I was at the salon with my mom. I must have been really young because I was still playing with toys on the floor. As I was willing the toy to participate in my imaginary scene, a glob of relaxer fell on my head. The hairdresser, who would go on to be my hairdresser until I was 18, hurriedly washed it out. Just a few short years later I would be in that chair having the same process done to me.
The routine of getting my hair relaxed at the roots of every 6 weeks started long before I had any say. And honestly I can’t say that I would’ve chosen otherwise. I mean, that’s just what “we did”. You know, those of us who “need” our hair to relax (because apparently its super stressed). So it began…the burning, the itching, the scabs. It began and continued. Each year, my hair breaking off in new ways until the pivotal moment. I was going to middle school and had to have a big chop of sorts, minus the dignity of returning to my natural hair. Just a chop of dead relaxed hair that was forced upon me. I cried, and cried, and cried. Then, it happened again right before high school. More tears. I couldn’t understand why even though I was doing everything “right”; wrapping my hair at night, regularly getting my ends trimmed, not putting a lot of heat on my hair, it still would not grow. But I excepted this as my fate. I just had hair that didn’t grow. Lots of little black girls that looked like me did too, right? That’s what I thought, at least.
Oh, high school, where I learned to love weave. All kinds. Braids down to my butt were my favorite freshman year. By the time I got to senior year I moved on to bigger and better. Long flowing weaves that made me feel new. It was easier back then though. We weren’t too concerned with “bundles” or “closures” yet. My Premium Outre Remy was good enough. And I was addicted to the feeling…the attention you received with long wavy hair.
I had a good friend to go natural underneath her braids in high school to which I scoffed, “I could NEVER do that”. Little did I know that she just caught the wave before there was a wave. Nevertheless, I stuck with my tracks and Nubian twists and relaxers like clockwork. It wasn’t until I left home and went to New York for college that I questioned everything. I had never ever questioned the “why” behind me needing my hair to be bone straight. The “why” to me avoiding rain and only swimming if my hair allowed. I ran into an issue I had never experienced. I now lived in a place where there were more white people then black. A little background- I am from PG County, Maryland. Predominantly black. Not your typical American Black experience either. One of the wealthiest predominantly black counties in the country. Never once had I had a problem with finding a place to get “my kind of hair” done. I tried a salon and the first time went ok. But the second time I went I was highly disappointed and it was super expensive. I had to figure something else out. Do I go home every 6-8 weeks just for a relaxer? It was around this time that Chris Rock released “Good Hair”. I remember watching that documentary on my laptop in my dorm room. It was then that I realized that my whole life up until that point was controlled by my hair and not just MY HAIR but my hair being as conformed to European standards as possible. It was then that I decided to go natural.
I browsed youtube for hours. Found the few natural hair websites that were in existence back then (Naturallycurly.com and CurlyNikki.com) and decided on transitioning. But being as sure of a person as I am (and impatient) I kept changing my big chop date. First I said, 8 months, then 6, and then I finally arrived at 4 months of transitioning when I saw that NaturalChica, who had way longer and fuller hair than I ever had, chopped all her hair down to less than an inch after transitioning for that same amount of time. I figured what did I have to lose! She looked beautiful and if she could accept herself with no hair than so could I! I also was going through a tough time emotionally and ended up moving back home and leaving behind my NY dreams. This was the perfect time. A big life change. I was all in. I remember buying shears from target, going in the bathroom, and cutting it all off. My mom’s reaction was “why would you do that!”, even though I had been telling her for months that I was going to. But everyone else LOVED it and said I was brave. To think that it’s considered brave to let your hair grow the way it naturally does! I later went to Hair Cuttery to have it more evenly shaped. And I rocked it! I felt bold. I felt like me.