Thursday, June 28, 2012

16 Months Natural

Looking back, the decision to go natural was not a well thought out one for me. I happened to stumble upon the natural hair YouTube community and decided the best way for me to grow my hair long (something I've always wanted) would be to stop relaxing my hair and let it grow naturally. I mean, it makes sense right? Stop breaking down the chemical bonds in your hair and let it grow the way your genetics dictate it should in order to give it the best chance of making it to long lengths. But I didn't stop to think about whether or not I might be able to continue relaxing my hair and still grow it long. Now I wonder if I had known it was possible to grow long relaxed hair if I would have taken the plunge to go natural.

In some ways I think having really short unhealthy processed hair made it easier for me to do the big chop. I wasn't cutting that much length off and I convinced myself that I couldn't deal with blending the two textures anymore, even though I'd only been doing it for about 4 or 5 months. Initially my "transition" started due to pure laziness and lack of finances. I didn't want to give myself perms anymore and I didn't have the money to have them done professionally on a regular basis. So I invested in a really good flat iron and heated my hair into submission on a weekly basis.

But when I learned about healthy hair practices through YouTube I got really excited thinking about myself being surrounded by big, fluffy, healthy, natural hair and the flat iron was basically left to collect dust. Then, 16 months ago I sprayed my hair down with water, grabbed the brand new pair of hair shears I'd bought a week before and started hacking off my relaxed ends. I asked for help from my family but everyone pretty much refused. Whether their refusal was due to fear or uncertainty, I can't say. But I felt really angry and slighted. Couldn't they see that I needed help and couldn't do it alone? Didn't they care? No matter what the case was, I was on my own.

The final results were not... let's just say they weren't pretty. I was really excited that I would be able to do wash and go styles and convinced myself that my choppy cut would look better once my hair was actually done. And it did help but I knew I was in desperate need of a professional cut to even out the areas I couldn't see and the overall shape of my hair. Four months later I did just that and went to a Deva certified salon in DC to have my hair cut.

Since then my hair has grown out significantly and so had my mind. I no longer blame my relaxer for the poor state of my hair, but to my own lack of knowledge and maintenance. For some reason I thought I shouldn't have to really do anything to my hair for it to grow and be beautiful. Now I know better. And I have a greater sense of pride in who I am as an individual and a black woman. I recognize and celebrate the fact that my hair type is unique to my race and don't let negative opinions affect me anymore. I understand that not everyone can see the beauty in natural Afro-textured hair, and even if they can that doesn't mean natural hair is suitable to their lifestyle. There's nothing wrong with that. I've learned to let others be.

I've learned that "good hair" doesn't only belong to people of mixed race or of Latin or Native American decent. Good hair is any hair that is healthy and well maintained. Even people with loose ringlet curls can have bad hair if they don't know how to take care of it. Trust me, I've seen it for myself.

Those are just some of the things I've learned on my journey thus far. When I decided to embrace my natural hair and learn how to properly care for it I never could have imagined how many other things that decision would expose me to. And I'm so glad I stuck with it. I look forward to the next sixteen months of my journey, retaining more length, and learning more things.


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