, usually don’t work on your hair when it’s natural. I’ve tried tons of products. My favorite products vary in brand from Carol’s Daughter to Luster’s to Motions and Pantene. The most important thing to do is condition your hair.

4) Keep that satin cap. It will help with breakage and it will also keep your hair from knotting up.

5) Love yourself. Need I say more? Don’t let anyone discourage you for going natural. Understand that some might make you feel bad about your decision out of fear or resentment. —— By: Seattle Slim

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