Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Not "Just Hair" and Here's Why

Image source: www.naturalhairmag.com
I took the long way home. 
I'm about four months in on natural hair. Before this spring, I wore it straight, and even when I decided that I was ready, I took two years to transition from chemically straightened (or "relaxed") hair to natural, curly hair because I was afraid that I wouldn't like it. I was afraid I wouldn't feel pretty, or that it would be too difficult to manage, or that, as an actor, I wouldn't be cast in things in which I might have been cast with straight hair. I thought that if I took my time, I could always turn back. 
On one hand, life's too short to not have the hair you want, and if you don't have it, go out and get it. Now, I've never relished time spent at the salon; I had always felt it was more of a chore than anything else. 
And as I got older, it became important to me to understand why I preferred one kind of hair over another, why I was willing to sacrifice so much time and money at the salon when I'd rather be somewhere else. Over time, I realized that the only thing keeping my hair straight was fear. 
Then, as I transitioned, something happened. As I let my unprocessed hair emerge from beneath 20 years of relaxers, as I began to see all of these fantastic little patterns, curls and coils establish themselves and move outward and upward, I began to realize that, for me, fighting my hair was like fighting myself - that beating back my curls was like beating back my own truth, my own wise genetic code and the millennia of ancestry that it manifests. 
After that, I wasn't afraid anymore. And even though I'd structured my transition so I could turn back at any time, now I didn't really want to.
Here is a list of reasons for changing my hair that bolstered me during my transition - a growing list of revelations that emerged in conjunction with the rich forest of curls and kinks that now crown my head. The list is personal and, despite the societal pressure I imagine many black women feel to conform to one standard or another, took shape in its own patient, and revelatory time. 

1. Because my hair had been relaxed since I was a very little girl. I had no memory of what my hair was like before it was chemically straightened, and I wanted to know what it was like by itself.
2. Because I wanted to go swimming, or stand out in the rain, or sweat my butt off in yoga class without worrying so much about my hair.
3. Because, if I ever have a daughter, I want her to know from my example that she is glorious just the way she is - hair, hips, and lips included.
4. Because having a 'fro is way hip, didn't you know? (I've been blown away by how overwhelmingly positive the responses from both friends and strangers have been).
5. Because I want to dismantle the internalized but prevalent notion that Eurocentric beauty is the only kind of beauty.
6. Because black is beautiful. 
7. Because taking care of my hair in its natural state is not necessarily harder than doing so when it was straightened. The time I now spend detangling, I once spent blowdrying and flat-ironing - an even trade in regards to time and effort.
8. Because I felt like it 
9. Because I was ready.
10. Because my hair is healthier and stronger this way. 
11. Because it's so much less expensive this way. 
12. Because what's the deal with the term "relaxed" anyway? My hair doesn't need to relax. It wasn't aggressive or stressed out in the first place.  
13. Because I wanted to meet myself where I stood and embrace whatever that self had to offer. 
14. Because wearing my hair this way often inspires instant comradery among other women - often complete strangers - who wear or want to wear their hair natural, especially women who have transitioned from straightened to natural hair.  
15. Because I love the way it feels. 
16. Because it was my choice and not anybody else's.  

      That's 16 reasons so far, but every day I feel more and more affirmed in my choice. Absolutely, there are days when I feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or bored with my still-new natural coiffure, but doesn't everyone with hair at all have those days? Even so, it's hard to describe the peace and freedom I feel wearing my hair like this each day - and not just peace with my hair, peace with myself. 

1 comment:

  1. Those are all very good and very noble reasons for your hair. Besides the political/social/cultural stuff wrapped up in the issue, it looks so good!